Freelancing is enticing. I remember when I was in college and started my hand at it, I immediately fell in love with the ability to work my own hours, decide where I wanted to work (whether that be my bed or a cafe), and determine my own flexibility.
I mean cute cafes, unlimited access to your kitchen, and the ability to move wherever, what more could you ask for?
According to a recent survey completed by Epson in the United Kingdom, there are things you need to be aware of before entering the remote world.
In the survey, Epson found that close to half of all remote freelancers find that they tend to be “lonely,” and “isolating.” While 47 percent of those surveyed said that they avoided working in an office because of the stress it brings, 48 percent called their remote lifestyle lonely.
If you are looking to switch out the stress of an office for the flexibility of a remote job, that’s awesome — but you should enter into it aware of the toll it can have on your mental health.
Coming from someone who has dabbled in the corporate, part-time, and full-on remote worlds, and someone that already has a mental health battle, I can tell you first hand that being intentional about your mental health as a freelancer is so important.
Pretty much anyone who knows me, knows how much I love being able to work on my own schedule and work from my own home, but they also know how intentional I am with my habits.
After talking with a few successful freelancers, and racking my own brain, I compiled a list of tips that will help you break into the freelance world without breaking your mental health.
If I could urge you to do one thing it would be to spend more time outside. I wish I could say that I’ve been doing this for years, but in reality, I just implemented it a short 6 months ago.
That said, this has changed my life. This is easier if you live in a warmer climate, but it’s adjustable for cold weather as well. During the spring and summer, I start my day the same exact way: I drink water with lemon while I make a pour-over cup of coffee, then take it outside, spending at least 15 minutes in the fresh air.
Some days I do a guided meditation (s/o Headspace), other days I write in my journal, and sometimes I read. It doesn’t really matter how you spend your time outside, as long as you get some quality time with yourself and nature before you dive into a day of often secluded work.
Not only do I get outside first thing in the morning, but I also make a point to go for a short walk in the middle of the day as well. This is easy for me because I usually am on the phone throughout the afternoon, which allows me to walk and talk.
I can’t emphasize this habit enough. It’s so easy to get used to sitting in front of your laptop or desktop all day, that you forget how important it is for you to move. Personally, I find that the best time of day for me to get in some exercise is around lunchtime. I love HIIT workouts, and cardio, so it allows me to also answer some emails, or engage on social media while I am doing cardio.
I don’t have a specific time or a specific act of exercise that you should complete each day, but I do advise that you just get up and get moving. Whether this is a 6 am spin class, or a late-night workout, or a mid-afternoon walk, just make sure to stay active each day.
As easy as it is to become lazy at home, it’s also super easy to get wrapped up with work and fail to properly take care of yourself. Over the years I have found myself forgetting to exercise, failing to eat, and forgetting that there is an entire world outside my work.
So many of the freelancers that I know tend to be very goal-driven, success-oriented people, which makes it easy to forget that there is more to life than work and numbers. If you fall under this category you may need to organize your day so that you do not fail to do things that most people do easily like move!
Set Consistent Working Hours
This one might sound silly, and incredibly easy, but if you are a veteran freelancer then you know that this is easier said than done. When I first started out with freelancing, I found that I would become so wrapped up with work, that I would work the craziest hours. I said yes to every project that came my way, and in turn, spent many many late nights and early mornings getting underpaid and under-energized.
One mistake that freelancers often make when starting out is not planning out their work schedule in a way that is manageable. Like I mentioned above, when I first began freelancing I took every project that came my way. This is fine if you are good at managing your schedule, but if not, you will find yourself utterly unprepared.
Now that I have a few years under my belt, I know that I need to set a schedule each and every day, outlining what I have to do, and when I need to finish it by.
Not only should you keep track of projects, attainable deadlines, and workload, but you should also set working hours for yourself at the beginning of every week. For me, I work from 8am-12pm, 2-5pm, and then 6:30-7:30 during the week. This changes more often than not because of other commitments, travels, and various events and activities, but it keeps me on schedule for the most part.
Prioritizing Yor Social Life
One of the best ways to work past loneliness as a freelancer is by intentionally engaging with both those within your work cycle, but also friends outside of it.
For me, I am incredibly good at ignoring my friends and family. It possibly could be one of the top things that I am naturally good at, unfortunately. I get wrapped up in work, and my purpose, and find that I haven’t talked to people in days.
I’ve learned that I have to prioritize these things because at the end of the day, they mean a lot to me, but also help my mental health.
“Regularly interacting with other people is utterly important for those working solo,” said Cynthia Telles, Director, UCLA Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence. “However, despite the common line of advice, freelancers should stop seeking the company of other freelancers. When the people you see the most experience the same woes and deal with the same anxieties, you can find yourself trapped into a feedback loop of pressure and stress, aggravated by the experience of your peers.”
Boundaries are EVERYTHING for freelancers and remote workers.
This is probably the single most underrated tip for freelancers, as well as one of the most beneficial. Some of the boundaries I have to set include my working hours, the times that I interact with clients, and only doing the promised work.
It’s easy to get caught up in a project, especially if you are passionate about it, but if you are not careful you will find yourself responding to a clients email at midnight, fixing minute details dozens of times, and doing things that were not in the contract because of a demanding and pushy client.
If you are a freelancer then you know exactly what I am talking about, but if you are just toying with the idea of freelancing, then keep this in mind for the future. Although it may feel nice to play superhero for a client, it will take up too much of your time, and have you doing things way outside your contract.
In Conclusion —
Not only is freelancing a battleground for mental health issues, but it’s incredibly common for workers to fall prey to anxiety and depression. In fact, Mind found that at least one in six workers experience common mental health problems, making this a severe problem in the world of freelance.
I’m all for remote work. I think its awesome and will only keep increasing as more companies adapt their policies to the changing technology — but I warn every single friend to seriously invest in themselves before they up and quit their office job.
Hopefully, you find these tips helpful, and they help you prepare yourself for entering the world of remote work.
As always, feel free to shoot me any questions you have via email, DM’s, or however works for you. I’m always here to chat!
P.S. If you enjoyed this post, then check out one of my other posts that can help you out when it comes to freelancing: “8 Easy Habits That Will Revolutionize Your Life.”