Picture the scene: your morning alarm goes off and you roll over to pick up your phone (everyone does that seconds after they wake up, right? RIGHT?). Squinting your eyes and opening your inbox, you find a tastefully-designed newsletter from a freelance friend you did a course with a couple of years ago, who has launched a brand new ecourse. Isn’t that fab? They’ve basically turned into Marie Forleo overnight, and you’re totally chuffed for them. Really. You are.
Oh, hang on, what’s that uncomfortable feeling in your tummy? Maybe it’s just last night’s Dominos…
You flick open the Twitter app. A funky lifestyle blogger you know, who appears to have achieved overnight success with her quirky but totally adorable way of combining food and fashion in one post (let’s call it fooshion), happily tweets about a new collaboration with a brand you’re dying to work with. That feeling in your gut grows. It could be hunger, but you’re pretty sure you’re still full from last night’s Dominos. What kind of human being says no to their Chicken Kickers? (Possibly your blogger friend. They’re all about the vegan diet. A clean diet for you involves not eating that slice of pizza that fell on the floor for 4 seconds after a few beers which were definitely not organic).
Bad news, freelancer. That feeling in your tummy? It’s envy.
It’s not that you’re not happy for them or feel they deserve it. You are and you do! But there are times when every freelancer looks at another freelancer, and compares their success to their own experience and success record. And it’s easy to feel like you fall short. Especially if that person started freelancing around the same time as you, or worse *gulp* after you.
But freelance envy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I quizzed my freelance friends about it, Cathryn Clarke said the following:
“I see what they’re doing and how they’re living their lives and am jealous because I want that. I want to be making more money, be more confident and being able to mix client work with my own seamlessly. It makes me push harder and focus on what I want to achieve so it’s really good to see other freelancers being successful. I just wish more freelancers would share their successes and tips so that those of us who still feel relatively new to it wouldn’t feel so lost and alone. “
Couldn’t agree more.
I think freelance envy exists for a number of reasons.
- We perceive others as being perfect, forgetting they edit their life online just as much as we do. Notice how a lot of people don’t actually mention income? Maybe they’re working with amazing brands or travelling the world while blogging, but there’s a good chance they’re having to weigh up whether buying a ticket to that swanky business conference in town is worth living on pasta alone for the next two weeks.
- We don’t give them enough credit. The inconvenient truth is, most people get to that point because they worked their arses off.
- We underestimate our own situation, or lack confidence in our own skills.
- We work on our own, which means it’s harder to see the realities of how others are doing. .We also don’t get that workmate who says ‘That freelancer? PLEASE! She totally got to do that project because her boyfriend works with the boss’, which is totally bitchy but also really comforting.
- We don’t know how they’ve become this mega successful person. Where was I when the ‘how to be totally rich and successful and a size 12 on a diet of chocolate alone in three easy steps’ rulebook was given out?
- We’re never happy with what we’ve got. Seriously, name a time when you were like ‘I’m 100% happy’ for more than a day. Sober happy.
But one of the points Cathryn made, is that it makes her ‘push harder and focus on what I want to achieve’. With that in mind, here are three things you can do to turn that envy to your advantage.
Swap competition for collaboration
Instead of quietly kicking yourself for not being as awesome as the fortunate freelancer you see (which, fyi, is bullcrap), why not see if there’s anything you can work together on? For example, my blog series A Day In The Life Of A Freelancer came about because I was having a crisis of confidence, and wanted to learn from other freelancers. You could turn that ‘competitor’ into a collaborator, by interviewing them, offering to work with them on a project or even approaching them to be a mentor.
You might even realise, when speaking to them face to face, that they feel the exact same way you do!
Repeat the mantra
Every time you find yourself looking at a friend’s blog or latest newsletter and feel that flutter of envy, I want you to repeat after me – NO ONE IS PERFECT! Sure, they might have landed a mega amazing client, but they probably have a bundle of other problems going on that you don’t know about. Maybe they yearn for more time with their families, dream of a regular paycheck or miss working with small companies and charities.
The only person you need to worry about competing with, is yourself. Revisit your goals and objectives. Do you even want the same things as others? How are you doing compared with how you did last year. As long as you’re doing the best you can in the circumstances, you’re succeeding.
I’d also recommend mindfulness (who doesn’t at the moment, eh?) Every day, make a list of the things you’re grateful for. I love the app My Wonderful Day for this. It’s a good reminder when you flick back, that life is actually pretty good.
So, how do you deal with freelance envy?
P.S Emma-Louise sent me these two perfect posters for this post. How perfect are they?