The last six years of my life have been a flurry of big life changes, transition upon transition and hundreds of involvements with minimal vision for what's next. Some of it is personal - I graduated from college, I moved to California, I got married... But I've also had to face the fact that a lot of this is just how it is to be an entrepreneur/freelancer/artist.
I'm sure you can relate -- Many of us "young, urban creatives" have a day job or two with a crazy schedule, a startup business with a ton of connections but no money, and a hobby that we get paid for on occasion so we're not sure if it's also a business or if that's what we do for fun. Our taxes are a nightmare and planning more than a couple of days in advance is close to impossible. We're thrilled by all of the possibilities, but discouraged by the lack of clarity. What are we doing with our lives? Are we good at this? Are we brave or are we stupid?
I still have my days where it feels like I'm treading water, but here are a few things I've learned along the way about how to survive the madness that is a startup career in a creative world:
1. Establish the rules: Even for the most right-brained of people, structure helps. It just does. Figure out what areas you can add structure. For me it's mornings and Fridays. I typically don't know my schedule for work until the day of, but it almost never starts before 9am, so I decided that will be my starting point every day. Even if I don't necessarily have to work until later, I wake up in time to start working at 9am no matter what. That gives me one predictable thing to count on. When I can, I work pretty hard to be done at 5pm and be asleep by 1am. My #2 rule is that I don't accept work on Fridays - that's my day off. At first, it felt like I would lose work and become unreliable to people for doing that, but now it's just a thing people know and accept, and I love knowing earlier in that week that I'm going to have a break soon. If you're good enough at your job, people will work with your rules.
2. Figure out what your priorities are: In my experience, you can't do it all. I wish I could eat super well, work out every day, get enough sleep, have a beautiful house, launch a successful business and have a social life... But it's just not possible to do it all (Tell me if you know how!). I have a really hard time with this one, but I tried to figure out which things affect my well-being the most, and I do my best to prioritize those. I become an actual monster of tears and disease if I don't eat well, get sleep and have some social life. Those are even more important to me than launching my business successfully, which is why I have rules about mornings and Fridays.
3. Be patient with failures: I can't even tell you the number of times Nathan has had to say, "Julie, you are good at things!" and continue with a five minute pep talk about why I shouldn't give up. The perfectionist in me feels sick to my stomach when I show people work that I know could be better. I hate that I'm limited by resources and skills and time and energy, but I'm learning the lessons I've heard so many times: "Good things take time," and "Every successful person fails a million times before succeeding" or something like that. They're good lessons to learn, so give yourself some grace along the way.
4. Have goals even if you can't find a vision: I feel completely frazzled when I don't know what I'm aiming for. Sometimes, you can't have a completely clear vision because you don't have enough information. You don't know what your life will look like in a couple years and you can't decide exactly what the right end goal is. When I start to feel that, it helps me to set short-term goals. "OK, Julie, you don't know exactly where this is going yet, but what's a good next step?" If I have a smaller vision to work on, I'm a lot more productive, and my bigger vision usually becomes more clear as I work on the small ones.
5. It's ok if you're not that passionate: Every success story that gets spread around the internet has some hero that struggled a lot but overcame the struggle because they were just that passionate about what the were doing. That's very admirable, but I don't believe passion is enough and I do think it's possible to succeed without your goal becoming your entire life. It might happen more slowly without that deep passion, but I believe a reasonable purpose mixed with hard work and endurance can lead to success too.
Any other tips you guys have found to be helpful for you?