Working as a freelance copywriter certainly comes with its perks. Arguably, I have the freedom to go where I want, when I want, and then work according to my own hours. However, in the interest of maintaining good working relationships, I operate under a normal working schedule that suits my clients’ needs and mine. My setup is now highly conducive to freelancer wellbeing.
But, that hasn’t always been the case.
When I first started working as a copywriter in Wales eight years ago, I let my work dominate me. Freelancer wellbeing wasn’t on my radar, especially when I was writing for low pay.
Today, I recognise that freelancer wellbeing is the cornerstone of excellent service delivery. If this is an area you suffer with, here are some ways to tackle the common lifestyle challenges freelance copywriters can face:
One of the biggest threats to freelancer wellbeing: social isolation
Although working as a freelancer gives you the opportunity to maintain your own schedule, it’s important to not underestimate the risks of social isolation. Transitioning from an office environment to working from home feels fantastic at first. Once the perks of a hermit existence wear off, however, social isolation soon sets in.
Around 40% of self-employed persons confess to feeling lonely after embarking on life as their own boss. Those long chats by the water cooler, imprompteu arguments, and occasional debates become a thing of the past.
In the interest of promoting freelancer wellbeing, I have some suggestions for reducing social isolation:
Consider co-working or sharing an office
Okay, so if you do consider co-working or sharing an office, it’s worth noting that you’ll sacrifice the perks that come with solitude. However, renting and sharing an office space for one or two days a week does promote social interaction. Providing your budget as a freelancer allows for it, it’s also an excellent way to generate a professional setting where clients can visit you.
If you’re crazy enough to invite others into your home, consider sharing your home office. Think of it like having a lodger-cum-worker. At present, I’m on a one-woman mission to acquire my own shipping container office. For now, I have several other expenses to meet.
Promote freelancer wellbeing by joining a network
Have you considered joining a freelancer network? I’m a member of ProCopywriters, and my aim is to attend one or two of the organisation’s events. Sure, the occasional networking opportunity won’t have a huge impact on reducing social isolation. But I will make some progress, and I may find some clients.
Set friend meetup goals
Do you have friends? Well, now’s the time to start paying them some attention. Aim to see a friend once a week or once every fortnight. Evidence shows that reducing social isolation enhances your immune system and reduces your risk of chronic disease. Rather than seeing your friend meetings as a waste of time, view them as an opportunity to invest in your long-term wellbeing.
Continue to respond to messages, but remain productive
Earlier this week I blogged about how to stay productive. In that blog, I acknowledged that responding to messages as and when they arise is a productivity killer.
I’ll happily stand by that statement. I’ll also admit that online interactions shouldn’t substitute face-to-face ones in their entirety. However, if someone is giving you a quick hello, chat with them. Don’t shut the outside world off entirely, otherwise, you may feel disconnected.
As a freelance copywriter, it’s difficult to avoid working long hours
When I first started work as a freelance copywriter, I found it incredibly difficult to avoid working long hours. This was due to a host of reasons:
- Low pay
- Taking on too much work
- Not staying organised
- Not getting enough sleep
- Not maintaining my happiness in other areas of my life
Starting life as a freelancer can become overwhelming. When you leap from the structured nature of a workforce with a boss into the world of managing your own time, everything can soon feel chaotic. As such, it’s important to find ways to remain productive from the beginning.
Here are three of my favourite tips for avoiding long hours as a freelancer:
Don’t apply for/accept every gig you see
One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of working as a freelance copywriter is potentially losing a client. When that happens, my cosy life as a copywriter in Wales can soon become anxiety-ridden. This was worse eight years ago, as I didn’t have a portfolio to speak of and so I felt the need to acquire multiple ‘eggs.’
While it’s pragmatic to have a handful of clients at any one time throughout your freelancing career, don’t apply for every gig that comes your way. Avoid gig overload by marketing yourself consistently. As many a professional copywriter will tell you, it’s consistent marketing that stops you from descending into a panic if a client runs for the hills.
Stop with the procrastination
Trust me when I say that I am partial to a spot of procrastination myself. Today was an excellent case in point. In a bid to find something to do while taking a break from writing, I decided I was going to remove mould from my timber decking.
