Freelancing has many benefits as a career choice, from flexibility around childcare and other commitments, to offering a wider variety of interesting projects and the chance to be your own boss. However, working from home with little contact with colleagues can become isolating over time and the lack of structure stressful. This, coupled with the need to deliver work for demanding clients, keeping on top of invoicing and finding a steady stream of new work can all take a toll on our mental health.
Below are our top tips for staying sane and thriving as a freelancer:
Find a routine that works for you
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for managing your time as a freelancer, but even if your most productive hours tend to be at 8-11pm (and one of the joys of freelancing is that you get to decide if they are), do try to identify and stick to a routine with a clear start and finish time and at least a couple of breaks away from your screen. The mental health charity Mind declares that maintaining a routine is one of the most important things you can do to stay grounded and manage stress.
The link between timesheets and mental health may seem tenuous at first glance, but having a written account of how you have spent your time and a clear view on where you are on projects can be very helpful in providing a sense of control and clarity. Timesheets also allow you to back up invoices and answer any challenging questions (sometimes months later) from clients about what they are being billed for.
Look for opportunities to connect
We know working from your back bedroom or kitchen table can be a lonely experience, even if you don’t miss the endless meetings or office politics. Finding opportunities to connect with other freelancers can make a huge difference in ensuring you don’t feel isolated and can share experiences. There are several good freelance sites such as leapers.co which focuses on freelance mental health or freelanceuk.com with a lively freelance forum, offering great opportunities to compare notes and connect with likeminded people.
Get out and about
We all know the benefits of doing some form of exercise and getting outside, but it is remarkably easy to let a whole day pass without walking further than the kettle. However, one of the great joys of freelancing is the freedom to go out for a lunchtime walk, run or even just wander to the corner shop without judgement from colleagues. To make sure you leave your desk and lace up your trainers, book time for getting outside just as you would a client meeting and guard this time from other appointments.
Keep an eye on your sales pipeline
When you’re battling several concurrent deadlines, it is easy to take your eye off your sales pipeline. However, completing projects with no idea of where your next one is coming from can be extremely stressful. Try to carve out sometime every week to focus on generating your next piece of work. Whether it is dropping an email to old clients, writing a blog post that may be relevant to new prospects or sweeping Linked In for leads, consistently making small incremental steps is what will generate sales momentum.
Manage client expectations
Freelance work by it is nature tends to come in fits and starts, so it is tempting to either leave the boundaries hazy or say “yes” to every client demand when starting a project, even when deadlines aren’t realistic or budgets are too low. Setting out in a Statement of Work or project plan the key dates, deliverables, hours when you are contactable allows you to manage client’s expectations and protect yourself from too many demands beyond the brief.
Hopefully, the tips above give you some practical strategies for looking after your mental health as a freelancer. The CommsPeople community is a friendly one and we are here to support you, so drop us a line if you would like to join.