How to Overcome Freelancing Stress

There’s no doubt about it. Freelancing can be stressful.

If you’re busy, then there are deadlines and demanding clients to deal with. If you’re not busy, then there could be financial worries and the stress of finding your next paying project.

Add the administration tasks of your business to all of that, and you can see why most freelancers face a good deal of stress. Of course, most freelancers have a personal life too and sometimes that can be a source of even more additional stress.

While some freelancing stress is probably inevitable, fortunately there are some steps that you can take in your freelancing business to reduce the amount of freelancing stress that you must face.


Seven Tips for Reducing Your Freelancing Stress

If you’re feeling a bit stressed, you’re not alone. Most freelancers eventually do have to deal with some type of stress.

For me, the key to reducing stress has been to deal with the source of that stress as much as possible. Preventative actions are so much more effective than waiting until the stress hits. If you can identify and reduce the various things that usually cause your stress (your stressors), you should be able to significantly reduce your overall freelancing stress.

Here are some stressors that typically lead to freelancing stress and how to deal with each one:

  1. Stressor: Deadlines. Too many deadlines too close together too often can definitely cause stress. For most freelancers, some deadlines are inevitable. The client needs to know when to expect your work. However, you do have some control over deadlines. Use negotiation to avoid scheduling project deadlines too close together. If possible, allow extra time in the project schedule.
  2. Stressor: Tight finances. Freelancers often face tight finances, especially when they are starting out. This can be a huge source of stress. To minimize financial surprises, use a budget to keep an accurate record of your expected and actual expenses. Make an effort to save money whenever possible.
  3. Stressor: Not finding enough clients. Every freelancer faces slow periods. When a slowdown comes, it’s hard not to worry about whether or not this slow period is going to be permanent. You can reduce the number of slow times that you face by continuously marketing your freelance business, even when you are busy.
  4. Stressor: Interruptions. We’ve all had it happen–you’re focused on your project and at a crucial point in the work and suddenly the phone rings destroying your concentration completely. Or, the dog barks. Or, one of the kids starts screaming. These interruptions can definitely cause stress, but there are techniques to help you deal with them. Shutting the door, or going to a different location (Internet cafe, library) can sometimes help too.
  5. Stressor: Client conflict. You’ve turned in your very best work, and you know it’s good. But, somehow the client doesn’t seem to agree. Dealing with difficult people is just one of the harsh realities of freelancing (and of life). You can protect yourself somewhat by carefully defining the scope and by making the client sign a contract. In some cases, you may need to stop working with a particularly unpleasant client, but most client difficulties can be worked out with patience and better communication.
  6. Stressor: Undone administrative tasks. Your administrative work is piling up. Just thinking about all of those unsent invoices, that stack of bills, and that handful of collection calls is nearly enough to suck all of the air out of the room. But, those tasks must be done. If you’re falling behind on administration, better organization could help. Or, you may want to consider outsourcing some of your routine tasks.
  7. Stressor: Sickness. It’s no fun getting sick and it’s not much good for your freelancing business either. The seeds of the sickness usually started long before your first symptom, though. Many freelancers are on the verge of burnout and don’t realize it. Make an effort to take good care of your health and make sure that you get enough rest to reduce your chances of getting sick.

You may not be able to totally eliminate freelancing stress from your life, but these tips should help you to reduce it.

The Problem with Stress

In my experience, stress is more than uncomfortable. Some people claim that they work better under stress, but I’ve found that stress slows me down and makes me less efficient. If I’m stressed, it takes me more time to complete a task than it does when I’m relaxed.

That’s why I plan carefully to minimize the amount of stress that I face on a regular basis. I use the steps above whenever possible to control my stressors. Of course, I can’t completely eliminate stress, but I can keep it at a manageable level.

What About You?

What freelancing stresses do you face and how do you deal with them?

Leave your answer in the comments.

Image by vidrio

Comments

  1. says

    My main stress is when I have too many projects that all end up happening at the same time. (As is the case at the moment: three projects all with July 31 deadlines!) So I tackle it by working at weekends, by turning off all distractions and by minimising the meetings I have.

  2. says

    Thanks Freelance FactFile! I think that a lot of freelancers are in the same boat.

    To all–I should also add that if you feel stress for no reason or nothing works to relieve it, you should seek professional help. Nothing wrong with getting help… :-)

  3. says

    Laura!
    Great post! I think it is hilarious that we post similar posts on the same day! Just this morning I posted an article on how the beach creates courage in my heart that no matter how dim things get, the tide will come back in! Consider that posted edited to include a link!

  4. says

    Right now I’m also searching for a full-time position in addition to my freelancing, so the stress of job hunting is enough. Also, freelancing clients are getting a bit sparser, and it’s down to needing a FT job no matter what.

    As far as administrative stuff, I know too many people in any field that put off doing the ‘business’ stuff for too long because they want to hop into what they love to do, instead of taking care of the business.

