Nobody wants to be in crisis mode, but sooner or later we all find ourselves there anyway. Here are my best 5 tips for what to do in a crisis, no matter where you are in the timeline.
When there’s hard stuff going on in your life or your business, whether it’s health or circumstances, what do you do? When you are the business and you’re incapacitated somehow — physically, emotionally, or mentally — what do you do?
1. Assess the situation
Ask yourself what you need for survival. What are your limitations, and are they physical or time-based?
Figure out where you are on the crisis timeline. Are you right at the beginning, where something has just happened? Or is it after the crisis, and you need to clean up the mess?
In other words, do you need to go into prevention mode or damage control mode?
Is it time to push through or stop? I can’t tell you that, but your emotional reactions to the idea of stopping vs pushing through can help guide you. There’s a time to push through and stick with this freelancer business, to perhaps make some modifications and keep going. And there’s a time to stop, pull back, and say,”It’s been nice working with you, but I have to step away for a while.”
Take personal responsibility for everything that’s yours to own
If you’re doing damage control, what do you need to own? What do you need to apologize for? Even if it’s, “I’m really sorry, I dropped the ball.”
What are the things that are not your responsibility to carry? “Oh, what will they do? How will they ever find someone to replace me?”
It’s thoughtful of you to be thinking of your client’s position, but it’s not your responsibility to stick with them because you don’t think they can find someone else.
2. Accept that things will look different
Things will never go back to the way they were before. They just won’t. You have to accept that. They may be restored, but they will in some sense be different than before.
The path to the new normal is not necessarily going to be straightforward. You’ll have more demands placed on you outside of the work context and less margin to deal with them. You’ll need more space and less pressure.
Give yourself more breaks. You’ll need to be able to take things off of your plate tomorrow that you were fine to have on your plate yesterday.
3. Let go of everything that isn’t mission critical
Absolutely everything. Think about what you need to carry with you into the future and what needs to be put down, either temporarily or permanently, that’s not absolutely critical.
If content marketing is part of what you do, but it only accounts for 10% of your leads, content marketing needs to go. If you go silent on social media, then you go silent on social media — if that’s not a major part of your actual revenue generator.
You still need money in a crisis. Survival is the mission.
Let go of everything that doesn’t help you survive all the extras. Focus on what has a direct connection to things that will enable you to survive. For most of us, that means revenue. That means work.
4. Make big moves from a place of confidence, not desperation
There’s a big difference between “I have to. I will,” and, “I’m desperate. Oh God, please save me. I need this job. Please hire me.”
People don’t want to work with desperation and can usually sense when you’re desperate. People don’t want to be needed in that way.
When you feel yourself slipping into panic or despair, pull it together. Figure out what you need to tell yourself to get out of that place of, “I’m drowning!” into, “Okay, I’m going to figure this out.”
If you can get into that place of determination, which doesn’t necessarily mean you have all the answers, then you’re going to figure it out. Or you’re going to clean it up nicely. You’re going to do a good job. Whether you’re continuing or you’re closing up shop, that’s a position of strength and clarity, even when you have question marks.
Whereas desperation and begging, that’s not a position of strength. That’s not how you are going to see yourself through the crisis. It’s not to say that you can’t have moments of desperation, but if you’re operating out of it, it will become real.
Fake it till you make it. You have to act confident, if you’re going to have any hope of making it.
5. Get support
No matter where you are on the crisis timeline, get support! This is the last tip, but it’s the most important.
When I’ve been in a crisis, I’ve reached out to people who have sent me referrals in the past: “Hey, I really appreciated when you connected me with so-and-so. Let me know if you know anyone else who could use my help.”
Again, you don’t have to beg. You don’t have to be desperate, but get support, ask for help. If everything is laying in your feet in pieces and you don’t know what to do, the best thing you can do is invite somebody in to help you.
You don’t have to do this alone. It’s really hard to navigate a crisis all by yourself because you have your feelings and you have your circumstances. And then you have all your feelings about the circumstances and your feelings about your feelings. That’s a lot of stuff in your head, and it’s hard to see straight.
Invite someone in and ask for their help, or their opinion. Buy support if you can, such as ordering meal plans or food delivery services, or hiring someone to clean your house.
It’s so easy when you go into crisis mode to isolate, close the shades, disappear, and try to weather it and act like everything is fine; no one needs to know. Maybe that’s possible, but it’s not the healthiest. See my post “6 Ways Freelancers Are Susceptible To Depression (And How To Protect Yourself)” for more on that.
Isolating isn’t what will get you through in the best, most effective way, the way that is most likely to lead to good outcomes. It’s hard to get ourselves to good outcomes alone. So ask for help, no matter where you are in the journey.
For the online support and just plain fun of hanging out with other writers who get what you’re talking about, join us in my free Facebook group, The Ink Well Guild with Ashley Gainer.