The Mental Health Risks of Freelancing: How to Protect Yourself

Freelancing has become a lucrative option for people who want to take control of their careers and work on their terms, offering the flexibility to work from anywhere, set your schedule, and choose the clients you work with. However, as with any job, freelancing has challenges and risks, especially mental health.

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I wrote a post on 10 ways to improve your mental health and wanted to expound more about it from a freelancer’s perspective.

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This blog post will explore the mental health risks associated with freelancing and how to protect yourself and improve your mental health. I will cover topics such as setting boundaries, managing stress, building a support network, and seeking professional help.

Whether you’re a seasoned freelancer or just starting your freelance journey, this post will provide valuable insights and practical advice on prioritizing your mental health while pursuing your passion.

Why are freelancers prone to mental health issues?

Freelancing can be stressful because freelancers should independently manage their workload, finances, and client relationships. The instability and uncertainty can also take a toll on mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and burnout. Therefore, you should also partake in an activity that improves mental health.

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I disregarded my physical and mental health during my first few years of freelancing. I used to write 4k to 5k words daily within a full-time shift while competing in esports, eventually leading to an injury. I vowed to take the lessons from those experiences to help people survive freelancing without repercussions.

I wrote a post on ten ways to improve your mental health and wanted to expound more about mental health for freelancers.

Freelancers Mental Health Problems and Stressors

The freelance lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular, with more and more people opting to work for themselves in the gig economy rather than traditional employers. While freelancing offers many benefits, such as flexible schedules and the ability to work from anywhere, some downsides affect one’s mental health.

These are some of the issues that affect a freelancer’s mental health:

1. Social Facets of Working Alone

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As social beings, humans naturally seek out social interactions and build connections with others. However, freelancers, by nature of their work, often find themselves working alone, without the benefit of social support or interaction. This isolation can be a significant source of stress for freelancers, leading to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Moreover, mental health for freelancers affects every aspect of their work, including project proposals, marketing efforts, billing, submissions, and compliances. This additional workload can be mentally taxing, leading to burnout and a reduced capacity to cope with the isolation and stress.

Building a sense of community and establishing connections with others in the field is essential to combat the challenges of isolation and stress in freelancing. One effective way to do this is by actively engaging in online communities, attending networking events, or working from coworking spaces. These opportunities allow freelancers to communicate well and connect with others with similar interests and experiences, exchange ideas and insights, and form supportive relationships to promote sound mental health.

Maintaining solid relationships with friends, family, and other freelancers can help freelancers build a support system they can rely on when facing challenges. Regular social interactions, whether in-person or online, can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation with a positive mindset.

2. Financial Factors

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One of the most significant challenges for freelancers is managing financial stress, which can significantly impact their mental health. Initially, freelancers would have to do jobs for free or demand lower fees; and may also have to deal with delayed payments.

Freelancers often need more consistent income and help to find clients, making it challenging to maintain a stable financial foundation. Moreover, they need to manage their taxes, handle their benefits, and plan for retirement, which can add to their financial stress.

To manage financial stress and promote sound mental health, freelancers can take several steps:

  • Manage cash flow by setting financial goals and creating a budget.
  • Develop good financial habits like tracking expenses, deploying financial targets, and making plans.
  • Diversify income streams by seeking new clients or developing additional revenue streams to ensure steady income flow.
  • Build a financial cushion or safety net to help weather economic ups and downs and provide security.
  • Create rate negotiation and tax management strategies. 
  • Protect from fraud and other financial risks, which can involve guarding one’s financial information and avoiding scams or fraudulent offers.

Negotiating fair rates for their work can help freelancers earn more money and reduce their financial stress. Moreover, freelancers should know tax obligations and seek professional advice to comply with all applicable tax laws.

3. Workload

Freelancing is easily one of the best and most straightforward ways to challenge yourself since you will be a one-person team. Therefore, a freelancer working long hours, chasing tight deadlines, and maintaining a work-life balance is at a high risk of burnout. Burnout leads to emotional and physical exhaustion, depression, and anxiety.

These are some of the steps to make sure you improve mental health and become an effective freelancer:

  • Establish boundaries with people
  • Take breaks and maximize rest days
  • Practice self-care by prioritizing your physical, emotional and mental health
  • Balance work, social and life activities
  • Set realistic schedules, deadlines and expectations

Clear communication is essential for any healthy professional relationship, and freelancers are no exception. Establishing clear expectations from the outset can help prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications. Moreover, setting boundaries around availability and workload can help protect freelancers from overwork and burnout.

4. Networking, communication and human interaction

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Demanding clients, in particular, can be a significant source of stress for freelancers. These clients may have unrealistic expectations, communicate poorly, or fail to pay on time. Collaborating with other freelancers can help mitigate some of these challenges. It can provide a support system, the opportunity to share best practices, and even lead to new work opportunities.

In addition to networking, freelancers should focus on nurturing existing relationships. Consistently delivering quality work, being responsive, and respecting clients and collaborators can help build a positive reputation and lead to more opportunities.

Managing demanding clients is also crucial for maintaining healthy professional relationships, which includes setting clear expectations, communicating effectively, and being firm about boundaries. For example, suppose a client consistently makes unreasonable demands or asks for work outside the agreed-upon scope. In that case, a freelancer should communicate the issue and propose a solution for both parties.

Mental Health is Wealth

I have a goal of helping freelancers improve their mental health and create a sustainable, fulfilling career since sound mental health is essential for success in any field. I want to empower freelancers with the tools and resources to thrive in a highly-competitive space. In the comment section below, please let me know what other freelance topic you want me to write about.

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