While this was a noble quest (the timber decking is truly gross at the moment), there were 101 other things that needed doing. Both around the house and with my freelance business. I’m committed to meeting deadlines and always do so without fail. But, that doesn’t mean that procrastination doesn’t exist in my world.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to limit my procrastination efforts. Together with my partner, we now refer to our mutual procrastination sessions as ‘prowling,’ as we’re generally looking for just about anything else to do. Despite our renaming of the activity, neither of us wants to let it go out of hand. Today, while writing content for Express Virtual Meetings, I read about an astonishing statistic:
It takes us five minutes to get back on track when we procrastinate
So, if your working hours feel a little too long, consider whether you’re falling into a procrastination spiral.
Poor sleep when you’re a freelance copywriter
When I started this blog a few weeks ago I enthusiastically wrote about how to manage the working day when you haven’t slept much. Depending on what else is happening in my life, sleep is either my best friend or incredibly elusive.
If my ongoing projects are expansive and diverse, my brain is usually buzzing when bedtime comes around. It’s not because of anxiety; I’m trying to create an array of ways to produce fresh content, delight my clients, and turn new SEO tricks.
Oh, and occasionally I have sold something to myself. Seriously. A few months ago I worked on a shipping container customization project and now I am on a one-woman mission to own one myself. Hello, future garden office, I can’t wait to meet you.
With one UK survey suggesting that around 30% of people suffer from severe sleep deprivation, it’s safe to assume plenty of freelancers are suffering too. If you are, there are a few ways to address the issue:
Over the counter sleep remedies as a temporary solution
While I would never push the use of benzodiazepines (your brain adapts to them fairly rapidly), it is okay to reach for temporary over the counter sleep remedies. Some contain valerian. According to one study, 89% of people experience a better night’s sleep when they take natural sleeping aids that contain the herb.
Others are strong antihistamines that GPs will offer prescribe when someone is suffering from insomnia. They’re non-addictive, but they will leave you feeling a tad sleepy the next day. Their commercial name is Phenergan, and my God do they pack a punch.
Use either sleep aid to temporarily regain your sanity while you work on my next point: sleep hygiene.
Keep a check on your sleep hygiene
Whenever I used to visit my GP begging for sleeping tablets I would always be given a sleep hygiene sheet. Sometimes they would give me the benzos, but the sleep hygiene sheet was always there.
What is sleep hygiene? It’s creating an environment and routine that are conducive to sleep. Some of the rules include rising and going to bed at the same time. Others focus on no electronics in the bedroom whatsoever. Exercise is a part of it, as is no caffeine after a certain point in the day. If you’re yet to try it, print off this guide and see how your life improves.
Give some serious thought to adjusting your bedtime
I know this one might seem as though it’s a part of the sleep hygiene process, but hear me out. When I was first battling with insomnia, I stumbled across a technique that involves using sleep restriction. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s a highly effective technique for getting a decent night’s sleep as opposed to one that’s patchy.
Rather than going to bed at 10pm and rolling around for hours trying to fall asleep, before eventually waking at 1, 3, and 5, then rising and feeling like rubbish, try going to bed seriously late and getting up early. At present, I’ll go to bed at 11pm (okay, so that isn’t seriously late) and get up at 4.30am. While that’s only 5.5 hours of sleep, there are studies supporting the idea that this approach allows us to sleep all the way through the night and move through the different phases of sleep, as our bodies expect us to do. As a result, we spend more time in the restful sleep period, and less time confusing our brains with patchy patterns.
Working as a freelancer and living a sedentary lifestyle, then never stepping outside for some sunshine
Insisting on living a sedentary lifestyle often goes hand-in-glove with poor sleep. Your increasing insomnia aside, it’s a fast track to diabetes, poor cardiovascular health, and naff muscle tone. In one quite recent study, it was found that those who rise from their desks periodically are less likely to develop insulin resistance. As a result, they’re also less likely to encounter the issues I just listed.
As a freelance copywriter in Wales, I understand your pain when it comes to the whole sedentary lifestyle thing. I mean, you spend all day sitting on your sofa or at your desk writing. Before you know it, the hours involved in pouring your intellect into someone else’s website allow free time to slip through your busy fingers.
Occupational hazards aside, that doesn’t change the harms of sitting on your derriere all day. Here are three ways to combat your sedentary lifestyle as a freelancer:
Get a smartwatch that tells you to move around
Once again, I’m going to delve into an anecdote that involves a GP I worked with. Said GP recognised that his working day was largely sedentary, so he purchased a smartwatch that would buzz when he needed to get up and move around. If the smartwatch buzzed in the midst of a consultation, he used it as a prompt to make his next toilet visit at the other side of the building.
Grab a decent gym membership and force yourself into daily classes
As a newly dedicated Nuffield Health member, I have downloaded the app so that I can force myself into an array of classes that break up the day. Alongside choosing one class per day, I go for a swim, throw myself into the hydro pool to soothe my muscles, and then spend some time in the steam room. It takes two hours out of my day, but my god is it beautifully luxurious. It also ensures that I leave the house. The long-term well-being benefits mean that I will be a more productive freelancer.
Find a new outdoor activity
If the gym doesn’t appeal to you as much as it does me, try and find an outdoor activity instead. Lately, I have been exploring the following for a number of reasons:
- Foraging; I am going to write a post about this, eventually. Recently, while lurking on Mumsnet, I saw a post suggesting that we could overcome food poverty with foraging. So, I have made it my mission to try and forage each day. Mushrooms are kind of scary, so every single one that I have found has subsequently made it into my bin. Also, I highly doubt that foraging is the answer to resolving food poverty.
- Rockhounding; In a bid to build a wildflower rock garden, I have decided that I am going to try rockhounding. Okay, so my version of rockhounding is very lax compared to others. I really do need to take a class, because I’m essentially just grabbing pebbles and stones from local beaches. Oh, and purchasing rainbow cornish rocks. But, it’s a hobby I’m dying to explore further.
- Exploring old castles; Most countries in Europe are home to a litany of castles. Here in Wales, Cadw protects many of ours and grants access to some of them. In much of the UK, the National Trust plays an important role. Some are on public land, while others belong to private owners. Aside from the scenarios that involve trespassing, walking around castles that have seen better days is refreshing in a strange way, especially when they’re exposed to the elements. One of my favourites is Pennard Castle, which overlooks a beach.
Tackling anxiety as a freelance copywriter
Anxiety is a state of mind that comes with almost every job. When I worked as cabin crew, I would drive down the M4 wondering if the brandy I forgot to give to a business class passenger would result in a complaint. Afterward, while working as a physician associate, I often panicked about the hostile environment that’s prevalent throughout the NHS.
As a copywriter who has been in the game for eight years, I have managed to find ways to dissipate my anxiety. But, that doesn’t mean it fails to make a repeat appearance from time-to-time. If a client gives poor feedback, I can spiral into a mindset where I feel as though I have suddenly lost all of my writing prowess and will lose my high earning potential and live a mediocre life.
It’s worth acknowledging that you can’t keep anxiety at bay entirely. In the right form, it’s an excellent motivator, as it usually features the hormones that allow us to make excellent choices when faced with a challenge. But, you do need some ways to tackle it before it starts to control you:
Market yourself mercilessly as a freelance copywriter
I have said this a thousand times and I am happy to say it a thousand times more: never assume that the amazing income you have now will last forever if it’s coming from only one client. Market yourself mercilessly so that you will have no problems finding new clients if a project falls through. Creating an online presence through a blog, by guest posting, and by signing up to sites where people will help with your marketing will act as a part of your safety net.
Create a little nest egg with savings
The next part of your safety net is creating a nest egg that features savings. Just like Monica’s dad on F.R.I.E.N.D.S would tell her, around 15% of your earnings should hit a savings account. Here in the UK, we have ISAs that our latest government have generously increased in terms of allowances. Once you max yours out, build an investment portfolio, add to your pension, and use another savings account with a high-interest rate (or as high as you can manage in the current climate). If you’re feeling brave, look at property auctions and start getting yourself onto the ladder for a cut-cost price.
Engage in meditation and self-help
Your mental wellbeing is your responsibility. Yes, external factors will come along and trample on it occasionally. However, like your body, your mind is something you need to work on and treat well if it’s going to help you become the best freelancer you can be. According to one study from Harvard University, meditation is more effective than many of the frontline responses to anxiety and depression, such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. While such pharmaceutical adjuncts can get you through a tough time, they’re only there to support you while you develop great coping mechanisms.
There we have it. My five tips for promoting better freelancer wellbeing. If you have suggestions of your own, please throw them into the comments section.
Honesty notice: This post, like all of my other posts, contains affiliate links. Nothing is sponsored, but I do link to the products that I have found useful. I’m hoping that you find them useful too!