How to Stay On Top as a Freelancer (Even when you're feeling down)


A few of the many perks of being a freelancer are making your own goals, your own schedule and taking charge of your life the way you want. This can also, in turn, become a burden because suddenly there is a lot of room for pressure and self-criticism.

As human beings, our brains are wired to act & react a certain way based on how we’ve been taught. We are adaptable beings, meaning we become like those we are around the most, and we modify our natural instincts based on our lifestyle. Being freelance does, as well, require adapting. It’s quite a drastic difference going from living most of your life in classrooms filled with 30+ students and requiring collaborative work in groups and projects. Deciding to go freelance can create quite a shock in a sense, because suddenly there is hardly anyone around you to give you feedback and criticism to help you grow and develop in a social setting.

There are many things that you can do, fellow freelancer, to take charge of your social life again. Meet a friend for coffee after work, or ask your clients to meet in person to go over a brief. You can also meet up with other freelancers in your area and have a work day together. These little things help you feel like you still have a social life while managing your freelance business.

This aside, sometimes we can become very critical of ourselves based on our performance as freelancers. When suddenly the amount that you work directly translates into how much money you make, it can be tempting to go overboard and at the same time, it can put a lot of pressure on you which in turn will make you want to to do nothing at all.

Here are some things you can do to adapt to your unproductive seasons and make sure your career stays on the right track during these times;

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Brainstorming session

These are so great. Especially if you have a creative mind like I do, these will give you focus and clarity. Think of it like unravelling all the yarn floating around in your brain. Take a big sheet of paper and a marker and start making your web by writing your name in a circle in the middle of the page and drawing a bubble around it. Then write out your top 3 goals around your name with bubbles around them too and draw lines from your name to them. Then continue from there. Not only is this a relieving exercise, it also helps you define what your next steps need to be to make sure you stay on track and that kind of clarity will help you beat any funk.

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Time Management

Just because you are self-employed doesn’t mean that you should skip out on this. Having a concrete schedule for yourself really helps you focus on your work when needed and then leaving it behind you when it’s time to relax. Think of your schedule as a game, remember when you were a child and you would only be allowed to play once you finished your homework for an hour? Try that same strategy now by giving yourself motivation to get things done. For example, if you enjoy watching your favourite tv show, only allow yourself to watch it once you have completed a certain amount of tasks. Or, if you want to go out for a drink with your friends on Friday night, only allow yourself to go if you finish all your tasks for that week. This is a great way to get work done efficiently and make it a bit of fun for yourself!

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We’ve long known the benefits of exercise, but I personally notice that when I fall out of my exercise routine my entire life feels thrown off. I feel tired, unmotivated, lazy and anxious. When I get up early and get a good workout in, I feel confident and ready to dive into my work day. If you don’t like going to the gym, maybe you can go for a quick run or a hike. You can also go swimming if you have access to a pool nearby, or find a yoga class to attend. There are endless options and they’ll each make you feel great.

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Ask for Help

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. Reach out to any other freelancers you know and see if they might have some advice for you, you might just find that they could be going through the exact same thing as you. It doesn’t matter who you go to, but try to find someone who can give you a helping hand, a bit of advice or mentorship. There is no shame in reaching out to someone when you feel stuck, humans are relationship people by nature and will always be willing to lift you up.

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Plan Ahead

When our minds have to make on-the-spot decisions, we are often just reacting to life around us instead of taking action. Plan your work days the day before or take Sunday to plan the entire week. Don’t let yourself go to your desk without knowing what it is you need to accomplish that day.

What do you do to stay on top of tasks? Comment your tips below!