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Mental health of freelancers: advice and resources

Published on :
17 Jun 2024
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Becoming a freelancer is challenging. Being excellent at what you do is a prerequisite, but it is not enough. Simply being good at your job is not enough; you also have to manage every other aspect of the business, most of the time on your own. Drumming up leads, promoting your business, administrative tasks, invoicing... All these tasks fall to you and are just as important as delivering your product/service to your customers. But as a freelancer, you are often the only one in charge. During slow periods, difficult times, or in the event of a dispute, loneliness can weigh heavily on you and erode your mental health.

In this article, we give you all our tips and resources to preserve your mental health as a freelancer.

Why freelancers should look after their mental health

Good mental health is an issue for any worker, whether salaried or independent. And yes, the life of a freelancer may seem idyllic with it much sought-after flexibility and freedom, but it comes with its fair share of stress and uncertainty.

Freelancers need to pay special attention to their mental health for the following reasons:

  1. Isolation and solitude: Working as a freelancer often means working alone, which can lead to feelings of isolation. The absence of regular interactions with colleagues can have a negative effect on a person’s emotional and psychological state.

  2. Financial pressure and uncertainty: Freelancers often juggle with unpredictable income streams, which can transform financial management into a constant source of stress. Without the security of a regular salary, every day of work without pay can feed your anxiety.

  3. Work-life balance: Freelancers can find it hard to establish a clear separation between their work and their personal life, especially when they work from home. The risk of taking on too much is real, which can lead to burnout.

  4. Managing every aspect of the company: As a freelancer, you are a CEO, accountant and CRM rolled into one. Wearing all these hats, if poorly managed, can lead to a considerable mental load.

  5. A less accessible support network: In contrast to office colleagues, freelancers don’t generally have access to company resources such as psychological support programmes, and they often have to face their problems alone.

The challenges of freelancing on mental health

As we have seen, taking care of your mental health as a freelancer is not an optional extra. Among the challenges that are specific to freelancers, we note the emotional rollercoaster, stress related to the different roles you take on and solitude. Let’s take stock of these 3 aspects that are an inseparable part of the freelance package.

  1. The good old emotional rollercoaster

Name one freelancer who has never mentioned the emotional rollercoaster. There are none.

Because that is the life of a freelancer.

It is a series of cycles of euphoria and doubt: a direct reflection of the professional instability related to this status.

Success can lead to euphoria, but quiet periods when projects are few and far between can throw many independent workers into anxiety and questioning.

These intense emotional variations not only affect your morale; they have a direct impact on productivity and motivation.

Learning to manage these emotions is essential if you want to maintain mental stability and avoid exhaustion.

Stress related to managing several aspects of the company

Simultaneously managing marketing, invoicing, negotiations with customers and project delivery can be highly stressful.

This necessary versatility is a source of constant stress, because it requires you to constantly juggle between various skills and responsibilities.

In fact, 41% of independent workers say they have temporarily been prevented from working due to stress, anxiety, or mental health issues (source).

The absence of clear boundaries between the different roles can also complicate the hierarchy of tasks and time management, thereby increasing the risk of overwork and mental fatigue.

Social isolation and lack of professional support

Working as a freelancer can often mean working alone, without the everyday support of colleagues or a stimulating work environment.

This isolation can make it difficult to manage professional challenges and accentuate feelings of solitude.

Also, the absence of regular feedback and professional support can reduce the opportunities for personal growth and learning. This can lead to professional stagnation and feelings of uncertainty when it comes to making decisions.

Recognising the signs of distress

Vigilance is essential if you want to prevent mental health problems, especially when you are a freelancer. Here are the tell-tale warning signs that you should not ignore:

Mood swings: Increased irritability or sadness that does not seem to go away can be the first sign that something is wrong. Frequent or unusual mood swings, especially if they affect your personal or professional relationships, deserve special attention.

Lack of interest: If you notice that the projects that you were formerly passionate about no longer give you the same sense of satisfaction, or if you lose interest in your hobbies, this could be an early sign of depression.

Problems with focus: Persistent difficulties focusing can compromise your ability to meet deadlines and maintain the quality of your work. This phenomenon is often related to stress or anxiety.

Changes in sleeping or eating habits: Sleeping too much or not enough, or sudden changes in your dietary habits are often physical responses to stress or anxiety.

Social isolation: If you find yourself avoiding interactions with your friends, this can be a sign that you are spending too much time on your own. This can aggravate feelings of solitude and isolation.

Reduced motivation: A significant drop in enthusiasm for your daily tasks or increased procrastination may indicate some form of burnout.

Feelings of despair: Regularly expressing feelings of uselessness or excessive pessimism may be a sign of underlying depression.

The magazine Freelance Life points out that freelancers, in particular new ones, may experience a great deal of anxiety due to financial insecurity and the pressure of having to motivate themselves to perform every aspect of their work. Rapidly identify warning signs for damage limitation

Now let’s look on what you can put in place to look after your mental health as a freelancers.

Strategies to preserve your mental health

Here are some efficient strategies to maintain a healthy balance:

  1. Set up healthy routines and limits:

  • Define clear working hours: Start and end your days at set times to help you to separate work time from personal time. Why not identify your chronotype to adapt your day to your body clock?

  • Create a dedicated workspace: Having a specific place in which you work can help you to maintain focus and reduce household distractions.

  1. Practice time and stress management:

  • Use planning tools: Task management and calendar applications (Trello, Asana, Notion) can add structure to your day and reduce anxiety related to deadlines.

  • Relaxation techniques: Practising meditation or deep breathing can help you to manage daily stress. Applications like Petit Bambou offer free exercises in cardiac coherence.

  1. Find your work-life balance:

  • Plan breaks and leisure activities: Ensure that you take regular breaks and remember to engage in activities you enjoy.

  • Disconnect after work: Avoid responding to emails and calls outside your working hours to give your batteries time to recharge.

  1. The importance of social connections and networking:

  • Take part in professional groups: Join online communities or freelancer groups that can provide precious advice and support. Why not find a freelancing buddy and share your doubts, victories and questions with them?

  • Maintain social contact: Regularly organise meet-ups with friends or family to combat feelings of isolation and strengthen your personal support network.

  1. Encourage physical activity and relaxation:

  • Integrate physical exercise to your routine: Activities such as walking, yoga or running can improve your mental and physical health.

  • Practice relaxing hobbies: Activities such as reading or drawing, or manual activities can be creative and relaxing outlets.

These proven strategies, enhanced through concrete practice, are powerful tools for any freelancer who cares about their mental health.

By integrating them to your daily life, you can not only improve your mental well-being, but also boost your productivity and your professional satisfaction. This will allow you to thrive as a freelancer and maintain good mental health.

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