So, you're seeing all the posts about Mental Health today, but asking yourself: I'm a freelancer! I don't have any support for my mental health at work! What can I do?
We all have mental health - it's a reflection of how internal and external things are influencing our stress levels, our emotional wellbeing, our ability to cope with situations and get brilliant work done. Some days we'll be feeling fine, other days are harder - that's entirely human and natural.
But when you're self-employed, it can feel like you might not have anyone else who you can call upon when you're struggling, or the resources and tips and tricks you find on Google make suggestions like "Take a holiday" or "Speak to your manager for support". Speaking to family and friends, you can often get unhelpful responses like "Why don't you get a real job?" or "But you knew it was going to be irregular work". Or there are a whole bunch of things which only seem to affect us as freelancers - like overdue invoices, the feeling of feast/famine, or simply having a question with no-one around to ask or answer.
That's why Leapers exists - we recognised the gap in support for freelancers - 66% of freelancers don't know where to look for support for their mental health, and exist to provide a peer-support community, useful resources that help, and work with your clients to help them help you.
In the five years we've existed, we've supported over tens of thousands of people looking for help. Here are the top five recommendations for anyone who is self-employed, feeling like they're needing support today, or indeed, any day of the year.
1/ Working for yourself doesn't mean by yourself.
First of all - recognising that self-employment doesn't mean that you have to do everything by yourself. It can be a huge learning curve, uncovering a whole load of additional tasks and responsibilities running your own business - not only your craft skill, but additionally the accounting, marketing, legal, sales, admin, invoice chasing, project management, and juggling non-work-life too. It's a lot for one person, and you don't need to do everything on your own. Whilst you might not have employees or colleagues, there is a huge community of people who are willing to help out and support you.
2/ Build a support network
Start to find communities and cohorts of people who you can build supportive connections with. There are hundreds of wonderful communities, online and offline, who are focused towards self-employment, your own sector, or generally connecting and helping each other. Not every community is going to be right for you, so try joining a few and finding those which feel right. Invest time in creating those connections - just as you would have done in a job, you'll start to make relationships, and find people you can turn to for advice.
3/ Keep track of how you're feeling
Put time aside each day to ask yourself "How am I doing?" - just 15 minutes to reflect on how the day went, how you've been feeling, and what might be causing that feeling. Building up a picture of what has an influence on your emotional state and your work helps you identify the things you might want to do more of, and things that are getting in your way. Even just the habit of a brief reflection each day can really help you be more aware of your own mental health. Once you've started to build a picture of what is influencing your wellbeing, you're in a better position to put changes in place.
4/ Seek out advice and inputs from others on key topics
If you find you're struggling with certain issues, and they're causing you anxiety or concern - it's very likely that you're not alone in feeling this. Talk to other members in your community, and see how they approached the challenge. Within Leapers, for example, we have curated conversations on key topics that influence our members' mental health, and created resources on how to tackle or prevent them, such as late payments, feelings of imposter syndrome, financial anxiety, and isolation. You don't need to follow people's advice, but hearing a range of people talking on their experience and how they dealt with the issue can provide invaluable insight.
5/ Create your own Working Wellbeing Plan
Use a notebook to establish a number of healthy habits, behaviours, boundaries and targets to proactively invest in your own mental health. Just like going to the gym to keep yourself physically healthy, prevention is always better than dealing with crisis. Don't try and do too much at once, introduce one technique a month, perhaps - such as establishing better boundaries between work and non-work, or a WFH-commute. See investment in your own ways of working well just like doing your accounts - put aside an amount of time each week to maintain your wellbeing, and put yourself on your todo list.
If you're interested in connecting with fellow freelancers to see how they take care of their own wellbeing, join our free and inclusive support community at www.leapers.co/join