5 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelm

As a freelance makeup artist or hairstylist, it’s just the nature of our industry to live in what I call “feast or famine” which means that either there is LOADS of work, or almost none.  It’s a real rollercoaster, one minute we are so busy we can’t scratch ourselves, and the next we are sitting around twiddling our thumbs and wondering where the next client is going to come from.  Some artists thrive in this environment, while for others of us; it is a real learning curve.  I think particularly those who have come from a corporate, or more structured background of 9-5 and regular paycheques; leaving that behind and becoming a freelancer can be unsettling to say the least, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed at times, especially when you’re in a super busy period.

This week’s post has been prompted by a Facebook discussion I witnessed at the beginning of November between a couple of newer makeup artists about to work their first busy “formal week”. Here in Qld, Australia, many schools hold their Formal (which is the Australian version of a Prom) during the final week of school in November, so the students can celebrate graduating and party at the same time.  Over the last couple of years, as its become more common for girls to go “all-out” for their formal, along with the popularity of Instagram makeup, its become a super busy week for us makeup artists, and its not uncommon for an artist with a big following on Instagram to have 30 or more appointments during “formal week”.  Some of the artists in the discussion were even admitting to FEAR and anxiety about this week.

In other parts of Australia, the beginning of November is when the Spring Racing Carnival is held, and I’ve noticed many artists in Vic & NSW getting up super early to get their clients ready for a day on the track or at racing functions.  AND, we have the craziness of end-of-year and Christmas parties just around the coner!  Either way, I hope you are making the most of this busy time, and if you DO start to feel overwhelm, I hope my “5 tips for dealing with overwhelm” are helpful to you!

1. Practice Mindfulness and being in the moment.

When it all seems like too much to bare, stop, close your eyes and just breathe.  Rather than thinking of the 20 things you have to get done, and the 10 clients coming in the next three days, just stop, and think about what is happening right now.  Even taking 30 seconds to sit still and deep breathe with your eyes closed has proven to keep that horrible anxiety at bay.  Focus on the ONE thing that is happening right now (or next) the ONE client, and shut out all the other chitter-chatter, and your monkey – brain asking “what if?”

If I am driving from appointment to appointment, I like to do this in the car before I go in to the client’s house.  I quiet my mind, and remind myself why I am here, and what my #1 priority is in this moment:  To make my client feel like the best version of herself, to make her feel like I have given her a million-dollar service (even though she’s only paid a fraction of that).

Being in the moment has huge benefits for your client too.  Rather than thinking and worrying about the three other clients you have that day (or, the other two bridesmaids and bride and mumzilla, if you’re at a wedding), just focus on the person in your chair.  That is all you can control at this point anyway, so being fully present with the client in your chair at the time, will make her feel better about you, and more likely to have a positive reaction to the outcome – the makeup or hairstyle you have done.  One of my all-time favourite quotes is:  People will forget what you said or did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

2. Look at the big picture

Now this might seem counter-intuitive after the last advice point, but bare with me here…  I’m talking about the REALLY big picture.  I don’t mean the big picture in terms of this week (formal week – arghhhhhh), but this YEAR, or this DECADE.  Remember your BIG goals, whether that is to be the best makeup artist in your area, to have your work published on the cover of a glossy magazine, to earn 6 figures in your business…  and then remind yourself that this moment, today, this (formal) week, is just a SMALL part of that big picture.

This has always been a big one for me.  MANY times in my life, I have caught myself focussing on some small detail and getting myself all worked up over something.  When I do this, I have learned to remind myself to “Look at the big picture Sue”, and then that detail, or issue, or difficult client ceases to be such a huge thing, and takes its rightful place in the big picture of my life.

3. Chunk it down

When you have a massive job, or big project, it can be really helpful to break it down into chunks and deal with each chunk at a time.  Again, using our analogy of the makeup artist who has 30 clients booked over formal week, she could chunk that down into each day.  OK, on Monday I have 7 clients, and make sure she has everything prepared for that day’s clients.

It’s the same for me running 3 businesses.  I will chunk my day into blocks where I work on each business, even if it’s just an hour a day on each (because I have other priorities in my life other than just work!) Whenever I am in that CHUNK, that is what I focus on.

4. Take time for Self-care

This is hugely important, and I’m not just talking about self-medicating with Coffee and Wine here!!! Particularly so, when you are really busy, it is really important to take care of yourself and your health. Body AND mind.  Try to schedule some light exercise (in nature if you can – the restorative power of nature can’t be beaten!), and prepare some healthy snacks for during the day.

Even when I’m working on full-day commercial jobs which are usually catered, often the catering is not super healthy, so I always take along some nutritious healthy snacks to nibble on during the day – which keeps me away from the pastries and sweets, which I know won’t help me long term, even if they are oh so tempting!

At the end of the day, I invite you to again take some time for mindfulness.  Think back over your day, and reflect on what went well (rather than just beating yourself up about everything you did wrong or could have done better).  Its human nature to think about the negatives, and it takes work and conscious effort to praise yourself and think about what you did RIGHT.  All successful people have learned this lesson.  If things didn’t quite go according to plan, or your client wasn’t 100% happy, rather than beating yourself up about it, ask yourself “What is the lesson here?” and look at how you can do better next time.

Just recently I did a job where I knew the client wasn’t 100% happy with one of the hairstyles I had done.  (I did 3 models that day).  As I was driving home, I caught myself feeling awful about that one hairstyle, and had to stop and remind myself that the other 2 had been great, and this one wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t 100% right.  I did offer to re-do the hairstyle, but the client said no, it would be OK.  So, I asked myself “What is the lesson here?” and then I remembered about a technique I have used previously which I didn’t use this time, so I came home and ordered some of the products & tools I would need so I could do a better job next time. “Every mistake carries a lesson to be learned”

5. Delegate

Is there something you are doing that you could delegate?  Can you call on someone else for help?  Could you hire an assistant to help you through the busy days?  Can someone help you by bringing you food, or doing the cooking and cleaning?

As a control- freak perfectionist, this is something that I find super challenging.  Even when I hire an assistant to help me on a job, sometimes I struggle with relinquishing responsibility and actually getting them to do things!  But I have learned that there are things I should do, and things I need to let other people do.

If you don’t have a supportive partner (or mum!!) can you hire someone to help out?  The best thing I ever did for my business (and my family life) was hiring a house cleaner.  Its one thing I just don’t have to worry about anymore.  I told myself a STORY for ages that I couldn’t afford it, but when I actually stopped to think, that what I pay her is HALF of what I earn doing ONE person’s makeup, and then I thought about the amount of TIME it takes me to do it, how much I HATE housework, and how much more I hate having a dirty house, it was a NO BRAINER.  Earlier this year when I was launching my coaching business and makeup jobs were scarce, I had to let my cleaning lady go, and it was horrible! After the infamous “mouse incident” I resolved to get her back, and now I will never be without her again!!

BONUS TIP: Prioritise.

Did you see my Facebook Live earlier this week where I talked about prioritising?  You can catch the replay HERE:


I’d love to hear if you have any strategies for dealing with overwhelm, or if you’ve used any of these strategies and they’ve helped. Please drop a comment below, and feel free to share this post on your own Facebook business page…


Photo credits:

Dylan Evans
Rachel Jackson
Tom Hall


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