I don’t think anyone realizes how difficult being freelance can be until you take the plunge yourself. Like any job, facing a series of rejections and unanswered emails can pile up emotionally and may start to make you feel inadequate.
Unlike any other job, you really do rely on yourself, and sometimes there’s no one to turn to for some words of encouragement or a pat on the back to keep you going. Some days, I find being freelance really difficult, because I don’t see what other people in my age group are really doing on a day to day basis and I can fall into a bit of a panic mode not really knowing where to start with my day or how to keep up with all the things.
If you’re reading this and you’re a freelancer who has experienced loneliness, sadness, confusion, even depression, I’ve written this post for you, because I too experience these feelings and if I can keep pushing through them, so can you.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned meditation here, mostly because you probably already know about meditation and its benefits, and I don’t want to waste your time with things that are already mentioned 1000x over on the internet. That doesn’t discard it though, if you can implement a 15 min meditation into your daily routine you’ll feel much happier and much more grateful.
Here are some ways to deal with all the emotions of being freelance:
Get professional help
It’s so great that this topic is so encouraged these days, because if things are left unattended for too long, they can really start to spiral. The quicker you deal with the issue, the quicker you can find ways to cope with it. Your mental health is equally as important as your physical health, so please do not discard it. There are great websites like Better Help which make therapy much more affordable as well.
Find your preferred outlet
Personally, I love jotting things down in a blog post, because I know if I’m feeling this there is likely someone else out there who is or will be feeling it too. I enjoy sharing this side of my work on a more personal level because it starts conversations with other freelancers who become friends, and it reminds us that we’re all in it together. It creates a great support system and that is essentially what I hope to build for young artists.
How do you like to release stress? What can you easily fit into your daily life? What are some activities you’ve enjoyed doing from a young age? Think of all the different outlets in which you could express these feelings and help them smooth out. One thing I learned from The Artist’s Way is to write down your morning pages every day, which helps release all those crazy thoughts we have. Another could be to write yourself a letter from time to time, highlighting all the things you’ve achieved. If you don’t like writing, you can try painting a really expressive piece, or falling deep into a good book.
Get out of your space
Go for a walk, go to a yoga class, go to the gym, do something to get yourself out of your bubble for awhile. This is so crucial to staying sane in my opinion, especially if you work and live at home. Getting out, even just for twenty minutes, will help clear your head and you’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to jump back in. Don’t let yourself try to push through it, you likely won’t be making good work or you just won’t be productive.
It’s a hard thing to do, but if you can try to separate your work from your life, you might feel more at ease. Setting boundaries means things like not checking your email on the weekends, or ending work at 6pm every day to ensure you have time to wind down. Not taking on too much work, and not putting too much on your to do list. Be gentle with yourself and know that taking time away from work is important to making good work.
If you’re like me and can just keep working all night, try making plans with a friend or signing up for a class, that way you have to stop at a certain time.
Take care of your physical health
You need to have a good balance, your physical health will help your mental health, and vice versa. Whether you take up fitness classes or start jogging, make sure you have a good exercise routine and are eating healthy foods as well. I personally like to do strength training 3x a week, plus run twice a week and do yoga twice a week, so I’ll block those into my calendar for the week to make sure I get them done. The more consistent I am with my workout routine, the more motivated I am to eat healthy as well.
Join a group, or make your own
Co-working spaces are popping up all over the place, try to research one near you and join in whenever you’re feeling too alone. If those aren’t your jam, try making your own by inviting other freelancers to come work in your space (you can bribe them with free coffee & snacks!). There are also lots of great facebook groups for freelancers to connect and network. Remember, it’s not a competition, everyone has their own timeline and just because another freelancer does the same work as you doesn’t mean there isn’t room for both of you to be successful. In my experience, illustrators are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! They get all the struggles I feel too, and I find we’re often alike in many ways.
If you live and work in the Toronto area, feel free to join my Toronto Freelancers group I created on Facebook!
Talk about it
If you’re lucky to have someone in your life with whom you can talk about this stuff with, without feeling judged, ask them if you can lean on their shoulder a bit. It helps to talk about it, and perhaps the other person will be able to give you a refreshing perspective you may not have thought of before. If you don’t have someone to talk about it with in a comfortable way, try finding a self-improvement type of group where you can find like-minded people who will support you.
Don’t give up, unless you’re unhappy most of the time
Every job has it’s difficulties, and doing something you love as a living can make you start to not love it anymore. If you’ve fallen out of love with your craft and can’t find joy in it anymore, that’s okay! Try something else for awhile, maybe you’ll come back to it or maybe you’ll find something even better.
If you know that you have solid goals in place, and you feel accomplished with your work at least 70% of the time (don’t quote me on that number), keep going. If you’ve come this far and you’ve put in all those hours, you’ll get there. It takes over 10,000 hours to master a craft, and even more to make it a successful business, if you’re feeling sluggish, maybe you’ve lost your “why”… which brings me to my last point:
Know your Why
I think this is the key to remembering your purpose even on the darkest of days. Why are you pursuing this? Why do you get up every morning and keep going? Write it down and stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day.
My Why is because I want to pave the way for young aspiring artists, I want to make it easier for them to pursue an art career. I want to change the stigma around being an artist, I don’t want children to be refrained from exploring art as a legitimate career because parents and teachers don’t see it as valid. So, I get up every day because I’m learning just that. I’m learning how to make a career as an artist, how to shape it the way I want to, and how I can transfer all the knowledge I’m learning to all those young artists one day.