As it’s nearly mental health awareness week, guest blogger Ryan Scollon shares his transition experience from agency to freelancer and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
I’m sure we’ve all dreamed about being our own boss at some point, ditching the commute and working on your laptop from a beach side bar while sipping pina coladas. The rise of platforms like Instagram paint an unrealistic picture of the freelance life, leaving many disappointed when they discover how lonely it is to work remotely.
It was a big shock for me, too. In 2018, I moved from a small agency with a chilled and chatty environment and made the leap to becoming a freelancer. Working alone for 8-9 hours a day in my spare room was a radical change. I soon started to notice my own self-esteem dropping, even though I have always considered myself to be an upbeat and independent person. I have to admit, the one thing that kept me entertained was my new six-month old puppy. But I wouldn’t recommend buying a puppy to solve all your problems. If anything, they create more!
So, how do you get past the loneliness? Here are some top mental health tips for freelancers.
Join the networking circuit
Networking is a great way to meet new people and can help your career thrive. While some people hate the idea of starting a conversation with a stranger, it’s a great skill to improve one of the most effective ways to prevent isolation.
Most of my tips for improving mental wellbeing are all about doing less work. But networking allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Not only are you socialising with the outside world, it can also open the door to new opportunities and further your career.
There are plenty of online communities that you can join to get started, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. They can be a great place where you can share tips and advice, job opportunities and ask questions. It’s a good idea to have a combination of both online and offline networking groups, as face-to-face interaction is super important.
Keep fit for better freelance mental health
Keeping fit is essential for a stable mind. It’s also a great reason to get out the house. Studies show that physical activity can help people with mild depression and can also help to protect people against anxiety. It’s much easier to stay positive and motivated when you feel good about your own body.
Also, make the most of your schedule flexibility and visit the gym in the middle of the day when it is most likely to be quiet. This is more likely to make you want to continue instead of going in the evening when every other 9-5 worker is queuing for a machine.
Every freelancer needs to take a break for their mental health
It might sound like a very obvious tip, but taking sufficient breaks really can help. And, I don’t mean just sitting at your desk with a cup of tea and Kitkat. Get up and go for a walk. The idea of a break is not just to stop physically doing work, but to stop thinking about it too.
It can be very difficult for freelancers to ‘switch off’, as we are constantly thinking about things, whether it’s client work, sales or invoicing, there’s always something to stress about. So having the ability to switch over from time to time can be a great skill.
Set a schedule
While it is great to be your own boss and work whenever you please, I soon started to realise that there is no official time to stop working. This can often lead to working at all sorts of ungodly hours.
To avoid burnout, make a conscious effort to set a limit of work hours for each week. If possible, I’d even suggest some sort of schedule to work by. This way you won’t have to keep track of what hours you have worked. This does not mean that you lose the flexibility of working at any time you like. At the end of the day, you are your own boss.
Implementing a schedule will also help set boundaries with clients. By setting clear boundaries with clients and letting them know of your working hours, they will no longer expect replies to emails or calls outside of those hours. It also allows you to have that well deserved time off without the guilt that you should be working.
Seek support for your mental health
Last but certainly not least, never be afraid to professional support. Mental health is no joke. Try speaking to close friends or family if you can. Sometimes just having someone to speak to can feel like a weight off your shoulders. There’s also plenty of professional support available such as our doctor, charities and therapists.
The moral of my story, though…buy a dog. Not only do they keep you company, they require a lot of walking which is the perfect excuse to take breaks throughout the day and keeps you fit. It’s also a great conversation starter for networking. Like, who doesn’t like dogs?