When you launch a business - leaving the security of a full-time gig behind, betting the house on yourself - everyone expects you to be nervous. But I wasn’t.
When I first decided to branch out on my own, I was ecstatic - moving a mile a minute to get organized, launch my website, set the business in motion. Every piece that clicked into place was a grand victory. I was one step closer.
Then came the week before zero hour. My last week of steady, nine-to-five work. That’s when it set in.
After working ‘round the clock to tie up loose ends in my day job and bring a fledgling freelance business to fruition, after planning and organizing and making connections for weeks on end, this last week has felt chillingly quiet. With projects wrapped and everything on the pre-launch list checked, all that’s left is to stare ahead and wonder what the next week will bring.
Naming the Horrors
Instead of marinating in a pool of general dread, I set out to name the flora in my little shop of horrors. I figured, if I can name ‘em, I can fight ‘em.
The first one was easy to articulate. I viewed the weekend as a sort of bridge - and beyond it, lay a long, dark hole where my full-time job used to reside. That giant, open slate of forty hours taunted me from across the weekend. How would I fill my time? Where would I find eight hours worth of work every day?
The second apparition was a common one. It isn’t unique to me or the experience of starting a business, but it took on a different hue during this particular week: impostor syndrome. Why would anyone care what I have to say? And who would actually pay me for it? My old sidekick became a terrifying, visceral sense that failure was simply imminent.
The last horror was harder to spot. It wasn’t any one particular thing - but the violent vacillating between excitement and panic. I was up, I was down. I was writing, then I was navigating tax law. I pinballed between the freedom of all that flexibility and the terror of an empty bank account on a near hourly basis.
Unearthing the Salves
Feeling a little bit better for having named my tormentors, I set about looking for a way to fix them or, at the very least, lessen their debilitating impact. None of my worries had a concrete solution, but I found a number of salves that could help get me through the week.
Organization is my old standby stress reliever, so it made sense to start there. I straightened up my workspace, reordered my digital files, emptied my inbox, arranged all of my projects and meetings for the coming week, and - for good measure - reorganized my closet.
Since empty time was a big worry for me, I started in on organizing the hours. I planned a routine around my natural ebb and flow so that every minute of that open slate was accounted for. I may not know what work I’ll be doing, but I know when I’ll do it. I know when I’ll eat lunch, when I’ll fit in an hour of yoga, and when I’ll sit down to work.
My brain felt a little clearer, but it was obvious I needed more help - I needed insight and support and someone to tell me I’m not alone. I’m fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches in the community around me, and it was time to tap into it. Everyone talks about how important community is when you strike out on your own. All that chatter and it’s still an understatement.
There’s no exaggerating the buoy effect of sitting down for coffee with someone who’s been in your exact position. Not only can they share practical wisdom about the nuts and bolts of what you’re trying to pull off, but they understand, on a profound level, every little thing you’re feeling. Knowing that my emotions are universal is incredibly validating - and validation can go a long way.
At the behest of some in that community, I soaked in the parts of this process I’m passionate about. I took stock of the projects I want to complete and found homes for them - instead of the other way around. I marinated in the freedom. Yes, I have forty hours of empty space, but that doesn’t mean I need forty hours of work. I reveled in my newfound freedom to devote time and energy to other passions, too.
Before I knew it, the week had finally drawn to a close.
So here I am, approaching zero hour - staring it down across the weekend. I’d be lying if I said I have it all figured out. But for now, that’s OK.