Freelance life is both wonderful and stressful under the best of circumstances.
Being a gig-worker during the pandemic has become a great source of stress for freelancers. Not knowing where your next paycheck is going to come from causes serious stress and anxiety.
Freelancers are used to this feeling because they never know when the well is going to dry up and they need to find more clients. But the pandemic has heightened freelancer stress to the point of overwhelm and exhaustion. Like the rest of the world, freelancers are struggling to find jobs, get paid, and feel a sense of stability. Forget about taking a vacation.
Stability is not part of a freelancer’s vocabulary.
Freelancers work hard to find and keep clients. They hustle for their hard-earned paychecks. Although working a steady 9-5 job with a salary and benefits comes with its own set of stressors, there’s nothing like freelancer stress, especially freelancer stress in a pandemic.
The mental health of a freelancer is so important to pay attention to, especially now. How do you reduce stress, find a work-life balance, and manage to work from home in the midst of all this chaos?
Why Freelancers Experience More Stress During the Pandemic
If you’re a freelancer, you’ve had your ups and downs the entire time you’ve owned your business. This is pre-pandemic. When you started freelancing you took whatever job you could find just to make some money. Eventually, you picked a niche and settled into finding clients who fit your ideal client avatar. Maybe you became a full-time freelancer and loved the idea of remote work. You got good at focusing on the task at hand and working as a small business.
It was hard, getting your ideal clients. Freelancers stress about finding the right clients, not just finding enough clients. While some like the freedom and autonomy of a freelancing lifestyle, others are scared by the lack of security. Some freelancers do it full-time, others do it as supplementary work.
There’s a big range in types of freelance/gig jobs. There’s also a range in investment in those jobs. For example, IT developers might love the work they do while Uber drivers are just driving to get by. Freelance work is not a large portion of the total workforce. This means that freelancer stress is high because there are fewer people to talk to and no coworkers.
Why Is Freelancer Stress During the Pandemic So High Right Now?
Everyone’s stress level is high at the moment. Depending on your niche and what you do as a freelancer, your clients may not be able to keep their businesses open, much less afford your services. If you work with small businesses, you might be negatively impacted by their lack of funds.
Freelancers already live job to job, but now those jobs are going away. They may have been forced to cut back on their work during the pandemic. The mental health of a freelancer needs to be taken into account more than ever before. Freelancer stress during the pandemic is real and pervasive.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the United States saw itself in a recession. Freelancers handled this economic downturn in 3 different ways. There were survivors, thrivers, and hustlers.
The survivors, while stressed about work, job security, family, and the community, knew they’d be OK. They knew their clients would be OK. These freelancers trusted the uptick in jobs once the economy goes back to growth mode.
The thrivers, on the other hand, were busy and in-demand. Many freelancers who are thriving during the pandemic work with companies that are doing well. Healthcare is a great example of a niche that is still profitable for freelancers at the moment.
Then there are the hustlers. These freelancers are feeling the stress of clients cutting costs and downsizing. Hustling freelancers have to get creative and try new things.
Whichever category you fall into, if you’re a freelancer you’re experiencing stress due to the pandemic and recession. Things will eventually right themselves after the whole world turned upside down, but the stress freelancers feel won’t go away. We as a society need to address the mental health of a freelancer and provide resources to reduce freelancer stress.
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Freelancers- Always Stressed and Under Pressure?
Freelancing can be emotionally demanding. Not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from or when you’re going to land the next job is anxiety-provoking. The mental health of a freelancer is so important because the loneliness of being a freelancer has a lot to do with not knowing who to surround yourself with or who to trust.
At the end of the day, you’re always asking yourself if your clients will like you. It’s an emotionally hard job. A study was done in 2019 that included 750 freelancers and 750 office workers.
More than half of the freelancers reported depression as a result of their job.
They also said that managing everything they have to do mixed with the loneliness of being a freelancer caused more stress. Over two-thirds of freelancers reported feeling lonely, while less than one-third of office workers expressed this as a concern. Again, here’s an example of the negative impact freelancing can have on the mental health of a freelancer.
“The report goes on to say, the solitary nature of freelancing can lead to loneliness and mental health struggles. It recommends freelancers to talk to someone if the stresses and strains of the job become difficult.”
The Best Tools To Reduce Stress
In a 2019 article, Forbes identified six ways to manage the anxiety of freelancing:
- Take control
- Use the “best friend test”
- Focus on fundamentals
- Learn to self-soothe
- Celebrate the red pen
Freelancers often experience “free-floating anxiety,” which isn’t linked to a diagnosed anxiety disorder but may make the person feel “off” or generally anxious or upset. To manage this anxiety, Forbes recommends “worry time.” Pick a place and time to write down all the things you’re worried about and then walk away from it.
- The “best friend test” refers to the idea of taking a stressful problem and pretending your best friend came to you for help. What would you say to them? Whatever it is, do it!
- To focus on fundamentals, bring your attention to what’s right in front of you. Identify the anxieties and stress you need to address now. Don’t worry about the stuff coming down the pike.
- Self-soothing is important in coping with freelancer stress. Use breathing techniques. Take long, slow, deep breaths. Breathe in for a count of four and breath out for a count of five or six. Slow your breath down. Give yourself time between what is distressing you and how you respond to the source of distress.
- Exercise is important for everyone, but especially stressed out freelancers who work from home all day. Do 20 minutes of something physical. Take a walk outside at the very least. Rigorous exercise reduces anxiety, but sometimes just getting out and playing a physical game or walking around the block a few times helps.
- By celebrating the red pen, Forbes is referring to lists. Make a physical manifestation of what is making you anxious. Write all the things down and then cross them off a list. You can also crumple or burn the paper to release your freelancer self of the stress.
Hard as you try to reduce the stress of being a freelancer, these six steps may not do the trick. Freelancers are always stressed and under pressure. You’re dealing with mental health concerns that affect your work-life balance, personal time, and your actual freelancing work.
Relieving Freelancer Stress During a Pandemic
We’ve already established that not having a steady paycheck, not having the safety-net of a company salaried position, and fluctuating between jobs cause freelancer stress. The mental health of a freelancer can be fragile as a result.
- Learn to say no
- Set work hours
- Schedule breaks
- Focus on the task at hand
- Find a hobby
If you don’t put yourself first you will probably fall prey to exhaustion and burnout, so take care of yourself. Maintain a work-life balance. Make a schedule for when you’re most productive. Take breaks in a different space than where you work. Don’t worry about things too far in advance. And find something you enjoy doing. These will all decrease freelancer stress and help with freelancer mental health.
If you want to discuss therapy for how the pandemic has affected you as a freelancer, we are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation today.