Being your own boss – it might sound great at the start but what happens on the off days, when you have no work, you’re on your own, running low on money and have spent the last few weeks sat by yourself?

Most people who choose to go into freelancing do so because they have had enough of working in an office environment, or they are ready to take a leap of faith, but leaving that environment and work style isn’t just about not having a manager. It also means losing that daily human interaction, going out for lunch with colleagues and having countless amounts of coffee breaks where you can have a quick chat while the kettle is warming.

With more and more UK workers choosing to go it alone, and with the surge in the number of ‘gig economy’ workers in recent years, the effect this type of work has on our mental health is becoming a hot topic.

A recent survey of freelancers in the UK found that:

  • 48% of freelancers admit to finding it a lonely job
  • 46% of freelancers say it is isolating
  • 32% of freelancers miss office banter
  • 29% of freelancer miss being part of a team

For many freelancers, a typical day can consist of speaking to a few clients and working on projects, and it’s common for them to forget to take a break and have some ‘me time’. It’s easy to forget that you are allowed some time to yourself, to not thinking about work, or clients, it is okay to switch off.

Not every day is the same and we know this but we also know that being on your own can take a toll on your mental health and not being able to talk about it can be a bigger problem then you may think.

The Grey Cloud

Depression and mental health, two words no one really wants to talk about. We know it isn’t an easy topic for anyone to talk about, with that constant worry of people looking at you differently, or thinking you’re not well, and although it can be a good thing to spend time by yourself, it can have an opposite effect, around 25% of freelancers experience depression. This is due to a number of different reasons but the main cause is isolation and feeling lonely.

A lot of freelancers go from working in environments where the phones don’t stop ringing or customers are coming in and out, to working alone in a home office or on their sofa. It is easy to get sucked into your own freelancing world, but it is not necessarily the healthiest way to work.

The Silver Lining

Below we’ve listed a few easy steps you can take as a freelancer to help shake the dreaded grey cloud and keep you motivated and energised.

Connect with others and be sociable

When you’re working in a busy office environment, it may feel second-nature to be sociable e.g. meet a friend for lunch, join your colleagues for an after-work drink.

These easy opportunities for social interaction soon dry up when you start working for yourself, so it’s important to make a bit more effort to be social. For example:

Arrange a lunch date. It’s really easy to get to lunchtime and just run into the kitchen, grab a sandwich and then get back to work, but why not take the chance to book a lunch date? Catching up with a friend over lunch not only gets you out of the house but also gives you that face-to-face human interaction (plus. who doesn’t love a quick drink over lunch!!)

Have a set finish time every day. If you worked in a shop or an office you would, so why not if you’re working from home? We know it can be hard to pull yourself away from something you love, but you deserve to have some ‘me’ time. It’s important and it’ll make you feel so much better for switching off.

Evening classes are your get out of jail free card. You can do anything, from yoga to pottery or maybe even join a book club. Picking an evening class will help you take a step back from your work and give you a chance to clear your mind, have some fun and make new friends. We all know trying something new can be scary, but nothing can be scarier than becoming a freelancer, so why not give it a go.

Seek a regular change of scenery

Shared workspaces are everywhere, and they can provide that dose of office environment you might be missing. It’s also a great social experience because everyone there is working on something really amazing and that might spark your next big idea. It can also get really draining staring at the same four walls day in day out, so sitting in a  coffee shop for the afternoon or even in the park, could give you the inspiration you’re looking for.

If you don’t fancy leaving the comfort of your home, and changing from your slippers to your shoes, then move around the house. You can spend the morning working in your home office and the afternoon working in the kitchen, or if you were feeling adventurous you could step out into the garden.

Structure is key

And finally, give your day some structure. Be strict, set a start time, a lunchtime and an end time for each day. This will help you balance your work life and your social life and will help you shift that feeling of your job becoming your best friend. You deserve some YOU time and it’s really important for your mental health to be looking after number one.

We know talking about serious stuff like depression and loneliness isn’t fun, and no one really wants to face the reality of the situation, but it does happen and you might not even realise how much it’s actually affecting you. Thankfully, there is a lot of support you can access if you are a freelancer currently struggling with depression and mental health issues:

Leapers.co – Leapers is an online community that supports the mental health of freelancers. As well as running a dedicated Slack channel for freelancers and a podcast, there are a lot of resources on their site to help freelancers.

MentalHealthAtWork.org.uk – This site is full of resources to help you find the information and support you need.

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