    To deal with stress, I usually try to change the scenery for a day or two, and it usually helps to look at things a different way, or get back to the grind feeling a bit fresher. For changes of scenery, go get a coffee, go for a walk, ride the bike or even take the laptop outside and get some work done wirelessly.

  5. crazywabbit says

    Just wondering how many people have lost their hair due to stress? Or end up with gray hair faster.

  6. says

    “Stressor: Sickness” This is a big deal, in my opinion, and one thing that many people often overlook. The fact that they are getting sick probably means they are taxing their bodies to a great deal. And even more, they will probably continue to work while sick since they can’t stop their revenue stream for a case of the sniffles. Being proactive about staying healthy is pretty important, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

  7. says

    my current stressor is several clients are just horrible at communication- one of them has vanished with his site 3/4 done (already paid so I don’t know what is up there) another one waits about 2 days before replying to any emails and even then her reply is usually only half of what I needed to hear! And yet another one is emailing me 5 times a day with really stupid questions and issues.. LOL I have a big variety now!

  8. says

    @Eve I’ve had all of the same issues before. Read the post about handling difficult clients if you haven’t already.

    For the site, if they’ve already paid, and you’ve done your best to get in contact, maybe something’s come up on their end and they’re not even thinking of the site or even going online. If you have their number maybe give them a call just to verify.

    Your 2nd and 3rd sound like how one of my clients were…would take forever getting back to me on a project, but then when they did email/text/call they expected instant results, all the right answers and would contact me endlessly. Or…I would respond to their email question via email, and they’d ask the same question via text without reading my other response!

  9. says

    This is timely for me. About a week and a half ago I found myself unexpectedly without work, with nothing lined up and insufficient reserves. I’m dealing with the stress by keeping busy: working on side projects that had languished while I was working. For instance (to toot my own horn a bit) I’ve launched the Wide Teams blog and podcast for distributed teams. And today I’m going to start building an application I’ve had an idea for for a long time, with the goal of getting a first version out in 24 hours.

    I may not be able to bring money in instantly, but at least I can channel the fear and stress into building things which will benefit myself and others down the road.

  10. says

    Great list Laura! We all have to deal with such things at one time or another.

    I do have a great approach to number one though, I’ll always push for deadlines that are further in time then I really need, that way I can deliver before schedule most of the time and when I can’t it’s no big fuss!

  11. says

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences and tips about dealing with with stress.

    I can see that freelancers face this problem fairly frequently.

    Keep the ideas coming… :-)

  12. says

    A very accurate article and some good tips. I have just started colour coding my diary in an effort to become more organised. I use those highlighter pens and use a block of colour to highlight each entry, yellow for photo jobs, light blue for other work, orange for personal stuff, etc.

  13. says

    @Ashley HIll: I, too, am staring FT employment in the face. My biggest client will no longer outsource work — they are hiring someone to back up the full-time person they hired earlier this year. They’ve asked me to be this backup person. I think I’m going to have to take it just to pay the bills. I just finished remodeling my basement/office and am wondering if I did it for nothing???? But, as a single parent, responsibility comes first!

    Do NOT, however, give up your freelancing. I am not going to give up on mine!

  14. says

    This is a list of stress factors and not a list of ways for overcoming them. I guess for some it’s good to “visualize” these factors but otherwise everybody has its own way for dealing with stress. Also, if you are a stressed type person nothing will help you :)

  15. says

    I totally related to this post today. This morning started with the boys bickering and the phone ringing, client issues that were no fault of my own, but seem to come back to me. I kept pushing through, and now after taking a break I am rejuvenated and finishing my own tasks for the day this evening! Here’s hoping tomorrow goes better!

  16. says

    I agree 100% with these tips. It can be really stressful to work as a freelancer, but when we take the right steps, things get much better. Thank you for this advice – very helpful!

  17. says

    Stress has been a part of life with the fast paced life that people live nowadays, we should know how to deal with stress. It will make life easier for us. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, looking forward to read more.

  18. says

    My stress is in the rising vendor costs and reliability of vendors. Not every vendor comes out to what I expect, and sometimes things change midway, leading my project to drastically change or find another vendor. Now I’ve been using mostly referrals for vendors. I’d rather pay a bit more just to ensure I get things done on time.

    For administrative tasks, it’s hard to keep up at times but I think the right tools that one uses can help. For invoicing, I use Billing Boss which is free and it currently allows me to create unlimited quotes/invoices for unlimited customers. I can usually create invoices within a minute – making it less of a chore. Their advanced option allows me to send a payment option to my clients when I email them the invoice. Because I make it easier for my clients to pay, I find that they’re paying me quicker.

    Full Disclosure: This author has been compensated by Sage. I am their Social Media Consultant but I was using their product well before they contracted me. They found me when I sent them an email giving suggestions about Billing Boss!

  19. says

    “I’ve found that stress slows me down and makes me less efficient” – I quite agree with this.

    My most unpleasant stress is “Client conflict”
    First I try my all best but if still does not work then as a last resort had to close the project by keeping communication and answering their mail, even sometime by providing some suggestions what type of people they need in order to complete the unfinished project.

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