Most stress in a creative service business stems from the attempts to balance conflicting needs. You have this conflict whether trying to reconcile your business persona with your creative persona or struggling with dedication to your work and the desire to spend time with your family. Sound familiar?
Any of us could probably compose an endless list of personal and professional stress inducers. The important thing to accept is that these types of stress are normal. Remember that there is a difference between stress and distress. Distress would include issues like suffering through a family illness or a natural disaster. In other words, distress is outside of your control, therefore it can’t be managed like stress. When you have determined that you are dealing with stress, try these simple suggestions:
- You’ll never be truly caught up, so stop punishing yourself when you don’t finish everything. There will be a never-ending succession of business and personal job tasks and your client work projects. You need to stop looking for the bottom of your “in box” or expecting to see the top of your desk. It is not going to happen! Let go of the feeling that you’re drowning and will never surface with the understanding that your business is like the ongoing rush and flow of a river. Don’t expect a calm and still body of water. Besides, if the “river” stops flowing, you have no work and that is a much worse situation to handle. Relieve your stressful feelings with a good time management system (see Part One) and rid your life of the stress suffered from playing “catch up”.
- You’ll never make everyone happy. There will always be clients that want you to jump through possibly imaginary hoops to make them happy. In these situations, stop and differentiate between your client’s subjective and objective happiness. Subjective is their opinion (usually after the shoot) and objective is based on an accountable and measurable goal for the project. You must make clients happy on an objective level but you can’t always expect clients to be happy on a subjective level. They will have opinions that you don’t like or have changed their mind. Then you have to stop and ask yourself…do you need to do anything other than acknowledge and recognize their opinion? Recognition of someone’s opinion without needing to agree with it will go far to smooth over a stressful situation. If you have met all the measurable and accountable objectives maybe you should not be asking “how high?” if no one has asked you to “jump”.
- Worry is a great producer of stress. To get it off your chest, write down this particular worry. Pen/paper, tablet – does not matter as long as you then put it aside to be considered later (this technique is also called sleep on it). Often, the worry has resolved itself or is no longer so overwhelming. Motivational speaker and co-author of the wonderful Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Mark Victor Hansen calls this type of stress “stewing without doing” and it is very non-productive.
- Learn to say “No”. Often, stress is created when you say “Yes” when all logic and common sense tells you to say “No”. Production of a creative services project is a perfect example. A client makes a production or pricing request during the project and you know that an unqualified “Yes” will cause great stress (and reduced profits). So try one of these three options, “No, but here’s an option to look at” or “Yes, and this is what that will cost” or, simply put, “Let me get back to you!” In each case, you have presented further considerations that will reduce the stress of dealing with difficult situations while keeping a professional demeanor.