Self-Care and Self-Employment

Posted on: Apr 25, 2018

‘Self-care’ is an expression you hear a lot lately. It seems to be a catch-all phrase that applies to everything from the superficial (spa days and manicures) to the serious (mental health awareness). I’m all for trends that encourage people to put themselves first, as I do think being selfish is a good thing (see my blog in praise of selfishness).

I think that self-employed people in particular need to get on board the self-care bandwagon. Why? Because the very nature of working for yourself is isolating.

There is no HR department to go to if you’re struggling with your mental health. There are no colleagues to keep an eye on you and keep you regularly topped up with tea and sympathy. And there are no paid holidays for when you do decide to take a duvet day. You’re on your own, kid.

So how can you take overcome these problems and take care of yourself as a self-employed person? By being aware of and avoiding these common pitfalls:

Not Taking Enough Holiday

self care and self employment holidaysI’m terrible at this. When I worked in an office, I had an annual leave allowance and my days off were tracked. As a freelancer, I don’t track my holidays, but I do know that I don’t take enough of them! It’s the double-edged sword of freelancing: you’re free to manage your own time but you’re also scared of turning down work and having unpaid time off.

But I don’t need to tell you how vital time off is to self-care, and in the spirit of ‘practice what you preach’ this is something I’m looking to improve.

Working Out of Hours

self care and self employment out of hoursI’m better at this because I have a stubbornness about working out of hours – unless it’s for an extremely urgent deadline, I just don’t do it. I sometimes work at weekends but only if I feel I need to get a head start on the week ahead, and I know a lot of my freelancing peers do the same. Not having clear boundaries between work and leisure is a big self-care no-no!

Avoid the temptation to check or reply to emails out of hours, as your clients will only come to expect it.

Not Asking for Help When You Need It

self care and self employment asking for helpWe’re hearing this message more and more: asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If you’re having a bad day, tell someone. If you work at home alone, there are loads of great sources of support online: the Facebook groups of Freelance Heroes and The Freelance Lifestylers to name just two.

If you’re struggling with your workload, find a freelancer in the same sector as you who is available to take up some of the slack.

Not Taking Advantage of Being Your Own Boss

self care and self employment be your own bossApril is a tough month for me (I’ve written about this more here) and I spend most of it feeling a bit on edge. So you know what I did the other day? Skived off. It was gloriously sunny, I had just delivered a talk to a lovely networking group, and I just didn’t feel like going back to work. So I walked into town and had a Mr.Whippy in the park.

I felt so much better afterwards, some of which I can attribute to the smugness of being able to send my office-bound friends pictures of me scoffing ice cream in the park. But what’s the point of being your own boss if you don’t take advantage of these opportunities?!

Forgetting to Socialise

self care and self employment socialisingI’m not talking about going down the pub with your friends (although that’s always a good idea) – I’m talking about socialising with your local network, your business community, your fellow freelancers. This is especially important if you work from home on your own.

Solitude is like quicksand – the more time you spend in it, the harder it is to escape. I worked from home for two years and found it harder and harder to get myself out of the house and make myself look presentable. When putting on mascara feels like a chore you know you’ve got issues.

I decided to rent an office, but I know that’s not for everyone. However, I would recommend having a diary date at least once a week to get out into the real world, whether that’s going to an organised networking event or arranging to meet another freelancer for coffee.

So there are my top tips for self-care as a self-employed person. If you’ve got any to share, let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

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