Being Resilient Helped JoAnna Pendergrass Overcome Setbacks and Make More Money

When JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, launched her freelance writing business, JPen Communications, in 2016, things went really well. JoAnna was doing work that she loved, and using both her medical expertise and her writing skills. Then about a year later, JoAnna’s only client announced a significant budget cut, effective immediately. She was faced with a major, sudden drop in income.

JoAnna tapped into her resilience—the ability to bounce back from the setbacks and challenges that all freelancers face.

“Resilience is the ability to roll with the punches. When stress, adversity or trauma strikes, you still experience anger, grief and pain, but you’re able to keep functioning—both physically and psychologically,” says Mayo Clinic.

After taking a few days to absorb the news, JoAnna began researching potential clients. “By this time, I knew that my true writing passion was pet owner education, so I targeted websites that published educational articles for pet owners,” she says. JoAnna made a list of potential clients on a spreadsheet, contacted each by email, and tracked her contacts and responses.

Within six weeks JoAnna had one new client. A few months after that, a colleague referred another client to her.

“This experience not only taught me resilience but also the importance of not depending on a sole client for income,” she says.

Resilient Freelancers Turn Setbacks into Opportunities

Thinking positive and looking for ways to make things turn out well—active optimism—helped JoAnna bounce back from losing her income.

Active optimism is one of five ingredients of resilience in Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed. It means turning challenges into opportunities and solving problems instead of hoping they’ll go away. Stronger was written by a stress management expert, an entrepreneur, and a Navy SEAL.

The other things that make successful people resilient, according to Stronger, are:

  • Decisive action
  • Moral compass (more relevant for Navy Seals than freelancers)
  • Relentless tenacity
  • Interpersonal support.

“Without active optimism, the other ingredients of resilience can’t really happen,” says JoAnna. “Active optimism is what drives me to set work/business goals, meet those goals, and truly love and enjoy what I do,” she says.

Doing something—even if it’s a small thing—successfully is one way to build active optimism. By researching and reaching out to potential clients, JoAnna was doing something to help herself.

JoAnna also took decisive action. She developed a plan to identify and reach out to potential clients. And then she did this. Decisive action leads to tenacity, the ability to keep going in spite of setbacks or challenges. Tenacity is a synonym for grit, determination, and mental toughness.

Learn More About the 5 Things that Make People Resilient

How to Boost Resilience When Things Go Wrong

Resilient Freelancers Have a Strong Network

Having a strong network of people who can support you when things aren’t going well is important. Interpersonal support helps you become more resilient and avoid self-defeating thoughts and actions, says Stronger.

Other freelancers should be a big part of your support network. Your freelance friends can provide practical advice about how to handle bad situations and support you through the ups and downs of freelancing.

And usually, the bad things that you think are only happening to you have happened to your freelance friends too. Knowing this is comforting.

For JoAnna, developing interpersonal support is harder than being an active optimist and taking decision action. But she knows it’s important so she’s working on this. “Since becoming a freelancer, I have been more intentional about networking, and staying in touch with colleagues,” she says.

Resilient Freelancers Work on their Resilience

JoAnna grew her resilience—and you can too.

People develop resilience over time, and can learn to be more resilient at any age.

Before JoAnna launched her freelance business, she worked for medical communication agencies for about two and a half years. Resilience helped her deal with criticism from managers and negative feedback from the company’s clients.  But after JoAnna started freelancing, she realized that she needed to be even more resilient.

“I am the engine that keeps my business running, so I need resilience that allows me to push through uncertainty and self-doubt,” she says. “Without deep resilience, it would be a lot easier to simply pull the covers over my head and not handle my business responsibilities.”

Being resilient has helped JoAnna deal with challenges like potential clients who don’t respond to her freelance marketing or who turn her down. Lack of response to our marketing efforts is a common challenge for freelancers. “I’ve learned to accept the ebbs and flows without getting stuck on the challenges,” says JoAnna.

“Resilience isn’t something that’s built or perfected overnight,” says JoAnna. She suggests asking other freelancers about how they became more resilient.

Resilient Freelancers Are Confident  

Re-building a freelance business after a major setback isn’t easy. But by tapping into her resilience, JoAnna came out of the experience stronger—and more confident—than ever.

“I felt a new sense of confidence about my ability to face an unexpected tough situation without becoming stuck or overly anxious. I also felt a sense of strength about being able to go out and get the work about which I’m truly passionate,” she says.

“My resilience has grown from a ‘deer in the headlights’ fear of freelancing to a ‘Yes, I can absolutely do this’ frame of mind.”


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Learn More About Being Resilient and the Mindset for Freelance Success

Resources from The Mighty Marketer

How to Boost Resilience When Things Go Wrong

The Superhero Power You Need to Know About: Grit

Why Other Freelancers Should Be Your Best Friends

How to Grow Your Business with the Help of Other Freelancers

7 Ways to Boost Your Confidence as a Freelancer

Surviving a Freelance Disaster: Here’s What Happened to Me

Learn more about JoAnna

 JPen Communications

LinkedIn profile

Other Resources

Resilience: Build Skills to Endure Hardship

George Everly Jr,. Douglas Strouse, and Dennis McCormack, Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed.