Thanks for this post, Laura. It’s amazing how quickly the freelance lifestyle you dream about can become extremely stressful. The best way I’ve found to stay grounded and stress-free is to make sure I always make time for exercise and fresh-air breaks during the day and to constantly remind myself that life is short and that it’s vital to make time for the things that you love to do, regardless of how busy you are.
Freelancing Stress 3.0
Posted September 19, 2011 in Lifestyle
While we freelancers do have some natural stress reduction built into their job (such as no commute, control over hours and projects, not dealing with coworkers, etc., …), there is some evidence that freelancers may be facing more stress than ever before.
If you’re feeling more stressed than ever, you are probably part of this growing trend. You may be facing Freelancing Stress 3.0. Yet, despite the prevalence of stress, we freelancers don’t talk about it nearly enough.
In this post, I’ll explain why you may be feeling more tension now than before. I’ll also gather some resources about handling freelancing stress that you might find helpful.
The Usual Suspects
Some stress has always been a part of freelancing and will likely always be a part of freelancing. Here are some of the usual suspects that cause freelancers to experience stress:
- Project Deadlines (crunch time)
- Finances (or lack thereof)
- Finding Work (also known as the feast or famine cycle)
- Illness (sometimes caused by stress)
To be honest, many of these stressors exist for non-freelancers too. For example, non-freelancers may face project deadlines, have trouble with their finances, or get sick. Everyone, whether they are freelancing or not, has to deal with some stress in life.
The usual suspects have been stressing us out for a long time and aren’t likely to go away any time soon.
The New Players
In the past year, or so, global factors have emerged that may cause freelancers to experience additional stress that they may not have experienced in the past.
- The Economy. It’s no secret that the global economy is floundering. The effects of a weakened economy can be felt in the freelance marketplace. I am seeing more and more “freelancers” state that they have been forced to turn to freelancing after losing a traditional job. (I hate to think of someone being “forced” to become a freelancer if they don’t really want that lifestyle for themselves.) A weakened economy also means more freelancers competing for fewer opportunities.
- The Technology. Technology is changing more rapidly than ever before. Not only are there constantly new software tools a freelancer must learn to use and master, but also new hardware and new platforms as well. In fact, things are changing so rapidly that it is nearly impossible to keep up. Plus, we are constantly being bombarded with information that we can’t use and don’t need and it takes time to filter through everything we are exposed to.
- The Social Clutter. One of the greatest relational changes that humankind has faced has occurred in the past ten years. I’m talking about social media. Before social media, must adults were lucky if they met two dozen new people in a year. Maybe, if they really worked at it, they could meet three dozen new people in a year’s time. Suddenly, through social media magic, all of us are getting to “know” not dozens, but possibly hundreds of new “friends” each year from all over the world. This sudden access to the multitudes has stretched and strained what friendship really means.
The new players are stressors that have developed as a result of the rapidly changing world freelancers (and everybody) lives in. While these specific stressors may change over time, change is accelerating and you can expect others to take their place.
11 More Resources to Help You Handle Stress
Stress is a huge problem and it seems inevitable, but what can you do about it? I’ve put together 11 helpful resources to provide you with more information. Bookmark these lists and return to them when you are feeling especially stressed. Some of these tips may help you cope.
Here are five posts on stress from Freelance Folder that you might find helpful:
- How to Overcome Freelancing Stress
- 10 Ways to Zap Freelancing Stress Now
- Stress and the Freelance Writer
- 7 Freelancer Stress-Busters You Can Use Today
- 8 Worries That May Cause You to Miss Out on Your Freelancing Journey
Here are six additional posts about stress from other blogs:
- Give Money Away to Relieve Financial Stress from LifeHacker
- Technostress – The Freelancers Disease? from Specky Boy
- How To Beat The Stress When Working From Home from Dumb Little Man
- This Wednesday: 20 very easy tips for lowering your daily stress level. from The Happiness Project blog
- 27 Secrets to Avoid Internet Burnout from Men with Pens
- About.com Stress Management from About.com’s Stress Management site
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes overcoming stress requires professional help. If your stress levels don’t seem to be manageable no matter what you do, then you may need to seek out the services of a mental health professional.
How do you handle freelancing stress? Do you feel more, or less, stressed than you did a year ago?
Share your answers in the comments.
- Open Thread: How Do You Relieve Stress?
- Working Under Fire — Do You Like Stress, or Not?
- How to Overcome Freelancing Stress
- 10 Ways to Zap Freelancing Stress Now
- Stress and the Freelance Writer
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September 19th, 2011 at 8:56 am
September 19th, 2011 at 9:49 am
Interesting post. That phrase “must adults were lucky”, was intriguing.
What does it mean???
September 19th, 2011 at 10:36 am
Couldn’t agree more to the points you mentioned Laura!
Being a freelance writer, and earlier also when I was working full-time, stress has always been a major part! And somehow, we ourselves have to find ways and means to overcome stress and make our living a little easier.
One major stress factor for me now is coping with the numerous social media platforms, and keeping abreast with the latest technology- just as you mentioned, as people can’t be everywhere and do everything! Yet we keep trying and are at it!
