One common misconception about freelancing is that it is extremely stressful. While this can be true in some cases, reports show that the opposite may be true; 84% of freelancers report lower levels of stress compared to their previous, 9-5 jobs.
However, all professionals experience some degree of stress at one time or another. This is where stress management and prevention becomes crucial; regardless of your career, lifestyle, or demographics, taking care of your mental health is essential to function well within your profession. In this article, we will discuss stress in the context of independent professionals, as well as how to prevent and manage stress as a freelancer.
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Understanding the Factors that Contribute to Stress as a Freelancer
In order to manage your mental well-being effectively, you need to understand the factors that contribute to freelancer stress. Some things that may cause higher levels of stress in a freelancer’s career include:
- Income Fluctuations: Freelance professionals rarely have a consistent income every month, as some will prove more lucrative than others. However, with planning and good financial management, freelancers can mitigate this risk and prevent any stress.
- Increased Responsibility: Freelancers are usually responsible for all aspects of running their business, from client acquisition all the way to managing accounts. This can be overwhelming, especially without the use of workflow automation tools.
- Client Acquisition Challenges: Client acquisition is never a consistent, cut-and-dry process, and some months may come with fewer opportunities than others.
- Managing Multiple Projects: Often, freelancers will work on multiple projects at once. This can be difficult, and any unforeseen problems or revisions can cause high levels of stress.
- Managing Work/Life Balance: Since freelancers rarely have a set schedule, it can be difficult to clock off at the end of the day. International clients may require your assistance outside of traditional hours, and high workloads can make it impossible to separate work from personal life and cause burnout.
- Dealing with Difficult Clients: Some clients can be extremely difficult to work with, and may demand excess time, refuse to pay on time, or be overly critical of your work. This can be tricky to navigate and can cause high levels of stress as a freelancer, especially when there are few clients to begin with.
Mitigating Freelancer Stress through Effective Time Management
A great deal of freelancer stress can be prevented through effective time management. Utilizing time-tracking techniques and creating a set schedule for yourself can mitigate stress from increased responsibilities, working on multiple projects at one time, and achieving a work/life balance.
Set Clear Boundaries Around Your Time
First and foremost, communicate your availability and working hours to your clients. If you choose to work from 9 am until 5 pm every day, make sure that your clients know you will not be available outside of that timeframe. This is essential for achieving a work/life balance and ensuring optimal mental wellness.
Create a Daily Schedule
At the end of every work day, take some time to identify your responsibilities for the following day. You can use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your tasks from most to least urgent and important. Stick to your schedule as best as possible, but allow yourself flexibility for any unforeseen circumstances.
Use Time Management Techniques
If you struggle to stay focused and feel as if you are often wasting time, then you can make use of popular time management frameworks such as the Pomodoro Technique or Time Blocking. This can help you to concentrate on your tasks and take frequent breaks to maintain focus. Additionally, tools like Harvest can help you to track your time and stay accountable.
Building a Support Network and Seeking Balance
In order to manage increased levels of freelancer stress when they do occur, it is important to have a strong support system available if things become overwhelming. It is also crucial to seek balance in your life, so that your career does not take precedence.
Build a Support Network
One research study found that 48% of freelancers found their career path lonely, while 46% agreed that it was “isolating.” This is especially true for digital nomads who are traveling alone or struggle to make friends in foreign countries. Regardless whether you are in your home town or overseas, it is crucial to build a strong network of family and friends to lean on when things get too difficult to manage alone.
Build a Professional Network
In addition to having friends and family to lean on, it can be highly advantageous to have a strong professional network built up of fellow freelancers, industry experts, or seasoned professionals to turn to for career advice and support. Attend industry events, join online communities with fellow freelancers, and make an effort to expand your network whenever possible.
Set Aside Time for Yourself
While creating a schedule, don’t forget to include time for your personal responsibilities, your hobbies, your friends, and time alone. Freelancing can take up a lot of your time and energy, so it is essential to create a space for yourself to relax and enjoy your time.
Learn How to Say No
It is important to recognize your limitations and avoid taking on projects that will overwhelm you. Learn to say no to clients or projects that don’t align with your goals or capacity, and avoid working with clients who take more than they give. Setting boundaries is crucial for managing stress as a freelancer and maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
Embracing Stress Management Strategies and Mindfulness
Professionals from all walks of life should utilize stress management techniques and practice mindfulness in their daily lives. This is arguably the most effective way to prevent high levels of freelancer stress, and can easily be incorporated into your routine.
Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine, such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or journaling. These activities can help you relax, improve focus, and reduce stress levels.
Cultivate a Positive Mindset
Take time each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for, both personally and professionally. Focusing on the positive aspects of your freelance career can help shift your perspective and reduce stress. This positive reinforcement can boost your confidence and motivation, reducing stress and increasing job satisfaction.
Take care of both your physical and mental well-being. Get regular exercise, eat nutritious meals, and get enough sleep. Make time for activities you enjoy outside of work, such as hobbies or spending time with loved ones. Be mindful of your inner dialogue and replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations.
Freelancing can indeed be stressful at times, but with the right strategies and mindset, it’s possible to manage and prevent stress effectively. By understanding the factors that contribute to stress as a freelancer, such as income fluctuations, increased responsibility, client acquisition challenges, managing multiple projects, and work-life balance, you can proactively address these issues.
Remember that managing stress as a freelancer is an ongoing process. It is essential to regularly assess your stress levels, adjust your strategies as needed, and prioritize self-care to maintain a healthy work-life balance and thrive in your freelance career.