Choosing to work for yourself means opting into a financially uncertain and unstable way of life — and that’s before you factor in a pandemic. It’s not unheard of for freelancers to fret over their finances when things are going smoothly, so it’s only fair that working under COVID-19 has self-employed folks feeling extra concerned about what the next month’s (or week’s) pay cycle will look like. Luckily, you don’t have to sit and stew in your financial anxiety. We asked Brad Klontz, Psy.D., CFP®, a financial psychologist and associate professor of practice at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business, to show us how to cope when worries about money begin to spike.
Consider the “worst-case scenario.”
When your anxiety around money starts to peak, ask yourself a series of “if then, what?” questions that lead you toward the (you guessed it) worst-case scenario: If you can’t find work that pays decently, then your money troubles will increase. If your money troubles increase, then you won’t make rent. If you can’t make rent, then you’ll have to move in with your parents. “Well that would suck,” Dr. Klontz says. “But then what would happen?” This thought exercise, he explains, asks you to face your fears and indulge in your most pessimistic thoughts — and, in the process, hopefully, realize that even the absolute worst series of events isn’t actually as grave as your anxiety would like you to think. “Essentially what [this exercise will] do is calm down that animal brain that is only concerned about life or death and [help] you realize, ‘You know what, it would suck, but it’d be okay. We’d survive; I’d bounce back,’” he says.
Look for new opportunities.
Once you get away from that catastrophic mindset, you may realize that you were overlooking other ways to expand your business during this time. “At least three times a day, ask yourself: ‘Where is the opportunity here?’” Dr. Klontz says, adding that he knows people who have launched businesses amid the COVID-19 simply because they discovered new ways to apply their skills. If your current approach to finding gigs or pitching to clients isn’t leading to lucrative work, look elsewhere. Someone outside your usual field could be on the hunt for services you can provide or you may find better luck in an area you used to be more active in but have since migrated away from.
Dr. Klontz points out that this is also a great time to hit upon any opportunities for personal growth, as well. Spending some time to bolster your self-care routine, brush up on old hobbies, or improve your sleep schedule will help you recharge and put you in a position to do better work down the line. That sort of long-term investment in your success should help put your mind at ease.
Don’t isolate yourself.
This is particularly challenging now, due to the stay-at-home precautions in place, but Dr. Klontz says that avoiding contact with others will only fuel your anxious thoughts. “There’s nothing worse than being all by yourself feeling lost and alone,” he says. “That’s a recipe for depression and anxiety.” Reach out to your friends the next time you want to take your mind off your worries or just vent about them. You’ll probably find that you’re not the only one concerned about finances at the moment, especially if your friends are also self-employed. (And, if you don’t have any fellow freelancer friends, Dr. Klontz says to make some, if only for the sake of commiseration.) Even a quick phone call or chat via text will have a profoundly positive impact on your mood, Dr. Klontz says.
Find an outlet.
Simply put, anxiety generates excess energy — and using that energy to marinate in your fears and worries isn’t going to help. That unrelenting sense that you could be doing more, that you should be hustling to find a solution to all your problems, “doesn’t need to be experienced as a negative emotion,” Dr. Klontz says. “I would try to turn it into a positive one.” In other words, you can use your anxiety as a motivator to seek out new opportunities (as mentioned above), to deliver your best work, or to vent your frustrations instead of bottling them up. Journaling, for example, not only allows you to get your nagging thoughts out of your head and down on paper, but it also helps you create and visualize an action plan for the days ahead. And staying busy, keeping your eyes on the future, will undoubtedly help your anxieties about money abate.
How you deal with your financial anxieties is up to you, but how you deal with your finances themselves is a whole lot easier with Wingspan — our invoicing tool makes getting paid on time stress-free.
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