Any freelancer will tell you that working for yourself can get stressful. Between finding work, running a business, balancing family and personal stuff, global pandemics, and recessions, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed and fighting exhaustion.
June is National Employee Wellness Month, which means it’s a great time to check in on your mental health and see where you can improve things. As a long-time freelance writer with my own mental health challenges, I’ve learned to create systems and find tools that make my life easier and keep the stress levels down.
Here are some ways to support your mental health at work this year.
1. Create a schedule that works for you
Freelancers often work odd hours, nights, weekends, and holidays; whatever it takes to get things done. That’s just how the hustle works, right?
Living on your own schedule is one thing, but finding a routine that plays to your strengths is actually better for mental health and business. A good schedule keeps you healthy and focused, so you can get more done in less time.
Start by figuring out your chronotype, or circadian rhythm, which tells you when you’ll have more energy throughout the day. According to science, our brains max out at about 5.5 productive hours a day, so you want to find out when those are and spend them wisely.
With your ideal schedule in mind, try tracking your time with tools like Toggl or RescueTime. They’ll show where your time is going and help you recognize patterns, like best start and end times. I also like committing to several co-working sessions with my fave virtual coworking space each week to nudge me into a better routine.
2. Get your finances in order
Dealing with money can be a major headache for freelancers. If you’re not trying to remember how much you’ve spent on software or website updates, there are taxes, cash flow, and of course, bills to pay.
Take the guesswork out of financial management by adding tools that help you simplify one of the most stressful parts of any business. Digital banking service like Lili offer quick setup and intuitive features so freelancers can handle expenses, taxes, and income all in one place.
You can also prepare for upcoming expenses ahead of time by setting a portion of your income aside for emergencies, taxes, and other necessities. Lili makes this easy with automatic savings sub accounts called “buckets”.
3. Make it easy to find and work with the right people
Better clients plus better systems equal less stress. One of the hardest things I’ve done as a freelancer is learn to take ownership of my client choices. It took a while, but I started by writing down what my ideal client looked like and how I could make working with them as easy as possible.
Think about the qualities you work with best, like good communication skills, easy to work with, and paying on time. Personally, I work best with clients who are organized, innovative, committed to quality, and yes, who don’t leave my invoices hanging.
Once you’ve set those boundaries and know who you’re looking for, try adding tools that make working with clients a bit easier. Some of my favorites include:
- LinkedIn and Hunter.io for client research and tracking down contact emails
- And.co for customizable contracts and Bill.com for quick invoices and payments
- Asana to manage projects and stay on top of deadlines
4. Touch base with a mental health professional
My journey into freelancing actually started with creating an environment I could function in as a disabled writer. As someone who lives with situational depression, anxiety, and PTSD on a daily basis, it took me way too long to realize that I couldn’t be a successful freelancer without help.
But consulting a therapist, counselor, or social worker shouldn’t just be something you do in a crisis. After all, we turn to coaches and accountants when we need help with business questions and taxes, so why not work stress?
If seeing a therapist just isn’t doable at the moment, there are a lot of mental health tools and apps out there, like MindCheck, Headspace, and AmWell. I also talk about therapy for freelancers on my mental health podcast.
Finding a balance
Freelancing definitely comes with its own challenges, even during the good times. But it’s hard to stay productive and show up for work if you’re constantly stressed. By thinking health-first and putting the right systems and tools in place, you can set yourself up to work and live well.