04 Nov Self-Care for the Self-Employed
You’d think it would be easy, wouldn’t you? Surely a huge perk of becoming your own boss means that you manage your own time, right? Sure – that is a huge advantage, especially for someone like me who is a self-starter and driven by my own motivation and desires. But once you’ve added to the mix a total passion for what you do, the inability to know when to take a break and the perpetual need to KEEP WORKING because you have bills to pay, it suddenly becomes a little more challenging to look after yourself. If you work from home, it can be even more tricky to identify when you need to ‘clock off’. For me, it’s usually when my kids get home because there’s no way I can focus on creating knock-out content with those two adorable little wrecking balls around! If you’re self-employed, do you put limitations or forced restrictions on yourself and your work day, or do you just crack on and use every second of every day to ensure you can bill for the entire time you’ve been sat at your desk?
Until fairly recently, I represented the latter. I had been taking on new clients and was determined to continue to provide content for them every week, like a carousel, calling upon my creative writing and image creation skills until I realised they’d run dry (or close to). I had a holiday coming up, which I was welcoming with open arms. It was while I was on that holiday that I realised things needed to change and that my business model needed an overhaul. So as well as planning my day like a BOSS, I also now outsource some social media content creation to excellent freelancers in my network (always pre-agreed with the client, of course!). In the last few months I have taken on 2 incredibly talented freelancers who are new to content writing but who display amazing skill in adopting a client’s tone of voice, with a good mix of call-to-action posts and other wider information posts. It has given me the opportunity to upscale my service offering to more clients leaving me to run and grow the business and head up client liaison. It’s really been a huge turning point for me – the realisation that I don’t have to do it all!
The other turning point for me in terms of self care was learning the value of taking a day off from time to time. Or even just an afternoon! I work incredibly hard and therefore need the time to rest and recharge my batteries. How am I able to continue delivering a top-notch service to my clients if I’m burnt out? Recently I’ve taken a spa day, taken my toddler out for the day (which is actually harder than working, but the break was well needed nonetheless!), and taken the odd afternoon off to go for a bike ride and visit friends and family. I leave my laptop at home most of the time – although I can be quite disciplined even if it’s in my posession.
Other ways in which I practise self care involve more holistic approaches. I can’t live without mediation, and I practise it on a daily basis. I take breaks from my desk every 90 minutes; I can do something as simple as making a cup of tea, sit in another room and practise breathing exercises, meditate or do yoga or a weights session. The school run also offers a welcome break mid afternoon, and I use it to my advantage and walk where possible. I see a personal trainer and have a business coaching session once a week, and I also try and seek out new places to work from a couple of times a month. For example – the Thames Lido in Reading on Napier Road. You can often see me in there guzzling their outstanding coffee and taking a dip in the perfect Lido water. I have also hosted client meetings there; it’s nice and central and offers a good service. If you’re peckish, their tapas is delicious!
I live in the country, yet Reading is just a 10 minute drive away. I make sure I get the best of both worlds and submerge myself in nature when I’m at home and get my urban fix when I work in town. I’m also based in the city (Bank) once a month and work from a client’s office there which helps breaks up the week. All these things really help keep the brain active and efficient. For me, variety is everything. I simply could not go back to working in the same office every day, sitting at the same desk, speaking to the same people. I was very fortunate to work with some talented and super friendly people throughout my career, but I also found the sensory overload of full-time office based work took its toll on my mental health. I’m so much happier working mainly from home, surrounded by my favourite things, working under my own steam. And what do happy content creators produce? That’s right! Dazzling content!!
There’s a lot more to exercising self-care than the points I’ve written about above. I’ve been in the freelancing game a reasonably long time now, and I’ve seen (and experienced personally) many ‘syndromes’, behaviours and actions against ourselves that can be detrimental to our work. Imposter syndrome is a real issue; the constant concern that you don’t quite measure up to other freelancers in your field, that you shouldn’t be offering these services because there are more talented and experienced freelancers out there and you should just give up. I get the odd pang of it every now and again, but I have effective practises in place to ensure those feelings don’t take over. The simple act of being kind to yourself has also enabled a huge shift in my wellbeing. A couple of years ago, I watched the Disney remake of Cinderella. Her running motto throughout the movie, inspired by her mother’s dying words was ‘Have courage and be kind’. I’m not one to be moved by Hollywood, but those words really resonated with me. I have the courage to know that I am here for a good reason, doing the job I do, and to be kind to others – always, but also to myself. I actively try not to say anything either out loud or in my head about myself that I wouldn’t say about a dear friend. It’s really powerful stuff! Check out the clip from the movie here, it brings a tear to my eye every time!
What do you do to exercise self care, whether you’re self-employed or not? I’d be really interested to know. It’s an area I’d like to learn more about. After all, I am so lucky to be doing a job that I love and that I am passionate about. Anyone who finds themselves in the same position as me will understand how difficult it is to enforce breaks! Please leave any comments below, I look forward to hearing your stories!
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