Much like freelancing, planning a wedding can be a terrifying roller coaster ride. (I should know; I recently went through the process.) The two activities have a lot in common: You often have to deal with unspoken rules and manage other people’s expectations while trying to determine your own.
However, regardless of whether you’re drowning in tulle or drowning in paperwork, sorting through invoices or centerpieces, the principles below will help steady you along the journey.
1. Don’t overextend
Unfortunately, planning a wedding won’t fundamentally change who you are as a person. A bride who has never stepped into a craft store often finds herself scrapping elaborate DIY decorating plans or relying on outside assistance. Doing so allows her to focus on the areas she’s interested in.
This lesson is true for freelancers as well. It can be tempting to try to handle your own accounting, web development, graphic design, and video editing. Versatility has value, but taking on too many tasks leaves you with less time for researching, pitching story ideas, or writing.
“I outsource things I’m either not good at or don’t want to mess with,” said freelance writer and writing instructor Jodi Helmer. Whether you hire a transcriptionist for your interviews, a copyeditor to review your self-published work, or even an IP lawyer to sort through a book contract, outsourcing your least favorite activities can free up time for you to do what you do best.
A similar mistake new writers make is taking every scrap of work thrown their way. Some even go so far as to feign expertise in subject matters they know little about. “By choosing to narrow your focus, you’re able to pitch, research and write much more quickly and efficiently, and that’s what freelancing is all about,” said Kelly James-Enger, author of Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money.
2. Don’t lose sight of the big picture
Whether she’s selecting colors for table runners or putting together a playlist, it’s easy for even the most low-maintenance bride to obsess about small wedding details. Taking a step back to remember the real purpose of the wedding—starting a new chapter of your life alongside your partner—puts things in perspective. Then, those minor choices seem much less dire.
As a freelancer, you could be focusing more on content marketing, journalism, social media, or ghostwriting. “One of the biggest challenges is that there’s too many choices and too many opportunities, and it’s hard not to be distracted by the big shiny object,” James-Enger said. “With all those choices, why are you on this particular path? Why are you focusing on this? What’s your business plan or business model look like?”
3. Get support from friends
The $289 billion global wedding industry is filled with so much marketing hype that it’s often difficult to know who to trust. Luckily, having friends who have your best interest in mind can help you put things in perspective and make clear-headed decisions.
This is just as true in freelancing.
“I’m a really strong introvert, so I’m quite happy toiling away in my own space, but I do feel that it is really important for me to have other freelancers to network with and talk about… who’s buying pieces and who’s not paying writers and what magazines are paying,” Helmer said. “Honestly, it’s just nice to connect with other freelancers and say, ‘I got six rejections this week and I’m starting to think that nobody will buy a story from me again. Please tell me I’m not alone.’”
4. Stop taking everything personally
Weddings seem to bring out the worst in some people, amplifying issues and personal insecurities that have been quietly simmering beneath the surface. Handling these situations gracefully is a delicate art, so you have to quickly learn how to take bad news in stride.
Likewise, in freelancing, it’s easy to fixate on rejections or read too much into brief emails from busy, overly caffeinated, or unresponsive editors.
“People will think, ‘my pitch sucked,’ when really it’s that [editors] haven’t had time to look at the pitch, or they are running something similar, or it’s not right for the market. It’s almost never that your pitch sucked, or whatever your knee-jerk scary reaction is,” James-Enger explained.
And if an editor did think your pitch sucked, remember to focus on the eight similar publications that might be interested in your idea rather than the one that turned you down. It’s just business.
5. Turn weaknesses into strengths
My very introverted husband and I have always felt slightly uncomfortable with excessive formality, and we both wanted to plan a practical wedding that didn’t involve selling our furniture or taking out a loan. We planned our entire theme—comfort—around this concept, which made the monumental decisions about food and decor so much easier to make.
As an Israeli transplant in the U.S., mincing words has never been my forte. Focusing on journalism rather than public relations allows me the luxury of working to my strengths rather than trying to hide them. I took this idea one step further by starting a podcast called The Elephant in the Room, where I would ask tough questions about topics that interested me, such as net neutrality.
James-Enger has also turned perceived weaknesses into strengths. “I really want my editors to like me,” she said. “That’s actually kind of a negative, but the positive is that I will go above and beyond to make an editor like my work, and by virtue of that like me. So I do think there are ways you can turn a negative thing into a positive.”
6. Switch tasks
If figuring out a seating chart or trying to calculate the length of table runners is driving you insane, stay sharp by focusing on another details like researching travel ideas for your honeymoon. Just because you have a specific checklist doesn’t mean you need to grind through challenging tasks at all times.
Freelancers are just as lucky. “You always have the option to switch between tasks in your field,” Helmer said, pointing out full-time workers may not have this luxury.
If the thought of writing another pitch makes you want to bang your head against the wall, you can always research story ideas, work on a rewrite, or contact an interview subject instead.
7. Take (many) breaks
If wedding planning is consuming every second of every day, you’ll burn out and turn into Bridezilla, snapping at unsuspecting friends who ask how things are going. And if you’re a freelancer constantly staring at a screen for 12 hours per day (and believe me, I’ve been there), you’ll be just as difficult to be around. Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from your laptop and walk away.
“There are plenty of studies to show that taking breaks actually improves efficiency in any kind of work model,” James-Enger explained. “It’s proven that breaks… make you less likely to make mistakes, whether you’re an ER doctor or you’re a freelancer who made some stupid grammar mistake because you’re rushing or you’re pushing yourself too hard.”
So go on a walk, take a nap, go to the gym, or spend some time with those friends and loved ones you’ve been neglecting. Then when it’s time to go back to work, you’ll be relaxed, recharged, and ready to commit.