I’ve been working as a self-employed interior stylist and art director for 20+ years. I’ve worked on countless projects, have authored a book, mentored creatives and built my own education platform for fellow creatives, and yet, I still feel nervous from time to time when pitching or starting a big project.
It’s normal to experience nerves sometimes, and research tells us that stress, in small amounts, can actually be beneficial – it’s thought to be motivating, energy-boosting and performance-enhancing. However, when nerves, stress and anxiety exceed your ability to cope, or start interfering with your work and daily activities, it’s important to xonsult your GP.
If it’s a mild case of nerves you’re looking to conquer so you can properly focus on the project at hand, then you may find my personal four-step strategy to stop feeling nervous helpful. Keep reading to find out exactly what I do when I get butterflies about a big job.
How to stop feeling nervous – my four-step strategy
1. I do my research
I tend to feel less nervous when I feel prepared, so I try to allow as much time as possible to take in all the information I need to do the best job I can – whether it’s pitching to a client or shooting a big campaign.
I’ll absorb all the information I can about a brand, their target audience and competition, along with knowledge on trends and more – everything and anything that will help me feel like I have a good understanding of the job at hand.
Crucially, I also ask questions. I ask for clarification, where needed, and for help from those with different skills and knowledge to my own. Of course, being prepared doesn’t mean I immediately stop feeling nervous but, for me, it helps.
2. I open up
Speaking of asking questions; I almost always find it helpful to talk to someone whenever I’m overwhelmed with nervousness.
Nerves feel more intense, in my experience, when I keep them to myself. Often, I feel calmer once I’ve shared my worries with a loved one, or with a peer who can provide a different perspective.
If you don’t have a supportive network to reach out to, consider joining a Facebook group of people from your industry or attending industry events to connect with others and build your personal community.
3. I take care of myself
Stress and anxiety can be heightened when we aren’t meeting our fundamental needs.
When I’m running low on energy or I’ve had a string of poor-sleep nights, my nerves can feel worse. So, particularly when I have something coming up that I feel nervous about, I make a bigger effort to maintain my wellness routine – I prioritise quality sleep, movement, nutrition, mindfulness and family time.
Research indicates that physical activity can improve depressive and anxiety symptoms, and can improve sleep quality too. For this reason (and, because I enjoy it), I always schedule regular walks and Pilates sessions – my favourite types of exercise.
4. I try to remain open-minded
Of course, I want all of my pitches and all of my projects to go well. However, I also recognise that I’m human, that I make mistakes sometimes, and that not everything goes to plan 100% of the time. So, as much as I want to succeed on every occasion, I’m also open to learning new lessons, improving my skills, and setting new boundaries.
When something doesn’t work out the way I want it to, I reflect (why didn’t it go to plan? Was there something missing from my skill set? Or, was it due to timing/something out of my hands?), journal, and either make a plan to address any issues (I’ll find a suitable course, for example, if I need to brush up on certain skills) or let it go and move on.
This mindset, I find, helps to relieve some of the pressure that’s often attached to big work tasks.
If you enjoyed this article, check out my advice on how to build confidence and self-esteem as a self-employed creative and my tips for marketing your creative business on a budget.