7 Tips for Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a Freelancer

I don’t know which is harder for most people — being a freelancer and loving your insecure job, or having a normal, secure 9 to 5 and disliking your work.

I’ve had both experiences. For me, the 9 to 5 as a COVID-19 Contact Tracer was agonizing, and being a freelance writer has proved far better for my mental health. I can’t say the same for my wallet.

Because I am always looking for new writing work and most of my income comes from one source, I get quite anxious nowadays. Here’s how I offset the anxiety (and workload) of freelancing.

1. I have a set routine to follow

Most weekdays, I write one long-form article. This article ranges from 900-1,200 words. I publish this article immediately on another website, and then submit the same article, albeit with a different title, to a publication of my choice here.

I need to write 3–4 articles per week to keep up with my self-imposed schedule. Some weekdays I work on my ebook instead. I also spend some time doing social media for my internship, which is a more guaranteed income stream.

2. If I have the energy, I’ll do more than a day’s work

Regardless of if your job is freelance or not, there are some days we don’t want to go to work. If I have the energy, I like to crank out multiple, long-form articles in one day. Then for the other weekdays, I can focus on other projects, get chores done around the apartment, do tasks I’ve been putting off, etc.

The reason I like freelancing is that I get to be my own boss. This boss believes you only need a few hours to be productive. I don’t sit around on my laptop pretending I’m working when I work for myself. If I run out of tasks, there’s always something else I can be working on, or I can be done for the day. I’m not waiting for a supervisor to re-assign me a project or anything like that.

Because I do this type of content batching, I can take a day off if I need it. Mental health days are important, even when you work for yourself.

3. I keep looking for more projects

Freelancing is anxiety-inducing, hence this article was created. My biggest income stream at the moment is one, hard to keep up with, contract. Not exactly job security.

Because of this insecurity, I spend part of every day looking for writing gigs. LinkedIn, Indeed, random blog sites, you name it. I’m always looking for more to do so it hurts less when opportunities evaporate.

Much like with a traditional job, it’s not good to solely depend on that one paycheck every week. Some people invest, others look for more side hustles. I wish I could invest, but I am working on my emergency fund first. Side hustles it is.

4. I create my own projects

Part of being a freelancer is the belief that you can create a better work experience for yourself than an employer could. Don’t get me wrong, some 9 to 5s are tempting and I may very well end up working a few, but I believe I can create better for myself. It just takes time (and money).

Currently, I run a RedBubble writing merch shop, which I plan to expand to other print-on-demand platforms. I also have a free email list, which I will eventually supplement with another, paid list in the coming year. I am looking into converting all my blog posts into either podcasts or a YouTube channel — I haven’t yet decided. The point is to not limit yourself solely to one area of freelancing. I’m sure there are other avenues in your choice of freelance work besides paperwork.

5. I talk to other freelancers

Ah, networking. It’s magical. You aren’t alone in your endeavors. Someone is equally as anxious as you are.

Facebook is a surprisingly good place for freelancers. There are many communities where people can discuss the best tools and websites for writers, and what companies to stay away from. The contract I have happens to be one many other writers have, so there’s always some insight going around in that particular group.

Reddit is also quite the freelancer hub. People don’t talk to each other as much though. Tips and advice are mainly left in the form of one-off posts or links. This doesn’t make them any less useful.

If you know of any other good places for freelancers to network (besides LinkedIn), I’m all ears.

6. I built up an emergency fund

I’m lucky to have a generous family, I’ll put that as a disclaimer. I did receive some cash presents for the holidays this year, and they went right into that fund on top of what I was already contributing.

Having an emergency fund makes me feel more secure. Even if my highest paying client decides not to pay me, I will be fine for a few months. Still, there is a large discrepancy between what that client and what my other income streams provide. Said discrepancy would put quite the dent in my emergency fund if I needed to use it. Because of this, I contribute to the fund every month and work hard to create other income streams.

7. I believe in myself as a freelancer

I’m a 2020 college graduate. The pandemic put a damper on my traditional career plans, to say the least. I have a dual Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Psychology. Not exactly the background of a freelance writer and social media manager.

But it’s okay. I’m satisfied with my current career track. I don’t think I would be as happy working for someone else in a laboratory somewhere. I don’t believe I would have gotten this opportunity had the world not gone downhill. I would’ve been pigeonholed into an office job without first getting to try out writing freelance. {To clarify, I’m making the best out of a bad situation, I’m not grateful for a pandemic.}

Writing has always been my dream job, but I didn’t think it was realistic. A couple of months ago, I submitted some work samples into a 12-line, one-page application, and hoped. A week later I found out I could cover all my living expenses with that contract and my other income streams. It’s been amazing for my self-esteem and faith in myself and my abilities. I realized that I can do this freelancing “thing” — I am capable.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you do for work as long as you can pay your own bills, have an emergency fund for when you can’t, and feel decent about your source of employment.

Freelancing is liberating. Being your own boss is a huge benefit (although it can be a detriment if you have trouble focusing). Setting your own schedule will help you get tasks done while not having the traditional energy suck of work. You can take breaks whenever you want.

Still, freelancing isn’t a walk in the park. It is anxiety-inducing not having a dependable paycheck every month. The tips mentioned in this article should help you a bit. Diversify your income — that will help you far more than any tips you read online.