Going freelance might seem like the answer to all of your prayers. More control, a flexible lifestyle, time off whenever you feel like it, more time to spend with friends or family and no boss to answer to. Sadly, freelancing isn’t always as straightforward as that, and working for yourself can throw up some different stresses and life hurdles to deal which with may impact on your mental health and wellbeing

In a recent Guardian article (1) that examined the very same topic, Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at MBS Manchester University said:  “Isolation, financial pressures, irregular hours and an inability to switch off can have a real impact when not managed properly. For self-employed people, it’s a real problem. It can lead to the common mental health disorders – stress, depression and anxiety.”

So how then do freelancers manage the balance between work and life, and learn to embrace the unpredictability that self-employment brings? After all, our time is valuable and taking time away from work to deal with mental health issues and our own wellbeing can seem like a bigger stress in itself.

Here are eight practical tips to help…

  1. Stay in control – remember your WHY

Like many freelancers, you probably took the leap into self-employment because of a desire to design your own life and be in charge. Working for yourself can be life affirming, empowering and inspiring, and if these qualities seem like they’re slipping away, it can be useful to take a step back and remember WHY you decided to go freelance.

Write down the reasons you decided to go it alone, and make the decision to take control back. Perhaps you need to learn to say no, set clear boundaries with clients about working hours, stop doing pro bono work for a while or make sure your diary and to-do list is up to date and clear.

It IS possible to design your own life, and if your reasons for going freelance included being around to pick the kids up from school, being able to take Fridays off, or attending a regular exercise class, take back your entitlement and do it. It’s so easy to let things slip away from you (we ALL do it) and end up lurching from procrastination to being up at midnight trying to make a deadline. Take back control.

  1. Cover yourself

Having insurance for things like illness, professional indemnity, cyber security and public liability makes sense. Don’t cut corners or put things off, get these things sorted so your sense of security can take a step up. Insurance isn’t an unnecessary expense, it’s just sensible – and things like this will add to your overall wellbeing.

Additionally, using a simple contract with regular clients can help you to feel more in control and professional, and can help both parties if you decide to part ways or move on.

There are new platforms to help freelancers popping up every week, and one of our favourites is new platform Penny Freedom which takes the stress out of getting paid. You get paid within 24 hours and Penny chases the client. Dream!

  1. Focus your stress

It’s nice to think that a zen lifestyle awaits us all if we could just leave our stress behind us, but realistically that isn’t life for anyone who isn’t a Tibetan monk, and everyone feels stressed from time to time.

Stress is a natural reaction, and “framing” your stress and using the additional adrenaline to propel you into networking or taking a brave leap into a new area might be just what you need.

Appreciated, that isn’t easy, but thinking of your day to day stress as a (potentially) positive thing could help you to feel more empowered and driven.

If stress becomes too overwhelming though, then focus on your own self-care, work can wait.

  1. Practice self-care

This one is so important. Without proper self-care, we simply cannot function day to day, week to week, month to month. Something’s got to give and it’s usually our mental health.

Like the old adage of making sure your oxygen mask is attached before you help anyone else in the event of an airborne emergency, you need to look after your own wellbeing or you’ll be no use to anyone else. We all know what to do – get more sleep, deactivate your Facebook account for a while, drink more water, drink less wine, get up and dressed in the morning and get some regular fresh air and exercise.  Simple? Maybe…

One positive step that is surprisingly common with freelancers is dog walking! Whether it’s buying your own canine buddy or signing up to a dog walking scheme such as BorrowMyDoggy, the responsibility of taking Rover for a walk once a day will give you a kick up the bum, provide a solid reason to get out of the house and take a well-deserved screen break, and get some fresh oxygen into your lungs.

By taking care of yourself and putting yourself first, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how a few little changes can have a positive affect on your life – including your concentration levels, motivation and overall health and happiness.

  1. Be sociable

Isolation can truly be one of the most soul destroying things for a freelancer, especially if you come from a buzzy office environment where the social aspect was taken for granted and after work drinks were a regular occurrence.

Joining a co-working space or even taking your work to a park bench or coffee shop can shake things up and allow you to feel like you’re part of the world once again.  Human contact is important, and sometimes, having someone to natter to once or twice a week and bounce a few ideas off can make the difference between feeling isolated and lonely and feeling like you’re winning at life.  Go for it! You might even make a new friend.

  1. Know when to switch off

This one can take time to nail as a freelancer, as work and life can blur so easily. And even though that can be a nice thing occasionally due to things like digital nomadism, realistically everyone needs to take time completely away from work in order to function properly.

It may take a while to get your finances to a point where you can take a week off here and there, but it’s worth taking these things seriously. Use a flexible savings app, and when you have enough money to cover a week’s work, plan in a holiday, even if it’s just to bum around the garden or go and visit your mum.

Additionally, have a cut off point where you put the devices down and step away from your emails every night. Use an out of office with a phone number listed for urgent things if it makes you feel better, but having a clear distinction between work and life can help massively if you are feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Delegate

Delegation isn’t a new concept, but outsourcing aspects of your life makes massive amounts of sense if things are feeling too much.

Examine your pain points, and make a plan to delegate the tasks. Hate admin? Hire a virtual PA. Getting a bit bogged down by your finances? Take on an accountant or book-keeper. Sick of feeling like your house is a tip? Get a cleaner. Yes, these things cost money but your time will be freed up to focus on yourself, look after your wellbeing and focus on areas of your work and home life that makes you money or drives your business forward. Makes sense? You bet it does.

  1. Get help

Above all else, if you are struggling with your mental health, please – get help. Remember, you are NOT alone, and we are lucky to live in a society where mental health and wellbeing are (finally) being taken seriously.

MIND offers a free counselling service in many areas of the UK, and freephone numbers if you’re not sure where to turn. With therapy, CBT and other services on offer by the NHS too, help is there if you need it.

Please do not suffer in silence, talk to friends, ask advice in social media groups, reach out to a caring stranger privately on social media – so many people are willing to give advice and lend an ear, remember you are amazing and there is always support.

 

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/dec/08/i-felt-vulnerable-freelancers-on-the-stress-of-self-employment

 

You can find our top 45 tools and tips for working from home and managing your freelance business in a handy FREE downloadable guide HERE. We also have a FREE private members group where you can find support and guidance from an established freelance community, join HERE

About The Freelance Kit

The Freelance Kit offers unique digital products, support and community for freelancers, including a 150 page high-quality and beautifully designed template kit. 

Inside the digital kit, you’ll find templates, planners and spreadsheets for every aspect of freelance life including a 15-page contract worth £300, financial planning documents, social media planning templates and ideas for content, blog topic ideas and much more. 

Along with digital products, The Freelance Kit has a private community and a soon to launch membership option. The platform was created by experts to help freelancers thrive and our hope is that the products and support will empower you to succeed, and help make your freelance life that bit easier.  

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