The Freelance Jungle is all about freelancing self-care – so it stands to reason that freelancing self-care in lockdown is a focus of August 2020.
Melbourne, I think it goes without saying that the Australian freelance community really feels for you right now. We hope you know that the community within the Freelance Jungle wants to help. Yet we also know that while you’re living it, it might not be easy to ask for what you need. Heck, you may not even understand what some comfort may look like.
Looking at the same four walls or the same garden or view doesn’t have to be a reminder of what you can’t do. Sometimes, it can even be a creative challenge in showing what you can achieve under constraint.
It’s not perfect. And it will take finding the strength to try some things, fail a bit, and try some more.
But here is a potential starting point for undertaking a journey of freelancing self-care in lockdown
Flip the narrative
If you spend the time dwelling on the activities you’d like to do but no longer can (at least not for the moment, anyway), it will continually remind you of loss. There has to be a certain amount of acceptance occurring.
This doesn’t make the feelings magically go away. But the acceptance helps leave them to the side and not have them by the main focus of your days and nights.
Accepting a situation means you don’t have to put the energy behind resisting what is happening. That in turn means you are not burning valuable emotional energy against an immovable object. Once you lower the temperature emotionally, you can begin to see other opportunities.
You may not be able to change that you are in lockdown. But you can change your attitude towards it. And you can start to do that if you use your bountiful skills as freelancers to help you to address the internal dialogue.
We’re storytellers by nature. We pitch our own personal story when our clients consider us for work. We write it into the websites and the proposals we develop. We say it loudly and proudly with every passing interaction.
Using these skills, we can pitch to ourselves to change the mental story we’re holding onto.
Think about those times where you have had to weave your imagination in order to get the job. There’s no reason why you cannot flip the narrative the same way for yourself as part of your freelancing self-care in lockdown.
Using your sensitivities to their best advantage
Freelancing self-care in lockdown doesn’t start with busting out the usual tools. It starts with a deeper understanding of how we feel. Because it’s these feelings and moods that power our ability to complete the work, find resilience when it’s tough going, and tap into creativity.
The feelings you have are complex. As a creative person, you’re uniquely adept at taking complex feelings and translating them into something useful. This is what art, design, music, writing, painting, crafting, journalism, podcasting etc are incredibly good at working with.
Also don’t forget that as a freelancer, you’re uniquely prepared to problem-solve. We construct websites, UX, build theatre sets, create new products, and fix things others have left incomplete or that have become broken. As freelancers, we’re forever digging into problems to find a new way forward. This is invaluable right now.
Mindset is also another area where we excel. Every time we’ve done some client wrangling, taught a workshop, coached, presented a concept or idea, pitched a project or story, done a deal and so on, we’ve had to pull down on the inner workings of our mindset. We’ve used it to persuade people, help them, advocate and more. We’ve uncovered confidence when our knees have knocked beneath the desk.
There’s nothing to say we cannot do this now for ourselves and our family. Or the clients, friends and associates who are also in pain.
Think about moods generally with the work you do.
We all connect with some projects more than others. The causes we support, the opportunities to work on ideas that matter to us, the ability to connect with the challenge of the work available- it’s all a way of powering ourselves forward. We don’t have to be in love with the moment to find the way to inspire ourselves to keep going.
Instead, we identify other pay-offs. We find the personal challenge within. Or we focus on the rewards. If we have a six week project that has turned into a bit of a stinker, we find a way forward.
This is an exchange in a more literal sense of four or six or eight weeks of pain now for greater freedom later on. Tough to swallow at the start, but manageable. Because we know we’ve walked a shitty road before.
Translating the sensitivities we have about the times into the work we do makes it powerful. No-one expects you to be beyond brave right now. But maybe, by showing how to walk in the darkness, people can feel comfort in the work you create for them. And we can take care of ourselves by tapping into that emotional literacy that makes our projects better to help make life better now.
