Fear of missing out–FOMO–is a reality of life as a freelancer. Recently, I’ve heard from various students and colleagues about situations such as:
- “I planned my first extended vacation since COVID; my family and I desperately need this, and we have a great destination planned. I’m totally on board and excited about it. Not long after, I was offered an incredible on-site interpreting job for those same dates, and I immediately thought about not going on the vacation.”
- “I referred a translation job outside my area of specialization to a colleague; honestly I had never even heard much about this specialization. Come to find out, there’s a lot of work in this area and it’s not very technical or complex; now I’m kicking myself for not having done more research before declining it.”
- “No matter how hard I try, I never seem to be able to carve out any time off work; it’s been at least a year since I even took a full weekend off, much less a vacation. I just can’t escape the idea that if I’m not available, clients won’t call me anymore, or a great assignment will go to someone else.”
As freelancers, we know that we are a non-renewable resource. We know that burnout is a risk. We know that we can’t take every single project that we’re offered. And yet, we (and by that I mean all of us, definitely including me) still feel FOMO when these kinds of situations happen. How can we work through this? Here are a few ideas!
- Try to accept that FOMO is inevitable and even positive. You’re not doing anything wrong if you feel FOMO, because FOMO indicates that you enjoy your job, you enjoy making money, you enjoy serving clients. I’d worry about you if these things were not true!
- Remind yourself that work will always be there, but many other things in your life will not. When you have to turn down a juicy project, it’s easy to catastrophize: nothing like this will ever come my way; this was a one-of-a-kind opportunity. But typically, those feelings are not true (my favorite bumper sticker: “Your anxiety is lying to you”). However, it is true that other things in life will not wait around while you work yourself into the ground. As someone with a young adult child and aging parents, I feel this acutely. I hate missing out on great work opportunities, but life is going to look a lot different in 10 years, and I don’t want to look up from my phone and realize that I missed it.
- Turn the missed opportunity into a positive. When you realize that you turned down a job you really could have or should have taken, it’s unlikely that the client that approached you is the only one that needs this service. This sounds like a catalyst for a marketing campaign! Resolve that within the next three months, you’ll have at least one new client that is as good or better than the client you turned down.
Especially ahead of summer vacation season, I hope these tips are helpful if you, too, are feeling FOMO!
Corinne McKay (email@example.com) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!