Have more massages, drink green smoothies, take more breaks, and schedule a holiday! These are the types of things that may come to mind when you think about freelance self care.
And while you know that self-care is important, if you’re like many freelancers, it can quickly slip down the list of priorities when you get busy. But over the past 8 years of running a freelance copywriting business, I know one thing for sure. Putting self-care as a top priority has been a key factor in my business becoming more profitable and sustainable.
A few years ago, in terms of self-care I was doing ‘all the right things’. I exercised and meditated daily, drank green smoothies, scheduled regular massages and attended yoga classes. And while my business was going well, and I was fit and healthy, there was something not quite right.
No matter how much time I spent on self-care, I felt like I wasn’t getting the ‘pay-off’ from it. And that’s when it struck me. I’d bought into what I thought self-care had to be without assessing if it suited my lifestyle and business.
I noticed that self-care had become an industry backed by big marketing companies, relentless online posts and celebrity endorsements. And I’d been seduced by their messages that included, “the best way to self-care is to buy this supplement, eat this food, drink this smoothie, buy this active wear, attend these classes, have these massages, go to this retreat, buy this App …”
Looking after yourself as a freelancer is important, but with so many self-care messages, it can be confusing. Here are a few self-care options to consider:
- Exercising daily
- Hanging out with your dog at the park
- Getting good quality sleep every night
- Eating nutritious and healthy food
- Drinking more water
- Reading on the couch
- Watching your favorite Netflix series
- Cutting back alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Getting a health check with your GP
- Talking to a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist
- Cutting back on the amount of weekend work
- Setting boundaries with clients and colleagues
But self-care isn’t just all about drinking green smoothies and having massages. Through trial and error, researching and reading, I discovered that the self-care that has really ‘worked’ for me goes beyond this.
Here are a couple of forgotten self-care tips that have worked for me. I hope they may help you too.
Freelance self-care tip: To be productive you need to give yourself creative space
It doesn’t matter what type of freelance work you do, it’s important to give yourself some creative space. The trend of being ‘busy and productive’ can make this seem like a luxury though!
When you’re sitting at your desk, cranking out the work, pitching and hustling the last thing on your mind is to ease off and rest for a moment. A few weeks ago I came across an interesting take on this from Rahaf Harfoush. In a 20-minute presentation at Wired for Wonder she explains why it’s important to have creative time. The creative process is ‘messy and disjointed’ and requires chunks of time to be devoted to it. So how can this be translated to the freelance world?
Here are some things that have helped me:
- Set business and personal goals that means something to you, not because someone else is doing it
- When you’re doing ‘deep’ or ‘creative’ work, turn off your phone, email and social media. This will give you space to think about and create the work you’re being paid to produce.
- Give yourself a break: Acknowledge what you’ve accomplished during the day, the week or the month. If you feel like reading a novel for 30 minutes at lunchtime, do it!
Freelance self-care tip: Pay yourself now and save for your future
You may be wondering how ‘financial stuff’ is related to self-care? With more than 18 years of working for myself (8 as a freelance copywriter,) I’ve noticed some patterns.
When we start working for ourselves, many of us are running our businesses on the ‘smell of an oily rag’. With the focus on getting clients and customers, doing the work and paying bills, it may be really hard in the first few weeks or months to even consider paying ourselves.
But here’s the thing … if you don’t pay yourself, you’re not running a profitable business. If you’re just starting out, set up a direct transfer from your business account into your personal account – every single week. It doesn’t have to be much, just a regular amount, every week!
And then it’s time to think about your future. As freelancers we sometimes ‘forget’ that we need to set aside money for superannuation and our retirement years. Again, setting aside a small amount every week into a superannuation account is better than nothing.
It’s also important to set aside some money for times when you won’t be working. If you have children you may need to either limit the work you do over the school holidays or take a break from your freelance business entirely.
Financial self-care is often overlooked as a freelancer – but it’s very important! Getting advice from professionals including accountants, tax advisers and superannuation specialists is a good first step.
The more we talk about and prioritise self-care as freelancers, the better. If you need help, have questions or feel stuck, you’re not alone. Reach out and connect with the Freelance Jungle Facebook Group; book an appointment with your GP for a thorough health check; ask for a referral to a counselor, Psychologist or Psychiatrist – because talking with someone you don’t know can be life changing.
Remember; at the end of the day if you’re not looking after yourself, it will be hard to create a sustainable and profitable freelance business that you enjoy working in.
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 past 5 years Kylie has been a full-time volunteer puppy carer for Seeing Eye Dogs Australia.