Go Offline: 5 ways to be kind to yourself when building your business

We don’t start in the same place when building a business. It’s easy to dismiss our efforts as we look at other people’s businesses and careers take off. While it can inspire, their online presence could also stir up negative thoughts —which is normal.

Feeling envious or having a pity party all day, every day doesn’t make you a bad person. As someone building something from the ground up, you have to remind yourself that we didn’t all start in the place.

One freelancer may have funds to pay for ads while you’re growing your business organically. A YouTuber may be that social butterfly who knows a lot of people, while you’re an introvert comfortable with your small circle of friends. A career coach may be hustling 14 hours a day, while you only work on your business when your day job shift ends.

Freelancing looks different to everyone and it pays to be kind to yourself.

Learn to pause and do it frequently

Freelancing is not synonymous with hustling, yet a lot of people think these two go hand in hand. From time to time we need to work extra harder. Maybe it’s to chase a client that’s refusing payment, maybe it’s to build relationships with potential clients. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that your mental health is more important than work.

Learning to pause frequently takes time, patience, and practice. It’s easier to stay online and to aim for a zero unread email inbox. Pausing also means regrouping. It means turning down all the noise and focusing on yourself. When you get back, you have fresh eyes and a well-rested body and mind, ready to tackle whatever work you have on your plate. Prioritize unplugging and step away from work every now and then.

Focus on inspiration, not comparison

Wherever you are in your business right now is exactly where you’re supposed to be. I used to hate statements like this because I believed I was supposed to be somewhere bigger and better. Every freelance writer I saw seemed to have a bigger and better business.

When I encouraged myself to focus on inspiration and motivation instead of comparison, I finally realized the meaning of that message. Here, this place right now, isn’t such a bad place to be. This is where growth happens. Comparison is just an unhealthy thought that will keep you from growing into the kind of freelancer you ought to be.

Value your mistakes and the lessons they bring

Another statement I used to hear a lot and hate is about valuing my mistakes. When I was starting out, I wanted to run away from all my mistakes. I wanted to do something different, hoping it would cover up my mistakes and I wouldn’t have to think about it ever again.

What happens when you do that?

Well, you deprive yourself of all the lessons from that mistake. Whether you like it or not, every mistake comes with a lesson. Kindness to oneself is not just about pausing and breathing. It’s also about giving yourself the opportunities to learn and to build your business with the tools that are right for you.

Develop healthy boundaries

Healthy boundaries are key to a successful freelance business. I know that’s a blanket statement. When I say boundaries, I don’t just mean setting work hours for yourself and following through, or making sure you don’t say yes to projects you don’t like. Boundary is that mark that sits between you and a thriving business. It doesn’t mean one should be prioritized over the other. Healthy boundaries could look like these:

  • Set a few hours a day to answer emails
  • Have the courage to walk away from a project when you see red flags
  • Consider negotiation but make sure you’re truly OK with the terms
  • Go offline multiple times a year for weeks, not just weekends
  • Putting your personal needs over business stuff is always justified

Set realistic goals and be honest with yourself

Honestly, this advice is something I need to remind myself of. Setting goals is one thing. Setting realistic ones is another. And as a freelancer, we’re known to set ridiculously high goals. When we see other businesses succeed, we want that too!

Before you set out to grow your business to whatever size, you have to be honest with yourself. See where you are, look at the timeline you drew up, and be honest if it’s actually attainable or if you’re fooling yourself. Sometimes, big goals are attainable. Other times, we force ourselves to hustle and sleep less for the sake of faster business growth.

Remember, you don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes in other businesses. Social media only allows you to have a peek. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to grow fast, but there’s something wrong when you compromise your own values and your own health to pursue that growth. No one should want to compromise their being.

CategoriesRemote Work
Tammy Danan

Tammy Danan is a storyteller who reports on environmental and social issues. She also covers productivity, creative pursuits, and the future of work. Her words have appeared in VICE, Audubon.org, ZEKE Magazine, Shutterstock, Toggl, among others. You may find her on Instagram @SlowFreelancing.