The Wall

September 29th, 2015

Imagine you are running a marathon. If you are like me your first thought was “Holy crap, there is no way I could run a marathon”. Running a marathon would be challenging, even for someone who is in good shape. Really though as a freelancer that is exactly what we are doing. Doing something that even for someone with a great skill set is still challenging. Now imagine in the middle of this marathon there is a 20ft wall you need to climb over in order to simply continue the race. At this point you are tired and you know there is still a lot of race left, but now there is this added challenge of climbing this wall. What do you do?

During my time as a freelancer I have hit this proverbial wall a number of times. Work is coming in regularly and things are just peachy…then BAM I come up against this huge wall I need to get over. For me it is usually in the form of a fairly large, or particularly challenging, amount of work. The more I have thought about this, the more I have realized that this is the true test of being a freelancer. How you handle this wall or roadblock says a lot about you as a person and especially as a freelancer.

My Early Years

When I was a young freelancer I remember my exact response to coming up against the wall. I wanted to shut my eyes and pretend it would go away on its own. Talk about the worse possible response to have because here’s the thing – the work will not just magically get done on its own. This response was crippling for a lot of different reasons, but it causes anxiety, stress, and this hopelessness feeling that is so detrimental to a self-employed person.

Guys, I cannot stress how poorly handling a challenge like the wall with this attitude affected me and the people I worked with. This probably comes as no surprise, but you cannot just simply wish away a bad situation. In the case of a heavy or challenging workload there is only one way to get past it. Work instead of sitting on your ass and stressing about it.

You either quit, or you get over the wall

When looking at this situation from the outside it is easy to see you just have to work your way through it, make progress, and then end up on the other side. But when you are staring up at this wall of work in front of you, your fight or flight instinct comes into play. This is a turning point for a lot of freelancers because this is the opportunity for you to either quit and walk away, or show what you are made of climb this damn wall and end up on the other side.

It’s truly a test you have either faced before or will at some point. The question is how will you handle it once you reach it.

Full Disclosure

At the time of me writing this article I have been battling the wall for 3 months straight. A very long period. It’s been a real challenge to keep pushing and working to get to the other side, and my feelings seem to change every other day. I wish I could write that I have had the eye of the tiger throughout the entire time, but that would be a lie. All freelancers struggle with this. I have made a conscious decision to continue to push forward and make progress. If you are reading this and are in a similar situation reach out to me on Twitter (@rjmccollam) and I will do my best to help you get through it.