1. Pretend you have an out.
Sometimes I have to calm myself down by telling myself I’ll solve my money problems by taking a regular job. One fantasy I have is getting a job at Microsoft. Once I was giving a speech at a human resource convention in Seattle. And a top HR guy from Microsoft was there. And he wanted to talk to me.
2. Forget living in the moment. Instead, live five months in the future.
Your clients will take too long to make a decision, no matter how long they take, and they will never pay immediately. So instead of fighting the lag-time, you should always be earning money for five months out. If you are spending your days trying to drum up business to get revenue five months from now, you feel safe, knowing that it’s not an emergency. Any closer than that and you feel like if you don’t close you’re gonna die.
3. The only way to feel rich is to be able to dump an awful client.
Thinking five months out frees you to dump a client, and it’s so so fun to dump a client who misbehaves. It’s a way to assert your power as a freelancer even though you have no power because if you don’t get money you’ll starve and have to get a staff job somewhere (and you probably can’t – because most self-employed people are largely unmanageable in a corporate hierarchy).
4. Have one great client.
You need a lot of schemes. You have to always be pitching different people different stuff because you don’t know what’ll stick. But you really need one client that is great, and pays on time, and makes you love doing your job. That client gives you sanity.
5. Self-employment stability requires doing stuff you hate.
Be a grown-up. Self-employed doesn’t mean you love everything you do. I have done stuff to appease editors that drove me crazy. I have given speeches to groups of people that were all at the conference with the sole purpose of cheating on their wives. I do lots of stuff I don’t like. I remind myself that I do it so that I can have a job that I pretty much love.