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Congrats on taking the next step in your careers, Meghan and Harry.
You’re joining over 5m people in your Kingdom who have also chosen to step outside of the legacy working practises of their previous employer, and look towards a new models of work.
I’m sure a bit part of the attraction was getting away from the office politics, and having a little more control over your own time - all great reasons to work independently, we agree.
However, you might not have considered that your mental health can take a hit when working for yourself. Employers do lots of great things for mental health for employees (your brother is helping out lots too), but now you’re self-employed, unfortunately, no-one will do this for you, so you’ll have to remember to prioritise working well.
I thought I’d offer up five things to think about, that often people who are moving into self-employment don’t consider before they announce it to the world (or their Dad or Gran):
It can be isolating - build up a support network. We can’t understate the importance of having people around you who have been there, done that and understand the experience - so it’s essential you build up a network of people you can talk to, get advice from, or just share when things aren’t going so well. Find communities which acts as a team for people without a team.
Put some good boundaries in place - it’s really easy to work all hours, responding to emails, client requests, always doing a little bit more, but if you’re not resting, protecting time for your young family, and balancing work with your other obligations, it can get on top of you. You’re allowed to say no to requests for your time and patronage.
Get out lots - don’t just work from your home / homes / commonwealth territories. Mix it up and work from different locations, find groups of others who are self-employed nearby and arrange a worktogether. You’ll also be drinking way more coffee now. Make sure you’re making good use of your coffee loyalty cards, and don’t forget to ask someone to watch your laptop when you nip to the loo.
Be aware of your stressors - keep a journal to understand the highs and the lows, so you can see what causes you stress, and build resilience against the things which worry you. Self-employed stress comes from three directions: emotions [how you’re feeling about things], behaviours [how you’re working] and external [who you’re working with]. Unfortunately, you can’t control how those you’re working with behave - there’s lots of client ghosting, projects getting pushed back, and don’t get me started on late payments…. But we’re doing what we can to make positive interventions on all three types of the self-employment stressors.
Celebrate the little wins - Make sure you’re keeping track of all the things you get done, even silly small things like taking a lunch break or getting your tax return done (there’s a deadline on January 31st for self-assessment payments, remember!) - some days, it might seem like you’re not getting very much done at all, perhaps the phone isn’t ringing, there’s a sudden lull in how much of your skill set is needed, or just it’s holiday season, so being in the habit of looking back and seeing you’re still being productive, even if its not paying work, is a good habit. And when you’re really flying - share it with pride and joy, and we’ll all celebrate with you.
Mental Health for the self-employed is something which isn’t getting much attention yet. We’re trying to do the very best to create a community of support; tangible things that help; and work with those who hire freelancers to help them to work well together - but we’ve got a long way to go.
Working independently can be amazing - just make sure you’re looking after yourselves, and if you need someone to talk to come say hello at leapers.co
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