Grit: It's the character trait that has everyone buzzing. It's the grown up equivalent to learning to walk. You stand up, only to fall down immediately. Over and over again. Until one day, you're finally walking. Like a boss. Like Elena Lashmanova (only slower).
Freelancers need grit to succeed.
But freelancers also need financial cushions. They need money for the hard seasons. Money can take freelancers through tough economic times.
When it comes to getting through hard times, what is better grit or a financial cushion? In today's installment of freelancer throwdown, I'll explore which one a freelancer needs more.
You need grit to get through tough times
This month, as a freelancer, I've managed to fail in some spectacular ways. I didn't know that it was possible to so quickly screw yourself over, but now I know. To give you a sense of the magnitude, my expected income is just one third of what it was a month ago. Yikes!
When freelancers talk about, "Always keep hustling!" they mean it. This post started as a cautionary tale, but I don't know where the story starts. I'm thick in the narrative as we speak.
Having a financial cushion makes it harder to move forward. I don't have to expose myself to the vulnerability of failure again. It's not necessary.
But if I don't do it, then I won't succeed. Maybe next time, I won't have the courage to face failure on a bigger scale. Grit is a series of choices. It's the choice to not be lazy when you need to hustle. It's the choice to wake up with the alarm clock when you could choose to sleep. To reach out to people who you haven't spoken to in a while.
Grit is the ability to hustle until you make ends meet. It's possibly the most important characteristic for freelancers.
Money buys you time for grit
Having money makes it a little easier to lick your wounds and sulk, but having money buys you the time for grit. Have you ever met anyone who doesn't need a little time to mourn a loss? Even if it's a selfish loss, like wanting to succeed in a specific niche of freelance writing, it's still a loss.
Money gives you the time to think and evaluate and get your head in the right space before you keep going. To me, this has unique importance.
Growing up, I played tennis. Since I was and still am a hot head, I would get frustrated when I shanked a ball or when my opponent made a bad line call, or when I didn't execute a point well. If I moved to the next point immediately, I would try to outplay my frustration which only led to more stupid mistakes.
Taking just a few seconds to breathe, and to force myself to look ahead instead of behind made a huge difference on my game play.
It's proving to be true in freelancing too. I needed a few days to get my head in the right space, and to start reaching out again.
Having a big financial cushion (or a low financial need) means that I can view freelancing like a tennis match instead of like a swimming during a storm at sea. In both, the next event is always just a few seconds away, but in the sea, your life depends upon your ability to stay afloat right now.
Which do freelancers need more?
I think freelancers need grit more than they need financial cushions. A financial cushion is awesome to have. I don't recommend quitting your day job without one, but grit is what will get you through the tough times.
Apparently, everyone else was right when they said that failing is part of freelancing. If you don't have a financial cushion, grit is probably enough.
However, before you leap without your finances in place, let me recommend that tennis is much more enjoyable than drowning in the ocean.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.