3 ways to live in the present and avoid the ‘what-ifs’ when you’re self-employed

When my first child was born in 2004, I had a great job at a Fortune 100 company as a marketing manager, but after my generous, three-month maternity leave ended, I found myself weeping at my desk and longing to be with my daughter.

I started to work again on a freelance basis when my kid was about 2 years old. It was slow going at first but for the past four years, I’ve been working almost full-time from home while also raising my family. Freelancing isn’t a simple proposition, though, and it takes a lot of emotional work to stay grounded and happy when you’re self-employed. It’s easy for your work to bleed into every hour of your day, and it’s easy to let the inherent instability infect your overall attitude.

This month I’ve had a lot of instability. I took a big risk (also kind of a big no-no for the self-employed) and whittled my client base down to one almost full-time contract. I let go of my bread-and-butter work in the parent-blogger world and that leaves me feeling very insecure. I also traveled a lot, something that the introvert in me hates. I’m one of those people who needs time to recover after intense social interactions.

It would be really easy for me to slip into an abyss of discontentment and fear right now. However, that kind of negative thinking not only takes away from the quality of my work, it spills over into my life. I yell at my kids, ignore my spouse, bury myself in LinkedIn mining for gigs…it’s not pretty.

In 2014, I vowed I would avoid this common freelance pitfall. So, when I’m teetering on the edge, I try to do three things:

1. Get off my duff and get out of the house. When you work from home and all your interactions take place over the phone and the screen, it’s easy to get demoralized. Even an introvert like me needs fresh air and the sound of other voices sometimes! I get my tush to the local coffee shop when I start to feel my walls closing in. It’s amazing how productive (and positive) I feel just from a change in my environment.

2. Institute the ‘After-Eight’ rule. Once our kids go to bed at 8 p.m., it’s time to turn the screens off. My husband and I have a rule that, unless it’s really necessary, we don’t work or interact with our laptops and other wireless devices after 8 p.m. It means we actually talk to one another and connect in the ways that brought us together in the first place. It sounds simple, but it really helps.

3. Keep my network alive. Over the years I’ve been lucky to build up a very supportive network of friends and professional contacts in my industry. When I get stressed out about client relationships or other bumps in my career road, I reach out and just say hi to some of the folks I’ve met along the way. We swap tips, leads and generally gossip about what’s happening in our work worlds. I can’t recommend this enough. Every good gig I’ve gotten has come courtesy of my network.

How do you stay in the present and avoid the “what-ifs?”