Guess, we all do need to create a comfort zone for ourselves, and learn when to stop or say no to overcome the stress factor.
Thanks for sharing :)
September 19th, 2011 at 10:48 am
Rachel–It’s true. We can become our own worst enemies if we are not careful. However, fortunately, there are ways to de-stress if one knows how. Plus, I’m a big advocate of getting help if you need it.
Gold, Basically, the point is that we connect with more people through social media than we did before there was social media.
Harleena–Yes! If you’re trying to earn a living online navigating the social media maze can become stressful. You can’t afford to ignore it, but at the same time, most people can’t possibly take part in everything social media offers and still get your work done.
September 19th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
These are all great points, and being an ex-freelancer turned small business owner, I understand these pain points very well. I recently found http://www.SideSkills.com. I know it is tough to keep up with the various social media platforms, this is one freelancers (and anyone looking to work or hire) won’t want to over look. SideSkills let’s users looking for jobs and projects list their Skill set, rates, and availability. Then, you’ll receive invitations to work instead of having to bid on projects. Tell your friends, get a URL (sideskills.com/u/yourname) and then start using it as your new resume. Good post Laura!
September 19th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
The “feast or famine” cycle is certainly stressful, even though I know it’s a cycle. Not having work can be scary and having too much can be stressful too!
CatherineSeptember 19th, 2011 at 6:02 pm
The big one: Freelancing and single parenting – it is you and only you and your business providing for the household, including one or more dependents. Invoices are not paid on time and bills are due. Health care and orthodontia but no benefits. “That” is stress and I have done it now for 11 years.
September 19th, 2011 at 6:13 pm
Richard Moldovanyi–I think the “feast or famine” cycle can be really hard to get used to if you come from a traditional job and have been accustomed to getting a regular paycheck. That’s why it’s so important not to spend everything when you are in a “feast” cycle.
Catherine, Thanks for sharing your story. :) Your experience is really inspiring and shows that it can be done.
Catena CreationsSeptember 19th, 2011 at 10:54 pm
Catherine: I am also a single parent/freelancer. On top of what you mentioned, throw in an ex-husband who is more than $8000 behind in child support and hasn’t paid any of his son’s expenses for more than four years now. But somehow I have been blessed enough to stay in business and earn more than I made in my last corporate job. I just celebrated my third anniversary on Saturday, and my son is VERY supportive of what I do!
September 19th, 2011 at 11:23 pm
Wow! Catena Creations–Thanks for sharing your story as well. Your success is truly an inspiration for all of us.
September 20th, 2011 at 1:14 am
Thanks Laura for the tips you posted here. You know what makes me wonder? It’s how freelancers who are in the field of social media marketing are coping with stress, especially with the deadlines and the so-called ‘social media fatigue’ going on.. It’s amazing to see how they’re managing their freelance sanity, so to speak. To answer your question, I simply unplug from the online world and find my bottle of joy in the offline world, even for a few minutes each day.
September 20th, 2011 at 12:49 pm
This is definitely a helpful post esp the resources that you shared. Being a freelancer / an online entrepreneur is definitely very stressful esp combined with all of the stress factors you mentioned above (I have all of those!). One thing I do when I’m stressed is work away from my workspace. Either I go to a nearby cafe, get a much needed weekend getaway or just walk for a few minutes to breathe. When I come back, I feel more energized.
Forums can do wonders too! Esp if you find a supportive community where you can just vent out and release all the stress.
September 21st, 2011 at 1:23 am
I think taking vacations regularly is very important. I think that freelancers need more vacation time than our “traditionally working” counterparts. We need a break from “the hunt”. If you can’t make time to take a vacation, you will surely find yourself in a bad place.
Furthermore, we need to understand that a vacation is just that – a vacation. We shouldn’t be checking email, etc. while on vacation. We should inform clients, etc. that we will be gone, but we shouldn’t allow the professional to cross over into the personal (just as well as we wouldn’t allow the personal to cross into the professional).
September 21st, 2011 at 7:09 am
If ever I think running my own business is stressful, I remember what it was like to work in somebody else’s business and suddenly everything seems rosy again! :)
September 24th, 2011 at 7:17 pm
nice post !!
done well , you have done a tremendous job we are also developing and designing websites, just because we like to give our expertise in web designing and developing.
October 2nd, 2011 at 7:02 pm
I totally agree with Rachel, exercise & fresh air (& taking breaks) is key – irrespective of how busy you are.
When I first started freelancing I was my own worst enemy & didn’t do this (I was too worried about cash-flow) & it made me miserable & unhealthy.
Life is too short.
Trust me – I’m still worried about cash-flow (probably always will be) despite knowing about the rubber-band effect.
It’s really hard to enjoy any downtime you may be faced with due to a lack of work – I tend to worry during these times, which causes restless sleep etc.
I’d like to relax & catch up on some reading while sitting in the sun during these times, but the reality is – that’s not going to happen.
Anyway, I could probably waffle on, so I’ll stop here.
Take breaks, exercise & get out into the fresh air.
Those (for me) are the key things to battle stress.
Clyde MillerJanuary 31st, 2012 at 2:27 pm
Can Social Media stress cause a fall in Social Networking?
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