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Getting started as a freelancer? This is how to keep your stress levels under control!

You are your own boss, choose your own assignments and make your own decision about when and when not to work. These are some of the great advantages of working on a self-employed basis. But as a freelancer, you also face a lot of challenges and those can be quite stressful. With these tips, you can easily keep your stress levels under control.

Bright Plus

5 min. reading time

The challenges of freelancing

Freedom. For many freelancers, this is the greatest bonus of being self-employed. It’s clear to see why this is the case, but being your own boss also means that all of the responsibility rests on your shoulders. There is no employer to pay your salary every month, no one to follow up on deadlines with you, and no colleagues who can step in if you have a bad day.

 Everyone experiences stress at times, but as a freelancer you have to carry out tasks that you just don't have to worry about as an employee with a permanent contract. Think about the fact you have to manage your own bookkeeping, organize your own workspace, plan your schedule and lots more.

In addition, you also miss out on a number of benefits. You don't have paid vacations or paid public holidays, and the regulations regarding sick leave are more complex. Those disadvantages can make you feel stressed and under pressure. Fortunately, you can try and mitigate them by following these hints and tips.

Build in structure

Everything is allowed, nothing is required. That may sound great, but it is rare to find people who can really function well without any kind of structure. People love routine and they do well when they have a solid foundation. Work out for yourself what things are stressing you out right now, and what you are doing to mitigate them. For example, you can...

  • Create a schedule for yourself.
    • On what days do you work, on what days do you do your accounting, billing, administration, finding new customers? When do you build in time for leisure, appointments, hobbies, events, networking?
  • Create a schedule for your client:
    • When do you work, when do you have breaks, when are you available?
  • Create a vacation schedule:
    • When do you take a vacation? How do you bridge that period financially?
  • Create a list of deadlines:
    • What assignments do you currently have underway? When should these be completed?
  • Keep a performance sheet up-to-date:
    • When did you work for which client? How much time did you spend on an assignment?

Ask for feedback

In a traditional work situation, employees receive feedback from their supervisor. This is often done during annual review meetings. If you are your own boss, then no one automatically sits down and goes through that process with you.

You can therefore explicitly ask for feedback from your clients. Feedback is breakfast for champions: it is the best and fastest way to learn and grow in the future.

 To process feedback as efficiently as possible, follow 3 steps. The 3 A’s when it comes to receiving feedback are....

  • Acknowledge
    • Put yourself in your client's shoes and listen carefully. Summarize the feedback you receive for yourself and ask questions if something is not clear.
  • Appreciate
    • Feedback – whether positive or constructive – is always given with good intentions. Acknowledge your client's intentions and thank him or her for their helpful contribution.
  • Assess
    • Let the feedback sink in and then decide what you want to do with it. What do you want to take away with you? What did you learn from it? How will you apply this feedback in the future?

Learn to say ‘no’

As a freelancer, you decide which freelance assignments to take on. This means you can say “no” as well as “yes”. Taking on too much – especially for those freelancers who are starting out – is a common pitfall. They worry that they will lose clients if they refuse an assignment or that they will miss out on income that they will need if things quieten down later on.

In the short term, taking on (too) many assignments may give you a sense of security, but in the long run it is counterproductive. You become overworked and can no longer meet your own quality requirements or those of your client. It is therefore very important that you learn to say “no” at the right time and in the right way.

Switch off

In our modern business world, finding a good work-life balance is a challenge for everyone. Because you don't have an imposed hourly schedule as a freelancer – the more you work, the more you earn and you can frequently work from home – it's sometimes even harder to shut the door on work. However, having time to rest and switch off from it all are essential. Build them in by..

  • Consciously take breaks.
    • Take a real lunch break away from your workplace each day, build in regular break times and decide in advance the hours you are going to work that day.
  • Consciously plan vacations.
    • Take a proper vacation on a regular basis and completely switch off from work. Remember your vacation plans when taking on assignments. Is there a possibility you won't be able to finish a project before your vacation? Then it's best not to take on the assignment.
  • Set up a workspace.
    • Set up a proper workspace at home. This space is only to be used for working, so at the end of your workday you can literally and figuratively shut the door behind you. You can also choose to regularly work in a co-working space. At the end of the day, you can therefore mentally and physically leave your workplace and go home.
  • Make sure you disconnect digitally
    • Determine in advance the times during which you will and will not be available, and share this information with your clients. An urgent phone call can be made, but don't make it a habit to be constantly accessible. Like any organization, you are also entitled to “office hours”.

Take advice

You may be independent, but that doesn't mean you are alone. Need support? Even as a freelancer, you can count on others. For example, you can enlist the help of an accountant, a mental coach or an HR service provider such as Bright Plus who will work with you to find new and exciting clients.