You’ve peeled yourself away from the computer screen for a night out with friends. Settling in with a glass of wine, you listen to them talking about their long weekend plans. One friend is going out of town with her partner while your best friend has rented a beach house for a few nights. They’re really excited about a few days away from their corporate and office jobs.
When they ask what you’re going to do, you shrug your shoulders. Your big workload over the last few weeks has meant this long weekend has snuck up on you. Your best friend turns to you and says, “Come on…you’ve got to do something! This is the last long weekend for a few months. There’s heaps of room in the house I’ve rented, you’re very welcome to join us.”
At the bar getting the next round of drinks, you decide that your best friend has a point. You can’t remember the last time you gave yourself more than one day off work. Decision made – you’re going to give yourself a break!
A few days later, you’re at the beach watching the rolling waves of the ocean. Breathing in deeply, you realise that you’ve been on a treadmill of pitching, hustling and working. But at what cost to your physical and mental health and wellbeing?
I know what it’s like. For the last 8 years as a freelance SEO copywriter there have been ‘robot treadmill’ times where:
- Days, nights and weekends are devoted to meeting deadlines
- Healthy eating, regular exercising and good sleep regimes are ignored – resulting in physical and mental imbalances
- I’ve woken up in the in the middle of night feeling ill with anxiety and stress about how I’m going to get it all done
- The work is exciting and challenging – but because of stress and overwork, the creativity has ‘left the building’.
When my workload gets intense and relentless, I lose sight of the reasons why I became a freelancer. My reasons include being able to work at home alone, the freedom to walk the dog when I want to and being able to choose who I work with. It’s a pretty safe bet to say that like me, your #1 reason for being a freelancer was not to ‘work every weekend and every long weekend’.
We all become freelancers for a heap of different reasons. Some common reasons include:
- Freedom and flexibility to choose the type of work, clients, number of hours worked and location of work
- Looking after mental and physical health
- Tired of corporate life / been retrenched / taken a package
When we start as freelancers, there’s a lot to do including:
- Establishing an online presence – website, social media pages and blog
- Pitching and hustling to win work – and then getting it done!
- Networking – online and in real life
- Chasing up leads, writing proposals, negotiating terms of payment and getting paid.
But we also have to take on the roles of Finance Manager, Bookkeeper, Debt Collector, Marketing Manager, Customer Services Manager, Complaints Manager and Administration Manager. Is it any wonder there are some days we feel like they’re being pulled in multiple directions?
When I find myself feeling overwhelmed, stressed and worried all the time, here’s what helps me. I step out of my office, go for a walk and take time to notice the unhealthy behavioral patterns I’ve fallen into.
My checklist includes:
- Am I enforcing boundaries (with clients, colleagues, family and friends)? Are the boundaries still relevant or do I need to tweak them?
- Am I exercising regularly, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep? If not, what simple self-care can I implement now?
- How many hours a day and a week do I want to work? How many hours am I working?
Steps to take next…
1 Get help and reach out – you’re never alone!
When I get to a burned out, frustrated state, I’ve learned to ask for and be open to receiving advice and help. Trying to ‘figure it all out’ by myself is a waste of precious energy and time.
Talking to a business coach, mentor, friend, counsellor or a phone service such as Lifeline will gently guide you back on track.
2 Step away and rest
Unless you’re a neurologist or surgeon who saves lives your work can wait – always. Take some time to develop a self-care action plan.
My action plan includes simple things that ground me, make me feel happy and soothe my soul. From walking on the beach and cuddling the dog, to lounging on the couch mid week for 2 hours watching a Netflix movie.
Running a freelance business is one of the best work and career choices I’ve ever made. My freelance motto? Be kind to yourself, stop, breathe and enjoy life.
Because as Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!”
ABOUT GUEST AUTHOR KYLIE SAUNDER
Kylie lives in Melbourne, Australia and has been a freelance SEO copywriter for 8 years. When she’s not writing website content, blogs and articles, Kylie reads and binges on Netflix series. For the last 4 years Kylie has been a full time volunteer puppy carer for Seeing Eye Dogs Australia.