Freelancing has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people are choosing to work for themselves rather than for a company. The freedom to set your own hours, make your own rules, and be your own boss can be highly appealing. I’ve even taken the plunge, finally doing what I’ve wanted to do for decades – I am officially my own boss, and my business, Copywriting For You, was officially born earlier this month.
And while this has been an extremely exciting time in my career, I have learned a few things. And most importantly, I’ve learned that while my new business requires time and energy, focusing on my mental health is critical.
Freelancing puts you in the driver’s seat
Yet, while freelancing can be a great way to have more control over your work and lifestyle, it can also come with its own challenges. One of these challenges is its impact on your mental health. As I was chatting with a prospective client today about the connections between mental health and job satisfaction, it got me thinking about a few things.
As a freelancer, you may experience several stressors affecting your mental well-being. And I get it, as I need to fight through these stressors, too. But I’ve learned that awareness is the key to helping you stay on top of the stress and making those same stressors achievements that you celebrate day after day.
Turn those daily stressors into achievements
Here are some of the ways that freelancing can impact your mental health:
1. Isolation and Loneliness
Freelancers often work alone and from home, creating isolation and loneliness. This can be especially true if you’re used to working in an office with others. Without the social interaction that comes with a traditional workplace, freelancers may struggle to build and maintain relationships, which can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.
And your words are your company when you’re a copywriter and blogger like myself. So, make sure that you take steps to talk to people every day. Reach out to someone new on LinkedIn and take a client call. Do something to engage in conversation.
2. Financial Instability
Freelancers such as myself are paid per project or hourly, which can lead to financial instability. This uncertainty can cause stress, anxiety, and depression, especially if you cannot find enough work to meet your financial needs. For me, this reinforces the significance of business development as part of my day. Every day, take time to improve your business – not with the paid work you need to get done, but by improving your profile, generating a new ad campaign to promote your business, whatever.
I’m not suggesting that you should adopt a scarcity mindset. But, I also recommend that you don’t assume that what you have today will last forever. Promoting your business every day will pay off in the long run and keep you fresh.
3. Inconsistent Workload
As a freelancer, you may experience periods of high and low demand for your services. This can make it difficult to plan for the future and to manage your workload effectively. When you have a lot of work to do, you may feel overwhelmed and stressed, while during slow periods, you may feel anxious and uncertain about your financial situation.
You can control this, however, by taking control of your deadlines. In my case, I ask all of my clients for one to two weeks to complete their projects. While in many cases, I deliver far ahead of schedule, this allows me to have something to do should a slower week arrive. And my clients love the surprise and delight of a project delivered early but know not to expect it. If anything, they respect that I’ll finish it on time and won’t sacrifice the quality. Further, I’ll focus on their project when I am feeling most inspired to do so. This gives them a better work product than one rushed to meet a timeline.
4. Poor Time Management
Working from home can also make establishing a healthy work-life balance challenging. Without a set schedule or structure, freelancers like myself can easily work long hours, neglecting self-care and other important aspects of their lives, leading to burnout and mental exhaustion.
Instead, build a schedule to capitalize on when you are most effective. For me, my brain doesn’t start flowing until about noon. I let myself get some extra sleep in the morning, wake up, check my emails and respond to client messages, and get in a workout before I officially start my workday. And I limit working during the evening to one or two times a week.
5. Lack of Benefits and Support
Freelancers do not typically receive benefits such as health insurance or retirement plans from an employer. This lack of support can be stressful, especially if you have family or health issues. Also, freelancers may struggle to find professional support or mentoring, impacting their mental well-being.
If you are starting out, research self-employment insurance benefits right away. And find a great accountant that can help you stay on top of your taxes. Even though these steps are associated with costs, you’ll understand what they are right off the bat so there are no unpleasant surprises later.
So, what can you do to protect your mental health as a freelancer?
First, it’s important to prioritize self-care. This means taking breaks, establishing a schedule, and making time for activities you enjoy. Building and maintaining relationships with other people is essential, even if it means working from a shared office or attending networking events. So get out your calendar and find a night or two each month to get out for a networking event or even a friend or former colleague you haven’t seen in a while.
Second, it’s important to establish financial stability as much as possible. This may mean setting a budget and sticking to it, finding multiple sources of income, and building an emergency fund.
Third, try to establish boundaries between work and personal life. This might not mean setting specific work hours. Instead, commit to setting the work aside to make dinner or eat with your family. Let that laptop sit in your office until after the kids go to bed. Prioritize that time with those you love, because you can’t get it back. The computer will be waiting, and believe it or not, your best clients will appreciate you for it.
Finally, I can’t stress this enough: seek professional support when needed. This may mean finding a therapist or counselor who can help you manage stress and anxiety or a mentor who can guide and support you in your field. Look for a third party to which you can vent or bounce ideas. While family and friends can be great sources of support, they’re on team you. A neutral third party can help you find balance and may be able to pick up on any mental health concerns that your family could miss.
Freelancing is rewarding, but remember, it’s a choice, and your mental health needs to take center stage
Freelancing can be a fulfilling and rewarding career choice, but it can also be challenging. By prioritizing your mental health and well-being, you can ensure that your freelancing career is sustainable and enjoyable in the long term.