Looking After Your Mental Health As A Freelancer
In recent years, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the role mental health plays at work. Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their employees at work and to provide a safe working environment. During the pandemic, and now, this includes when the employee is working from home.
However, if you work freelance, like 2.2 million Brits do, the same cannot be said for mental health support. In the last year, the number of self-employed people saying they have ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ mental health has increased from 6% to 26% since the beginning of the pandemic (a 300% rise), according to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).
The number saying they had ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ mental health has also sadly dropped significantly since the beginning of the pandemic – from two-thirds (68%) to just over a third (39%). This was most severe among women (a drop of 54%) and young freelancers aged 16-34 (a drop of 49%).
There can be a lot of challenges involved in working for yourself. Whether you’re on your own or freelancing in a larger organisation, it can be easy to forget to add your well-being to the list of things you need to attend to. And if you’re hiring freelancers to work with you, they might well not have access to the same support structures that your employees do.
According to a freelancer survey, the significant anxiety and stress issues that cause mental health issues in freelancers are:
- 86% citing irregular income
- 80% state that clients never give the correct brief or clarity on a project.
- 77% cite they lack the talent to complete a job
- 71% say that clients’ ghost’ them (client stops communicating or delays projects).
- 69% state long hours
- 66% complain that they feel alone and have nobody to share their stresses with.
Hand-in-hand with the statistics mentioned above, it is burnout amongst freelancers that is the most common mental health issue.
The primary reason for this is the pressure to not refuse jobs and not knowing when to stop working, for fear that the next job offer may feel a little uncertain as to when it might appear. When you begin freelancing, there’s an inclination to take on any work. Mainly because the burden of generating income rests solely on a freelancers shoulders.
Many freelancers often convey sentiments of guilt when they don’t work; even when they are on holiday, spending time with their family at home or going out socialising.
Managing Your Mental Health Whilst Freelancing
Achieving a suitable work-life balance and keeping burnout at bay is the first step to combatting mental health problems. As freelancers, it is the “I can do anything” mentality that drives many to want to keep pushing. No matter what the cost. However, this does come with a high likelihood of burnout or getting easily anxious and depressed.
We’ve put together some steps you could use to try and alleviate stress and improve your mental health:
First of all, assess your money. Looking at your expenditures, cutting back on unnecessary spending, and finding ways to diversify your income are all sensible approaches. Mental health and financial health are completely intertwined, so making sure you understand what your finances look like can help – and not just for today or this week, but consider them over the next three, six and twelve months and you might see that you can afford to give yourself some time off. This will help you to know what situation you’re really in. It might not be as awful as you first thought and you may be able to start making positive changes – like creating a savings goal or building up an emergency fund.
However, if you’re struggling, if you have an accountant speak to them for advice, and see what support you’re able to access from the government. Whilst your local GP might not be able to help your finances, if you are finding things really difficult, always reach out to them to see what support they can offer.
Boundaries are incredibly hard to have in place when you work from home – even if you’re used to it. Putting in some useful habits to help you draw the line between work and rest can help to keep your mental health more positive. Here are some examples:
- Start by giving yourself a “working day” where you allocate times to work, say 9am – 5pm and make sure you shut your laptop down at the end of your ‘working day’ to give your brain some rest.
- Be kind to yourself. If you’re struggling with productivity – don’t beat yourself up, you can’t be expected to work 100% effectively, especially if you’re dealing with a difficult project, struggling with deadlines or feeling isolated.
- Take time away from your screen every half an hour, and walk to the kitchen or bathroom, or just look away from your screen for a little while.
- Get out of the house – go for a walk around the block before you start work, and once you finish – it may encourage that ‘commute to work’ feel and help you wind down at the end of the day
- If you don’t have an office, and you have allocated a space in your house, make sure you pack it away (as much as you can) so you can give yourself permission to switch off.
Freelancing can be isolating at times, so making sure you have a support system that you can call on is vital. An online community, family, friends, or even working within a shared office space to get a better sense of community could all be a solution. Finding a way to connect however that may be is vital. Here at TCC, we like to see ourselves as your team so if you want, you can consider us as your work colleagues, and if you need support or advice please never hesitate to call us, or pop in for a cuppa!
Communication must be really clear to build stronger working relationships with clients, with suppliers, and with collaborators. 50% of the stressors that freelancers face come from relationships with others so trying to improve those is important. If you’re actively working at the moment, try and introduce a few ‘human’ conversations with your colleagues – the sort of things you’d chat about if you were in an office together that isn’t just about work, but one that brings closeness. If you’re not actively working, reach back out to your network, not to pitch yourself, but to see how people are doing – opportunities often come from being visible and front-of-mind.
We rarely get the chance to step back a little and look at where our careers are going, and right now is as good a time as any. Feeling ’stagnation’ in your work is always de-motivating, so it’s a critical consideration for working well. Using the additional time we have on weekends and evenings at home to invest in professional training, learning new skills and developing new capabilities is a great way to not only pass the time but help ensure you’re more valuable to people hiring. Even if you’re not able to pay for courses, there are plenty of free resources.
Also, don’t forget to take a step back and congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come, what successful projects you have been part of, and the fact you’ve been able to navigate through as a freelancer! Well done!
To wrap up:
Anxiety, stress, depression and burnout are normal for freelancers.
By becoming aware of how you are feeling, you can work towards a happier, healthier and more successful freelance lifestyle.
Always remember the reason why you wanted to become a freelancer in the first place – the opportunity to have your own business, flexible schedule, better-earning potential and more time to do what you love. If you do want to just talk to someone about the ups and downs of freelance work, or discuss your career goals, then please do reach out to our Talent Manager, Aimée Johnston | – email@example.com and she can schedule in a call or coffee with you to talk about where you want to go, and offer advice on freelance life!
If you find yourself struggling with mental health, the UK Film and TV Charity Trust have launched a new range of resources for freelancers in the industry. Check out the mental well-being hub by following this link: Mental Well Being Hub