To the outside world, freelancing can seem like a fairly stress-free career option. After all, you avoid the sweaty scrum of the daily commute, can choose your hours, work from wherever you want, and you don’t need to deal with petty office politics – sounds like bliss, right? But, as any freelancer will know, setting up on your own comes with a whole load of new stresses and strains to contend with.
Working solo means that if anything does go wrong, all the pressure and fall-out comes down on you - and you alone. With no colleagues to look out for you, you need to learn how to look out for yourself. That means recognising when things are getting too much and developing your own tactics for keeping that dreaded stress in check.
Here are a few ways of the biggest anxiety triggers for freelancers and how to avoid them:
- Too much work: ‘It’s a good problem to have’, or so people will tell you. But when you’ve said ‘yes’ to one (or two… or three) too many projects, it usually doesn’t feel that way. Concerns of having too little work can lead many freelancers to agree to everything that comes their way, leaving them overworked and ultimately, not delivering their best. How do you overcome it? Well it’s simple really - learn to say ‘no’ more often! It might be painful the first couple of times, but you’ll soon get used to it. And your stress levels will thank you for it.
- Not enough work: While too much work is stressful, not enough is equally, if not more, traumatic. There’s nothing worse than that deep fear of financial insecurity and worrying if you’ll be able to pay the bills at the end of the month. For many freelancers, this is the worst anxiety of the lot, particularly when you’re starting out and haven’t yet built up a steady pipeline of clients. So, what can you do to keep it at bay? There are lots of ways you can give yourself increased security as a freelancer, but perhaps the most important is to always have a rainy-day fund in place, so you have a bit of breathing space during those dry months – or when clients are slow at paying.
- Technology disasters: There are few things more stressful than having a computer malfunction when you’re on a deadline or being left disconnected from client emails by a lost laptop or stolen phone. Suddenly your entire business and livelihood comes to a halt, and you’re left out of pocket, not only from replacing your gadget, but also from the time spent doing so. Thankfully, one simple way of protecting yourself from this nightmare-inducing scenario is to invest in contents and portable equipment insurance. You’ll have your kit replaced within 24 hours, stress-free and with minimal time lost for your business.
- Unpaid invoices: Ahh, the scourge of freelancers everywhere. You’ve poured your heart and soul into a project, only to wait weeks, or even months, to get paid, during which time you waste your precious time chasing to no avail. Infuriating. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this one, however it helps enormously to agree payment terms before starting work, and by working through a platform like The Work Crowd, so they can help fight your corner. Then a final back up, if things get nasty, is to have professional indemnity insurance in place, which covers the costs of defending your business, if your client is withholding payment because of their dissatisfaction of your service, or some other dispute.
- Keeping up with your admin and taxes: Urgh, the dreaded admin. From sending and chasing invoices, to tracking your expenses, and filling out your tax return at the end of the year – it feels never-ending. Unfortunately, extra admin is one of the big prices that freelancers pay for all that freedom and flexibility, but you don’t have to let it take over your life. Our big tip: invest in an accountant. And ideally one who provide you with an online bookkeeping system, where you can easily track your expenses and send invoices. Yes, it will be a bit of an outlay every month, but it’s more than worth it for the time – and stress - you save.
- Client disputes: Clients can be unpredictable. Sometimes it’s plain sailing. Sometimes, not. Briefs can change halfway through the project, misunderstandings can happen. And if a client claims that you haven’t delivered what you promised, or worse that you’ve caused damage to their business in some way, then you’re in for a world of stress. Client disputes aren’t fun – particularly when you haven’t done anything wrong. And, while you can’t rid the world of difficult clients, you can prepare for them, by taking out professional indemnity insurance, which will cover any legal or compensation costs in the event of a client dispute.
Stress can be a slippery slope. Get into bad habits and things can spiral out of control very quickly, affecting your physical and mental wellbeing, and your ability to perform in your career. So, it makes sense to put a few safety nets in place, to ensure you can keep doing, and loving, what you do best.