As part of our ongoing series highlighting the importance of mental health awareness in freelancers, we have interviewed Matthew Knight, the founder of Leapers.co

Leapers

What is Leapers?

“We’re a project which supports the mental health of the self-employed. We are a community of peer-support; we create tangible things that help; and we encourage businesses to explore how they can work well with freelancers.”

What inspired you to form Leapers?

“Over 5m people in the UK are self-employed, and whilst employers have started to realise the importance of well-being at work, those of us without an employer have to look after ourselves. 1 in 4 people will struggle with poor mental health this year, so we want to make sure the 3 in 4 who aren’t thinking about their mental health are actively aware of how being self-employed has an impact on how you’re doing – after all, there’s no such thing as a paid sick day when you’re freelance.”

What are the main challenges you think freelancers are currently facing?

“Each experience is unique, but there are plenty of shared experience and sources of stress – our research shows that the main stressors of freelancing come from three places: emotional (“I’m not good enough” etc.), behavioural (“I’m working all day and all night” etc.) and external (“clients ghosting you” etc).

“Many new to freelancing jump into this way of working without first understanding the huge learning curve and things which you’re additionally stepping away from when you leave a job: namely career development, legal and HR, and most critically, a team around you.

“It can be a big shock and if you don’t have people to talk to, people who get it because they’re doing it too, it can also be incredibly isolating. If you are feeling stressed, it’s hard to know where to turn for support and navigating the advice isn’t always easy.

“For more established freelancers, it’s the the external stressors which are the bigger challenges: clients not responding, IR35, projects being cancelled, rejection, late payments – which are harder to tackle as an individual.”

What is one easy thing a freelancer could do each day to improve their mental wellbeing (other than join Leapers!)?

“Remember the ABC of working well:

Active Awareness – Don’t ignore the importance of your own mental health when working for yourself, make it a critical part of running your business, just like putting money aside for your tax bill. Put five minutes a day on your calendar to note down what’s creating stress, what’s motivating you and what’s frustrating you. And then fifteen minutes each month to decide whether you need to fix something going forwards.

Boundaries and Behaviours – Get good sleep, eat well, do some exercise, and put boundaries in place so you’re not working all around the clock. It seems obvious, but it’s the most important starting point. And then, from what you’ve learned in your note-taking, see what behaviours you can put in place to tackle anything which is causing you concern.

Communicate and Community– Don’t do it alone. Find others who are doing similar things, and share how you’re getting on, ask advice, learn from others. There are loads of amazing communities and tribes, both online and offline, find one and sign up. Don’t feel like you need to put a brave face on things.”

What can businesses do in 2020 to help the freelancers they work with?

“Pay Fairly: shorter payment terms, and no overdue invoices. It’s as simple as that.

“Beyond payment terms, give someone accountability within your business to look at how you’re working with freelancers, to audit the experience, to gather feedback, to spot where the problems and opportunities lie to do work well with others. If you’re not sure where to start, come talk to Leapers.

“Over 40% of businesses work with freelancers, some industries are far higher than that, such as the creative industry or film and television, and the numbers of businesses working with freelancers and people moving into freelancers is increasing dramatically year on year. It’s not enough to just hope your processes work – modern businesses need to actively design how they work with small suppliers, for improved profitability and effectiveness for you, and to support the supplier to do great quality work.”

What would you say are the major pros and cons of being a freelancer in 2020?

Pro: Having more control over when, where and how you work.

Con: Giving up control over when, where and how you work when you’re desperate.”ty: 

 

Visit Leapers.co now to join their community: https://www.leapers.co/join/ or check out their ‘No More Watercooler’ podcast: https://www.leapers.co/podcast/

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