Diary of a Freelancer: Every Emotion in One Day

From cautious optimism to exhausted relief via frustration, fear and self-doubt.

Wednesday, February 17th is a day that I remember as being pretty okay. So when I checked my diary, I was surprised to see that I had apparently been to the brink of insanity and back.

It’s embarassing to admit, because I like to think of myself as level-headed and calmly persistent in my productivity. So, apologies: I’m actually mental and I’ve only just realised it.

Here’s a quick review of the emotional tableaux of those 12 hours, none of which were particularly rational.

8.30am: Nervously optimistic

Mornings are great. There is so much potential in the day ahead! I follow my sensible morning routine and feel ready to tackle some big challenges.

They definitely are big challenges, so I worry that all my dreams may at any moment collapse in a pile of rubble around me. But all will be well, as long as I can be robotically perfect and emotionless and not make any mistakes at all.

That’s how the ideal freelancer should be, right? It’s a completely realistic goal for the day!

11am: Demoralised and a little furious

So, when you’re not a robot and are instead a human, it turns out that trying not to feel any feelings can cause a strange rage to start simmering.

Why be angry about not being perfect? Wait — this is no time for questions, I’m busy being irrational and refusing to admit it.

2pm: Channelling the rage into productivity

Eventually, I remember that we are allowed to feel afraid of challenging work that involves building important new things with no guidance or assistance (apart from various semi-relevant StackOverflow threads).

It’s scary and I’m afraid of not being able to do it, so my inner toddler felt like she didn’t want to do it, and my inner adult was cross with her, and not enough work has been done yet so perhaps the world is ending.

At least it’s a relief to be honest with myself about all this nonsense. Perhaps now I can get back to the project.

8pm: Relieved to not be alone

Not only does that honesty & self-acceptance clear the way for a few hours of productivity, but at 6pm I host a freelancer meetup at which I get to shamelessly seek reassurance about my doubts and fears.

My fellow freelancers are reassuring and inspiring, and also funny. So we share our stories about stressful work times and make jokes about biscuits and emojis and new product straplines. And by the end, I feel certain that today was a pretty okay day.

Conclusion? Possible insanity, for sure. Or perhaps the true definition of being stable and stoic isn’t not having days like this, but staying on track despite them.

You’re on the right path (if in doubt, ask your friends)

Most importantly, the best way to handle this kind of day is to open up and share with your fellow freelancers. They’ll remind you that we all experience the same thing, and that pain is part of growth.

“Taking on a new challenge” sounds fun when you’re talking about it in the abstract. But actually doing it — if it’s a real challenge — will be, at times, highly unpleasant.

So if you feel completely rubbish sometimes, that’s probably a good thing.

And if you’re still not certain, ask your fellow freelancers to share their stories about being in the middle of a challenging project.

Because you’re definitely not an alien or an imposter or a failure for feeling fear or self-doubt. You’re finding your own way and, in doing so, you’re living the best kind of life.

Not certain if you’re totally sane? Share your wildest freelance-related mood swings by tweeting @louise_macaroon or writing a response below, and you’ll feel better immediately.