Now that I’ve returned to freelancing for work, I’m reminded of how similar the required brain space is to an Olympic campaign. That feeling of urgency and “I could work harder” never ends—not until the medal is won, or you go home empty-handed.
Freelancing doesn’t have so obvious an endpoint, of course. No one
gives out medals for a job well done—and fortunately there are no goofy
mascots, either. But the mindset is the same. There is always something
else to do, and though hard work can’t guarantee success, laziness will
definitely lead to failure.
By Carol Newman Cronin, whose work is at carolnewmancronin.com
I spent the past several years working for someone else, after two
decades of freelancing. As an employee, I learned to turn off work after
hours. Vacations, it turns out, can mean not checking email for an
entire week! It took me three years to learn how to do that.
Being an employee meant that a paycheck arrived on schedule, without
my sending out an invoice. I still worked hard, because that’s how I’m
wired; but not having to ask for money, and knowing it would come in the
following week no matter how many hours I put in this week, created a
greater sense of predictability than even the largest collection of
loyal clients could ever duplicate.
It is now easier for me to understand why most employees won’t
succeed as freelancers. Once you get used to a regular paycheck and
predictable workflow, the stress of “what next” and “what if” become too
distracting; worrying makes it even harder to actually get the job
Likewise, an Olympic campaign contains a boatload of what ifs. And
done well, it’s totally consuming. It means waking up, eating,
breathing, and going to sleep still thinking about something to do with
the same goal.
Since the definition of freelance success is a little less specific,
we have to focus on several goals at once: long term, short term, medium
term. Each day we have to do something that will pay the bills this
month, but we also have to spend time on something we are enthusiastic
about—even if it doesn’t have any obvious short-term benefit. Because
that’s the only way to stay motivated enough to keep working hard in the
On the surface, both freelancers and Olympic campaigners have very
insecure lifestyles. But we also have the freedom to make our own
choices, to establish our own priorities, and to live by our own wits.
And that’s a depth of personal security that no one else can take
away—even if you do go home from the Games (or the Trials) empty-handed.
To learn more about Carol, visit carolnewmancronin.com