For mental health awareness week, we welcome guest blogger Chloe Bennet, to discuss the mental health challenges faced by freelancers.
Freelancing is an awesome opportunity for a lot of people, one which hasn’t historically been an option for anyone outside of a select few industries. With the rapid growth of the internet, vast improvements with communication, and jobs which have been created as a direct result of the flourishing tech field, there are now a whole host of jobs that can be completed for very good money from the comfort of your own home.
There’s no doubt then that freelancing is a great thing! However, whilst many people who are engaged in office based 9-5 employment might look on enviously, freelancing does have its considerable down sides. One of which is mental health challenges.
As a career path, freelancing is quite isolating. It can also amplify any problems an individual might have already with their mental health. And, it can be really difficult to know what problems you might face and how to deal with them. So, let’s take a look at the mental health challenges which you might face as a freelancer.
Mental health challenge #1: Screen time
So much of the reason freelancing has boomed in the past 20 years is due to the development of technology. Mostly this means interacting with online bosses, third party employment sites and your work tools, via the screen.
Office work usually relies on computers as well, of course, but there is a turn in the corporate world of trying to actively encourage and enforce healthy attitudes and behaviors amongst employees, which doesn’t exist in the freelancer’s world. Plus, the dependency on computers as the only way for interaction is an enormous part of the freelancer’s life.
Screen time has been seen to affect anything from eyesight to, you guessed it, mental health.
“Screen usage has been linked to impacts on the body clock, as well as the addiction areas of the brain and the brain’s overall chemistry”, warns Michael Clark, freelance editor for Academized and Assignment Service. “For freelancers, this can be very damaging in the long run, since so much work depends on screen usage.”
If at all possible, you should be looking to limiting how much you look at and use screens. Even if you have to work on them all day, maybe cut out the nightly movies or Netflix binges and replace them with listening to music or going for a walk.
However, as a freelancer, you create your own schedule. So, you could take frequent breaks and take a walk whenever you feel like you need it. You can also reduce the amount of light your screen produces to help your eyes.
Mental health challenge #2: Isolation
Freelance work often involves not being in an office. For certain types of people this is a huge blessing. However, most people aren’t consciously aware of the massive psychological benefits to interacting with others.
For a freelancer who lives alone, there is a high chance that what starts out as a perk of the job turns into a cripplingly isolationist outlook. This, in turn, can easily turn into loneliness which can, in some cases, turn to depression.
Some people enjoy being alone and freelancing lets them choose their interactions, but for some, what they may perceive as their natural introversion is actually the effects of being alone so often.
If you’ve opted out of weekend get togethers or you actively avoid calls and texts from friends and families, it might be worth stopping and asking yourself if the freelance lifestyle is causing you to shrink away from the world and look for what you can do about that.
One of the best ways to continue freelancing and have more contact with people is to work in coworking spaces. You can also try to work in coffee shops where you would meet a lot of people. Ultimately, you are the boss of your own day so organize it in a way that allows you to have plenty of time with friends and family.
Mental health challenge #3: Work-life balance
Not having to go to the office is great, there’s no denying it. Being able to put on your slippers and work on the couch is comfortable and easy. But there is a downside to this smudging of the home life vs work space.
“When you work from home, the work day never really ends, unless you regiment yourself”, says Libby Scott, freelance marketing specialist at PaperFellows and OXEssays. “It never really begins either, and the weekends can become the same as the weekdays, too. If you’re not careful you can begin to feel trapped in by your work, with nothing to look forward to beyond an overwhelming amount of work”.
The structure which normal office life can afford you can be a really valuable tool without most people realizing it. It divides your life in a way which stops you from becoming burnt out from too much work or lethargic from too much leisure.
But, you can do this at home easily as well. Create an office space away from your bedroom or living areas. It should be a space where all of your work is and none of that work stuff should ever leave this space. This is where coworking spaces come in handy. Set an amount of hours you want to work each day and work only that much. For example, you can work from five in the morning to two in the afternoon and only work at your desk, your coworking space or coffee shop.
Mental health challenge #4: Job security
One of the obvious downsides to freelancing is that you’re constantly having to make your own opportunities. Some people like being able to take their careers into their own hands but for others it’s a major burden.
For most freelancers, there will be dry seasons and fruitful periods. This can bread a lack of career security which, in turn, can lead down the road towards anxiety. Fear can creep in about failing, not finding the work to pay next month’s rent, which can be a terrifying spiral for some people.
However, this is an easily fixable situation where you can get one-off or long-term engaging jobs and retainer contracts via freelancing sites such as PeoplePerHour. If you can’t get these, you should always start looking for another job while you are still working on one. This gives you a head start and you’ll always have work. Don’t forget to always market your services through your website, social media, asking for referrals and so on.
Despite the rosy exterior and all of the people who will tell you how good you’ve got it, mental health challenges are a huge issue in freelance work and one which goes undiscussed far too much.
To avoid running into these troubles, the most important thing is to monitor yourself and to try and find someone to talk to if things start going south. But freelancing is also amazing because you get to control your own schedule, do what you love and spend more time with the people you love. It’s the best way to work for many people and, if you do it properly, with organization of time and efforts, you can avoid these mental issues completely.