Freedom and flexibility are two attributes of the freelance lifestyle, and we usually view them as positives. But to paraphrase a famous saying, with great freedom and great flexibility comes great responsibility – because you’re the only one responsible for, and to, yourself.

So here are our four ways to keep yourself on the right track, both physically and mentally.

Work Smarter

Take some time to identify the things that cause you stress or boredom, and those things that hamper your productivity. Aim to increase your job satisfaction, reduce your stress and earn more money for fewer hours of work, giving you more time to relax.
Consider:

  • letting go of persistently late-paying clients or those who cause you stress
  • moving away from humdrum work and focusing on winning work that you find more stimulating and enjoyable
  • reviewing your rates, which should increase regularly, just as your costs do
  • automating or outsourcing time-consuming tasks such as social media posts, book-keeping, invoice tracking and tax returns. Cloud accounting packages such as Pandle and social media management platforms like Hootsuite can save you time and stress.

Work Healthier

If you work alone, there’s nobody to see you take a chocolate break every day or knock back a glass of wine of two at the end of each day. Even modest amounts of alcohol have now been linked with several cancers and men are now advised to stay under the same 14 unit per week limit as women – a limit that has now had the word ‘safe’ removed.

There’s also nobody to remind you that you should get up and move regularly – research has shown that even if you exercise regularly, prolonged sitting could be as bad for your long-term health as smoking. The Hourglass timer for Windows is a great app for timing your work sessions and reminding you it’s time for a break (and a drink; staying hydrated is essential for good health).
Make sure that your working environment promotes your health rather than damages it, too.

If you’re working at a computer for much of your day, you should have a comfy chair that encourages good posture and a monitor at eye height. You can find more tips on healthy working practices here.
As a freelancer, you need to be your own health monitor – and that includes going to the doctor when you need to, rather than ignoring illnesses because of approaching deadlines!

Get Your Work/Life Balance Right

However much you love your work, you should work to live, not live to work. Make this the year you look critically at how you use and divide your time, and change things for the better. Remember the ‘free’ in freelance? You have the freedom to work the way you want to, when you want to – and in some cases, where you want to – so make the most of it!

Try to work when you’re most productive and least likely to be interrupted, and use other periods for catching up on domestic chores or exercise etc. When you’re planning and pitching your work, always factor in a little extra time before you fix a completion date. You need time for family, friends, unexpected events and the other commitments in your life, and the flexibility to take a day off sick when you really need it.

Banish the Loneliness of the Long-Distance Freelancer

Freelancing can be lonely, and loneliness can impact your mental and physical health more than you might think. So, make the effort to form connections with other people – particularly other freelancers who will understand the demands of your lifestyle.

Social media and internet forums can be great places to interact with others, but try to have face-to-face interactions too. There may be local groups or networks that you can join, offering you the chance to be sociable, access support and maybe, as a bonus, make useful business connections too. Meeting friends for coffee or lunch can break up the monotony of a week spent by yourself.

If you know you’ve got into bad habits, make this the year you tackle them. Use the freedom and flexibility of freelancing to make you more healthy – not less!