Working well when working for yourself by Matthew Knight
When you’re working for yourself, making sure you’re also considering your mental health at work is critical. You don’t have an HR team putting on events or colleagues to check-in on you - so remember that you are the most important asset in your business.
Our mental health is influenced by so many different things and changes constantly over time - so it's important to start taking a moment regularly to reflect and ask yourself: how am I doing? Even just 15 minutes a week to catch up, look at the week and note down what went well, what didn’t go so well. Over time, you’ll start to see what has positive and negative impacts on how you’re feeling. This data is so useful when making decisions on if you need to make changes in how you’re working.
Some of the common concerns faced by many are:
Setting boundaries between home and work - if you’re frequently working late, you might want to find ways of putting better boundaries in place, like using a schedule [laptop off at 6pm!] or some rules around when you can and won’t work [no mobile at the dinner table!].
Confidence in your pricing - if you’re often worrying about your pricing, perhaps you need to write yourself a pricing plan and get something on paper, so you don’t spend hours each project worrying about your day rate, but walk in with confidence knowing you’ve charged it before, and have something to work from when you consider giving yourself a pay rise.
Not able to take time off - even taking a break can cause stress, so having a holiday policy in place can help - a commitment to yourself of the maximum period you’ll go without taking some time off, or the amount of time you’ll take off in a year - and importantly a plan for how to take that time off: do you need to bring in a partner to cover your time off, or just communicate in advance you’ll be away?
Feeling isolated or not having people to discuss things with - working for yourself can feel quite isolating, so building yourself a ’team’ or support network can help, a group of people who you say hello to in the morning, check-in with occasionally, ask for advice and input on projects or just generally how you’re feeling, really makes a difference. There are hundreds of welcoming freelance friendly communities - some focused on the sector you work in, some geographic, some generalised - find your tribe and make some connections.
Some of these concerns might seem familiar to you, some might not be issues at all - it’s a very personal experience, so taking that time each week to check-in with yourself, and identifying the things which influence how you’re feeling is essential to creating your own personalised working wellbeing plan. Getting input and advice from others on how they are dealing with those challenges, so you’re not having to figure it out for yourself, but rather building up a support network of people who are also going through similar experiences, can make it even easier.
Working for yourself doesn’t mean working by yourself - but it does mean taking responsibility for your own mental health at work. Leapers exists to help you do this - we’re a peer-support community supporting the mental health of the self-employed, curating and creating resources to help you create a plan to work well when working for yourself. Everyone in our community is doing the same, and trying to help each other on the journey. Come say hello.
Matthew Knight is founder and Chief Freelance Officer at Leapers. He's a freelance strategist, helping organisations like LEGO, P&G, Klarna and Bionic work out what to do next. You can work with him at www.foxlark.co