How can we stay courageous when the chips are down?

With expert tips from Caroline Pankhurst, founder of Be Braver

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As I write this week’s newsletter, I am fresh off a flight from Sicily and have had a gorgeous week of pasta and sunshine with my son and husband. It was so nice to get a break from our normal routine and enjoy a few days of safe and socially distanced sightseeing and relaxing – well, as relaxing as any holiday can be with a very energetic two-year old who can at times can put Mariah Carey to shame with his high maintenance behaviour.

It was also a welcome respite from all the Covid-related conversation and news which I’m sure you’re feeling just as weary about as me. Just as I felt that work and life were returning back to some kind of normal, we were hit with local lockdowns (in Britain if you’re reading this from further afield) and troubling news stories about rising infection rates and extended periods of social distancing restrictions.

I noticed last week that a lot of freelancers started talking about their feelings of weariness and lack of motivation on the freelancing Slack and Facebook groups that I follow. Many spoke of how they are having to think of new ways to make their businesses work due to the prolonged effects of the pandemic, but are feeling so worn down by it all that they’re struggling to find the confidence and courage to go after new business and move into new territory. It’s a feeling that totally resonated with me too. With the pandemic lasting far longer than any of us had thought, entire revenue streams have completely disappeared, clients have been lost and in the worst cases, some industries such as publishing and events are going through one of the worst periods we’ve ever seen. No wonder that so many of us have completely lost our mojo.

It’s one of the reasons why I decided to profile the amazing freelance parent stories of the previous two weeks. Sometimes the best motivation can come from our peers and remind us of why we decided to make the leap to freelance in the first place - and perhaps inspire new ways for us to pivot into new areas of work and give us some much-needed courage when we need it most.

Courage is also something that’s right at the heart of Be Braver, an organisation founded by Caroline Pankhurst that aims to transform the futures of women and girls and enable individuals to learn how to live and lead courageously. Courage sits at the heart of all of Caroline's work that ranges from campaigning and activism, to organisational consultancy, doctoral research and coaching.

So why, I asked Caroline, is it important to be courageous as a freelancer and what actually defines courage?

“Purpose, risk, uncertainty, fear, motivation, values, bold action, a sense of agency, and the ability to appraise our skills and expertise all define courage,” says Caroline. “Being a freelancer or self-employed person is courage walking. There are so many factors that are outside of your control when you fly solo; so many uncertainties and fears that if left unattended could lead to cowardly or reckless decisions. Your confidence can get knocked, you can feel disconnected and isolated”.

Caroline believes that a courageous mindset is the trick to weathering all of these challenges. “To know at what point which bit of courage to draw upon to weather the storm, make the difficult decisions, survive the emotional rollercoaster. We need to remind ourselves of the successes we have, why we have chosen the path we have, and what we gain versus what we lose”.

“As a freelancer, you are your biggest advocate,” Caroline continues. “You don’t have a team or someone else that is going to hand you leads, spot opportunities for you, put up your rates, speak for your value. You have to be bold enough and brave enough to do it all for yourself. That’s why I always tell my clients to ask for more money than you feel you deserve and know when to say no to a client that is going to be a misery to work with”.

So what advice would Caroline give the freelance community about Covid-related uncertainty?  “The only constant is change. Nothing in this world is certain,”she says. “Of course there is far more of it at this time, but as a freelancer you have chosen the path of uncertainty already. This is familiar territory for you. A pandemic or a recession are things that are outside of your control. You can not affect them. What you can do is choose how you respond to it, how you face in to it, how you look for opportunities. Think differently about the ways you position your offering or the problems you solve for clients. Know that it will pass”.

Making braver choices and decisions can obviously feel a little scary especially when we’re struggling with issues such as Imposter Syndrome and low confidence. But Caroline explains that experiencing knocks and failures are all part of the journey and sometimes we just need to force ourselves out of our comfort zone - even if that means making mistakes along the way.

“What are the things you are avoiding?” she asks. “The things you haven’t tried that you know you ought to but are fearful of? Do that. Experiment and expect to fail. Accept it is going to be a learning journey and you will fail more times than succeed. But know that without failure there is no success”.

Caroline’s takeaway tips for getting through the next few months

· Recognise you are a person of courage (take it from me – you ARE)

· Identify a time in your life when you have chosen courage (faced a fear, risk, uncertainty and taken action or made a decision)

· What did you learn about yourself?

· What motivated you?

· How can you apply those learning to places where you know you need to choose to be more courageous?

You can follow Caroline on Twitter @be_braver or on Instagram @bebraver.beyourownhero

To continue the conversation, I’ll be posting on Facebook shortly after publishing this newsletter so we can chat more about the challenges and fears we’re all facing right now. Do you want to run a new business idea past the group, or perhaps you’re stuck in a complete rut and need a few kind words of wisdom to pull you out? It’s also a great opportunity for you to introduce yourself and perhaps connect with other subscribers and find new work opportunities. You can join the private group here so I hope to see you there.

Until next time, I wish you all a positive and courageous week.

Cat x