Leveraging COVID-19 as a constraint
Constraints are what we work with the best. Each time we work on a project, we have timelines, budget issues, the egos of clients, the hands of stakeholders, the technology available to us on the client side, the technology available to us with budget, varying degrees of knowledge on the part of our clients on how things work, whether or not the baby will stay asleep- so many things.
The lockdown, COVID-19 and the associated situation are another set of constraints. Ones we can use to fuel out creativity instead of diminishing it.
Think about what is changing in your process while you freelance under COVID-19 conditions. And include how it has altered your freelancing self-care in lockdown.
What has it changed? What has it taken from you? What has it made tougher?
What has the experience taught you? How has it refined your process? What have you gained as a result? How can you use this to prime the creative pump?
If you want to teach yourself to be less wasteful of food, having a list in the kitchen of what you’ve had to throw out from pantry and fridge each week or fortnight helps you take notice. Once you start to see the wastage, you become more adept at making the meals that prevent it.
Treat this as a constraint on your creativity and your self-care. And then reinvent yourself around it. Use it to fuel that problem solving, narrative rewriting, and your comfort with the darker subjects of life. Bring those constraints to the fore and use them to reinvent your freelancing self-care in lockdown or how you conduct freelancing generally.
Do more with less. And admire the intellectual and creative muscle you can flex as a result.
Listen to those who know the score
I know that no one else has ever had to worry about the whole being self-employed in an Australian pandemic situation. Nor are there beset selling titles on freelancing self-care in lockdown. 2020 is a unique beast of a year. And not a good beast. One that has some hellish halitosis and filthy manners.
However, there are a group of people that are adept at adopting a home-based or restrictive lifestyle. Ones that have often chosen freelancing because the traditional workplace setting has left them out, let them down, or otherwise made things tough.
These are your freelancers with disabilities, chronic health issues and mental health conditions.
We’re a community that is rich in knowledge in the challenges related to being excluded from systems, having to make do, and balancing a heck of a lot of time at home. We’re almost like a seed-bank of alternative ways to get through times where you lose control over when you can reliability come and go as you please. We understand the agony of wanting to do things, wanting to see people, to socialise and get involved while forces beyond your control stop you from doing so. And we’re super adept at making the same place and day-to-day experience feel different.
As freelancers with disabilities, we’re often prolific content creators. We disrupt the world with our blogs, podcasts, art projects and more.
And there’s a lot you can learn about constraints, making the best of situations beyond your control, having self-compassion, prioritising self-care and balancing work when things aren’t so easy.
Go out of your way to seek out our content. It’ll help you uncover a few ideas as well as spread the message of inclusion in the process.
You can start with this blog I wrote about health falling apart. Check in on this Guardian article on resilience lessons from the disability community by Tricia Malowney. You can also tap into the works of Carly Findlay, the experiences of Sarah K Reece, and look for the people who may know a few tricks on how to navigate an often spiky world.
No, you don’t have to understand the concepts through direct experience to understand. It’s the almost MacGyver-like ability we have in unpacking thorny moments I want you to delve into. Because once you start seeing the linkages and the ways forward, it makes it a little easier to punt back the curve balls. And also be honest about the impacts while defining what you will and won’t stand for.
This is a crucible designed to fortify your ability to question what matters. Use it wisely and to it’s best advantage.
The final word on lockdown and freelance self-care
Even if none of what I have mentioned above makes any sense or reaches any part of you, please make your self-care a priority. Look for the ways to remind yourselves of the strengths you possess. Take time out to remind yourself each day not only of what you need to do the next, but also what three things you’ve done well today. Take the time to find small moments to be grateful. And give credit where credit is due for making the best of a testing time.
Create little rituals and processes that give you the bursts of energy you need. And stay away from the stinky people who remind you only of the problems and none of the comfort.
And if you need a shot in the arm when it comes to freelancing self-care in lockdown (or any time, really), join us for the virtual stress down events. They are held at 3pm AEST on the first Friday of every even numbered month in 2020.