Welcome to my new blog series all about mental health and running a freelance business! Throughout the next few months I will be hosting interviews with my favourite bloggers where they share their journeys running a business and maintaining their mental health in the process. These interviews will be released every two weeks until the foreseeable future and will have the same sets of questions until I think it’s necessary to switch them up. I am incredibly excited to share these stories and I hope they will benefit anyone else struggling with a similar journey.
1) How has your mental health affected they way you approach your job/ career?
Several years back, I was working for a company that seriously affected my mental health in an extremely negative way. Because this massive decline was sourced in their managerial staff, I not only felt terrified to re-enter a new company where this could happen to me once again, but I was also extremely put off by the idea of letting a business (potentially run by people who were just as awful as those in my previous position) be in charge of my future financial stability. It just didn’t seem like a right fit for me anymore.
With the reassurance from my parents that I’m young and have the time to build up my own business, I decided to take the plunge and begin working as a freelancer by diving head first into this endeavour to achieve my goals. Though it took quite a bit of time to recuperate from the trauma of my last job and build up my business into something I can be truly proud of, I finally feel like I’m on my feet again and working toward something that will ultimately lead to my genuine happiness and peace of mind.
2) What do you like and dislike about being a freelancer?
Hands down, my favourite part about being a freelancer is my ability to be my own boss. As mentioned previously, working for a company in the past had seriously affected my mental health in a negative way, causing major upset in my view of myself, the world around me, and my overall perspective on what a working environment should and should not entail.
That being said, there are other perks to being a freelancer that I absolutely thrive off of: the ability to work my own hours, to take on as many or as few clients as I want, to set my own rates, and to be able to work from wherever I please (both at home in Toronto and while travelling abroad).
Naturally, there are some downfalls to being a freelancer, just as there are with any ‘typical’ job. Personally, some things I dislike about this career path include financial inconsistency when there are slumps in client activity, experiencing a lack of creative flow or writer’s block, or investing time without gaining a financial return (in the early stages of launching your freelancing career, that is). Of course, there are also instances where clients do not appreciate the work and dedication that you invest into a project, but this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the work that you produced, more than it does with their inability to be pleased; you have to learn to discern when it’s actually your fault and when it’s coming from someone who can never be made happy. However, despite these shortcomings, I still prefer freelancing over working for someone else who has the reins of both my life and career.
3) During a particularly stressful week what do you find to be the best way to recharge and to realign your mental health?
I have two vastly different ways to realign and recharge, which I decide on based on the way that I feel in the moment. The first way is completely relaxing and removing myself from my workspace: a candlelit bath with a softly scented bath bomb and a quiet track of classical music playing in the background, followed by a nap with my diffuser airing out my bedroom with an essential oil of my choosing.
The second option is blasting music from either my laptop or iHome while singing at the top of my lungs and dancing around the kitchen. True story, but the bottom line is that your mental health needs to be a priority, not a one-off luxury.
4) What would you want other new freelancers to know about the process, whether good or bad?
Freelancing takes a lot of dedication, hard work, time management skills, and patience in order to succeed. On the other hand, you have to be aware of when you need to take breaks, be it short washroom or snack breaks, or taking a personal day to enjoy time with your friends or family. While it can be easy to slack off if you lack concentration or time management skills, it can be equally difficult to learn when to pause and take time for yourself once you’re on a roll with your workload. However, you need to learn this critical skill in order to avoid burnout and potential loss of creativity and motivation down the road.
5) How do you maintain your motivation when you feel like your journey isn’t going according to plan? (I.e. your dream clients aren’t interested, you don’t want to compromise on the industry you’re interested in only for money, etc.)
Oftentimes, our journey doesn't pan out 100% how we felt that it would when we first started brainstorming, or even when we began taking the first steps toward making that idea into a manifested reality. Thankfully, I've spoken to enough freelancers to understand that it almost never goes completely according to plan. With this in mind, it's important to reassess your process as a whole and determine which aspects need to be tweaked; you don't necessarily have to alter your goal (i.e., the clients that you're interested in working with, the industry that you're working in, and so forth), but rather analyze the approach that you're taking in order to reach that end goal. It may take something as simple as rewording your client pitch, switching the channels of where you're reaching out to potential clients (i.e., from emailing to LinkedIn), or possibly investing in a marketing assistant or head hunter to help you find the perfect people or businesses to work with.
Don't let the small hiccups discourage you — take them as an opportunity to improve yourself as a business owner and your company as a whole.
6) How do you balance the pressures of social media with your personal goals and image offline?
I’ll admit that I often fall prey to the desire to fit in with a certain ‘social media image’ that countless influencers have us believe are true. The feeling that the perfect significant other, the perfect body, the perfect house are seemingly just around the corner, yet also so incredibly unattainable, are all repercussions of investing too much thought, time, and energy into social media. Although it’s nice to dream and even to enjoy looking at these ‘dream life’ images plastered across the platforms we use on the daily, it’s crucial to acknowledge that nobody’s life is perfect, and that these imperfections are actually what keep our lives so interesting and meaningful.
The bottom line is that we all must be aware that the life people portray on Instagram, Facebook, and so forth — they’re the highlights of their lives, not their lives in their entirety. If you wouldn’t necessarily share all the painful, imperfect, and nitty-gritty aspects of your everyday life on social media, you can’t expect that other people will be completely honest about all areas of their life, either. Sometimes it’s important to step back and leave your social media accounts untouched for a while. I recently stopped posting on my travel-themed Instagram account (@WanderousAffair) for several months in order to go on a few trips and enjoy my time with friends and family, instead of consuming my day with other people’s lives… people who I don’t even know personally!
7) Do you have any advice for when you go through slumps with your creativity or motivation?
Take a short break. Even if you have to remove yourself from your workspace for a day or two in order to reset your mind, it’s well worth it. Sometimes, it does more harm than good to force yourself into trying to be creative instead of taking time for yourself before re-entering your office with a fresh mindset. It also helps to keep your end goal for your business in sight, whatever that ‘end goal’ may be for you, personally.
8) At this point in your freelance journey, is there anything you would have done differently when starting out?
Although I’m loving the personal journey that I’m currently on and am happy with the direction in which things are currently going for me, I wish that in the beginning of this freelancing adventure of mine, I had spoken to more people who have been freelancing as a living. The truth of the matter is that you can never have solid enough advice to apply to the real world, especially when it comes to your financial future.
The most important thing I would have done more diligently is investing more money into stocks, instead of perhaps less important things for my business (i.e., buying 5000 business cards instead of 500 or 1000 to start off with, or promotional materials for Wanderous Affair that I still have not distributed as planned). Unfortunately, there is not one single, specific solution that can work for each and every freelancing business, because not only do the businesses themselves differ, but the brilliant minds and personalities backing them vary, too.
Most importantly, follow your gut, invest your money well, and enjoy the process of bringing your beautiful brainchild to life.