A Freelancer’s Guide to Staying Happy and Positive

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George Chiang provides 9 tried and trusted tips for freelancers to stay happy, positive and motivated. 

As a freelancer myself, telling people what I do often elicits a certain amount of admiration and jealousy. There is the misguided notion that being your own boss automatically equates to having more freedom, more money, and ultimately, being happier. However, there are also downsides, as listed below. In this post how to stay happy and positive as a freelancer even during moments you question your career choice.

Common Challenges Freelancers Face

  • Inability to Separate Work from Home – According to a recent study, 92% of freelancers work when they are on vacation, with most of them feeling pressured to do so.
  • Social Isolation – Loneliness is the number #1 complaint of freelancers in the Viking survey, with 64% saying that they feel lonely daily at work.
  • Job Insecurity – Finding consistent work was ranked as the fourth worst aspect of doing gigs. Fluctuating income is also linked to mental health deterioration.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle – Freelancing almost always equates to sitting in front of a computer for a greater part of the day. This sedentary lifestyle can lead to depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
  • Poor Diet – Many freelancers’ diets consist of ordering fast food, frequent snacking, and eating prepackaged foods. Unfortunately, according to various studies, there is a strong link between these types of food and poor mental health. 
  • Lack of Quality Sleep – Being a freelancer means staring at a screen for hours on end. The artificial light from these screens and late nights can seriously disrupt your ability to get enough quality sleep at night.

Tips for Staying Happy and Positive as a Freelancer

The good news, most of the potential pitfalls of freelancing can be offset with a little awareness and change in your routine. Here are my top tips for staying happy as a freelancer.

1) Have a Fixed Working Schedule

One of the perks of freelancing is being your own boss. Take advantage of that power and enforce your own work schedule. The idea is to be consistent and only do work-related things during this scheduled time. This frees up time for other activities during the day that contribute to your happiness.

If your productivity peaks around 7 am to 11 am and again around 6 pm to 10 pm, then work during those hours. Refrain from working more than 7 to 8 hours per day.

Make those hours  as productive as possible by learning good time management skills. Turn off your social media and remind your family not to disturb you during these hours. I also suggest taking advantage of tools like Trello and Toggl to better manage your time.

2) Start Working Smarter

When you’re a freelancer, there’s always the thought that you should be working as much as possible to maximize your earnings. But really, the goal should be to work smarter, not longer. To that end, consider the following tips:

  • Say no to lower-paying jobs and invest your time on your higher-paying clients.
  • Take courses that will help elevate your pay grade
  • Constantly network, whether online such as Facebook groups, or in person at conferences and seminars. In the freelancing industry, who you know is just as important as what you know.

3) Sleep and Eat Well

Your body is just like a machine. Without proper care and maintenance, it’s bound to give out eventually. To keep your physical and mental health in tiptop shape, get at least 7 hours of sleep daily and stick to a balanced diet. Here are a few tips that can help you achieve this.

  • Home cooking is much healthier than eating out. Try to cook at home as much as possible.
  • If you’re not much of a cook, or you feel your time is much better spent doing something else, try meal kit delivery services like Home Chef that deliver pre-portioned ingredients with step-by-step cooking instructions for balanced meals. If you do not want to cook at all, healthy pre-made meals from companies like Fresh n’ Lean are your best option.
  • Instead of junk food, snack on mixed nuts, fruits, yogurt, granola bar, and other healthy foods to maintain your energy throughout the day.
  • Use apps and plugins like Water Drink Reminder and Healthy Browsing to remind yourself to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. There are also bottles with time markers to help you track your water intake.
  • Avoid using devices which emit blue light around your bedtime, which can seriously disrupt your sleep.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep/wake schedule and watch your caffeine intake in the hours before bed.

4) Move Move Move

Exercise is one of the best ways to release stress and quickly raise your mood. Physical activity helps release chemicals called endorphins that triggers an energizing and happy feeling. Make moving and exercising a habit, and happiness will ensue.

Here are a few ways that you can add some physical activity to your daily routine.

  • Stretch periodically at your desk to quickly encourage blood circulation and elevate your mood.
  • Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, as recommended by the ODPHP.
  • Make sure you’re not Vitamin D deficient, which is a known cause of depression. 
  • If your coworking space is not that far, consider walking or riding a bike to work.

5) Reward Yourself

According to best-selling author Gretchen Rubin,treating yourself every now is the best antidote to feeling depleted, burned out, and resentful, all negative emotions freelancers are quite familiar with.

There are two ways that this can be done:

  • Goal Based – These are the rewards that you give yourself after reaching a goal. For example, after completing a big client’s website, reward yourself with a weekend spa retreat.
  • Milestones Based – These are the rewards that you give yourself as you work towards your goal. For example, this could mean treating yourself to a fancy meal  once you hit the 25% milestone.

6) Make an Effort to Socialize

Between juggling clients, projects and trying to run a business, socializing is often the first activity to fall by the wayside for freelancers. However, countless studies have linked a healthy social circle with increased happiness, health, and overall well being.

Take a good look at your relationship with your family and friends, and make sure you are making time in your busy schedule to see at least one or two of them weekly.

You can even kill two birds with one stone by expanding your professional and social network at the same time. Attend conferences, barcamps, meet-ups, book clubs, seminars, and charity events. Get inspired and give back to the community to add another form of satisfaction to your life.

7) Cut Out Toxic Individuals

As freelancers, we’re exposed to people from all walks of life, and some negative characters are bound to slip through. Be it a toxic family, friend, coworking member, or client, cut your losses before they start seriously dragging you down.

Surround yourself with people who support and care for you. Peers who help you grow but still accept your flaws and weaknesses are the best.

For example, if you don’t seem to communicate well with a client and it’s just rough dealing with them, politely remind your client about the processes and agreements you had at the start of the deal.

If after some time, his behavior doesn’t change, consider ending the contract. Tactfully let your client know that someone with more availability might be more suitable for the task or what he’s demanding.

In this very useful post, Cloud Peeps explains how you can end a toxic professional relationship in various situations without causing tension.

8) Have Multiple Income Sources

The best way to get rid of the stress caused by job uncertainty is to have more than just one source of income. This guarantees that even if something happens to one of them, you’ll still have a steady flow of income. Before you explore other revenues though, it’s best to have one stable income stream first. 

When you’re determining how to diversify your income, think about your interests and skills and the client demand. Depending on your passion, you might want to write and sell ebooks, create online courses, try affiliate marketing, and more. 

As a freelancer, income diversification is the name of the game for establishing a sense of security, one of the pillars of staying happy.

9) Work at a Coworking Space Periodically

One of the best ways to combat those feelings of isolation is to use a coworking space. Unlike noisy cafes, a coworking space gives you a quiet, work-oriented area to do your tasks with other like-minded individuals.

In fact, studies show that up to 89% of members are happier after joining a coworking space. This is due to benefits like an expanded social network, the ability to socialize with other members after work, and, of course, the ability to discuss your work with people who understand you.

Coworking also helps freelancers expand their professional network, giving them more work opportunities. Plus, it can make maintaining a good work/life balance easier.

Conclusion

Freelancing is not always milk and honey. You’ll face many challenges along the way to true freedom. Take a step back. Think about your inspirations and what drove you to start your freelancing career. Then, start incorporating some of the proven techniques above to elevate your happiness and ignite your passion again.


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About Author

George is the senior editor and ergonomist at Ergonomic Trends. You can find him hitting the gym or the yoga studio when he’s not working hard at a cafe as a digital nomad.

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