Sunday, September 27, 2020

The inner struggle of entrepreneurship


[Brain in lightbulb*]

Being an employee is essentially a carrot/stick psychology, sometimes reaching Pavlovian proportions. People go to work and do their best regardless of their mood or internal needs. The ability to ignore those factors comes from the desire for positive results, whether it be verbal phrase, financial bonuses or promotion, and acceptance from fellow workers, and fear of negative consequences, such as being fired or fined. Internal and cultural values may reinforce these external forces but the maintenance of “proper” work habits over a lifetime essentially is based on the reward principle to the point that many people don’t even consider why they are working so hard.

Freelancers have neither bosses nor co-employees and have to “Zen” it themselves. Faced with never-ending series of tasks each and every day, the discipline must come from within and sometimes fails, each person having a different fault line. Without the outer structure, freelancers have to manipulate their own mind in order to overcome emotional minicrises. This struggle is a part of being an entrepreneur and is winnable.

Procrastination is a human but harmful trait. In simple terms, everybody has certain tasks that create mental resistance in the mind even if they are not difficult in themselves. For children, this can be doing dishes or cleaning up the room. Many freelancers simply avoid bookkeeping tasks, including invoicing and collecting, planning and implementing marketing, and customer follow-up, to name a few. Clearly all these tasks are vital for any business. However, lacking background in the area, these tasks become energy intensive and even frightening in some cases. The best way to overcome that fear is to first recognize them as personally challenging tasks and accomplish them first before beginning the more natural aspects of the business. It is like drinking the medicine and then having a chocolate. The entrepreneur practices self-rewarding and promotes the business at the same time. In practice most of these duties can be accomplished in a few minutes and are quite profitable. Their weight is in the mind and can be thus eliminated.

Occasionally, the brain goes on strike, simply refusing to work on anything. Regardless of the amount of energy and discipline, the freelancer is incapable of doing the job at hand, period. Energy and will fail to change that reality. Of course, people become frustrated at this inability to move forward, especially if they have chosen the task and made a commitment. Psychologically, no man’s land is the worst place to be as a person can neither work nor relax. The solution is to accept and adapt. In practice, that means understanding that, even if it is somehow possible to overcome the inertia, the quality of the work, will be so low that it will probably have to be redone in any case. The next step is to direct energy and thought to rescheduling the task timeline and deciding what type of mini-break will best allow the re-start mechanism to work. Sometimes, the customer will agree to a later deadline. If not, ideally, deadlines should always have some “fudge” time Still, a few hours can be gained by working in the evening or getting up early in the morning. Options for relaxing include a nap, gardening, baking, cooking, running and talking to a friend, to name a few. The ideal break activity depends on the person. It is important to limit in advance the duration of the break as it tends to extend itself somehow. Upon return to the desk, the task no longer seems so daunting. As in most types of pain, acceptance, not denial, is the best method.

The silent killer of entrepreneurs is burnout, a slow-forming calcification of the motivation to work and succeed. Freelancers have great incentive to work hard and succeed as they started the business and enjoy all of its financial fruits. Unfortunately, they do not enjoy paid vacations nor are they prevented from working on weekends and holidays. Thus, the direct road to burnout involves a permanent 7 day a week schedule and no real vacation time. By contrast, a scheduled weekly day off, except for very extreme emergencies, coupled with aoccasional complete vacation from work leads to long term success. Many freelancers fail to realize that they will almost never lose a customer if they take a week off to go skiing or visit family from time to time nor do clients expect them to work on holidays. This life balance not only does not harm business but significantly increases productivity as a refreshed mind has more perspective and is more enthusiastic. People do not choose the way of freelancing in order to become robots.

Doubt is a more insidious challenge. Success is often neither immediate nor constant. Everybody loses customers, faces criticism and lacks uncertainty about the present and future at one time or another. As freelancers have no marketing or strategic planning department, they must depend on their instinct, initial plan and faith in their judgment of the situation. Even the most confident sometimes can momentarily lack faith. To overcome this crisis, it is necessary to switch modes from the emotional to the rational, identifying the reasons for the loss of customers, lack of success or change in reactions by seeking information. With that data, it is possible to make logical changes to the operating mode. Thus, the energy created by the legitimate concern for the future is productively directed to understanding that future. Once again, negative energy is directed towards progress.

The secret of success is in the mind, more so for a lone entrepreneur. The temptation to delay, avoid, stop and question will occur at one time or another. Freelancers simply have to know how to overcome it as much as possible. That is the inner struggle of entrepreneurship.

*Captions help the blind read posts. Picture for Pixabay

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