Working as a freelancer is amazing, it’s in the name, free, but with that comes a lot of other issues around structure, motivation and mental health. It can be incredibly lonely, having no one to talk to and bounce ideas around with. Recently self-employed I have lots of concerns but think I have come up with some foolproof ways to keep the mental health nasties away.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been self-employed. I came out of University and set up as a blacksmith, yeah someone who makes gates, I know! Wanting to be creative and wanting to prove that I was capable of being a successful self-employed creative.
I loved the freedom, the deciding when to work and what to work on. I felt incredibly lucky to be in this privileged position and got more than a few commissions.
The initial joy of being self-employed wore off and I suddenly became anxious. I felt unsure of my ability, lonely and would procrastinate. I had a studio to create my work and found I would spend as little time there as possible. Being alone in the studio was hard and I struggled to enjoy my time there.
A major factor of my first self-employed venture not taking off was I hated promoting myself. At a time before social media became the perfect place to promote a fledgeling business, it meant spending money on craft fairs, adverts and shouting about yourself to anyone that would listen.
I closed the doors of my blacksmithing business and went off to work full-time for someone else, way less scary than putting yourself out there all the time. Only I missed the freedom and the creative lifestyle.
So I started a business with a friend. Two freelancers working together to run a design and digital agency. our vision is to employ lots of freelancers to give us the feeling of working with others whilst still keeping our freedom and independence.
It will be different. I have this first experience under my belt and can spot the signs as they come along. I can open up to my friends and family, take some time out and remind myself that it is not the business but the lone working that is making me doubt myself.
My past venture I knew nothing about managing my own mental health. This time I will take time for self-care and realise that taking time off is not a sign I don’t want to do it anymore. That if I am going to take some time off it will not be maudlin about my own failings but to invest time in myself and make myself feel better.
I will go out every day, to get fresh air and interact with someone even it’s just at my local coffee shop. Once a week I will take my work out of the house and find a new place to work. I will put boundaries around my time, so as not to work late into the night. And I will treat my freelance job as a full-time working for someone else one. Getting enough sleep and making sure I am in the right frame of mind for working every day.
I am nervous about the past feelings coming back and making me anxious and or lonely, but I am totally aware this can happen and will be looking for the signs. I am also super excited about this next part of my life, to getting that freedom back and being my own boss.
My top tips for solo working
- Set a structure and stick to it.
- Get to bed at a good time every day and get up at the same time.
- Go outside at least once a day, fresh air is the best.
- Talk to other people, even if it’s just the person in the local shop.
- Take time for self-care, it isn’t just about taking a bath.
- Work in another space at least once a week, there are loads of cheap co-working spaces out there.
- Have a desk, area you sit regularly so you can get away from the chores and other distractions.
- Join other freelancers on Facebook or at networking events so you have a tribe.
- Listen to podcasts and radio stations. The talking really helps with loneliness feelings.