The mental struggles of freelancing (and how to overcome them)

The mental struggles of freelancing

Stressed. Lonely. Anxious. Depressed. It doesn’t exactly sound like the freelancing dream. But for many freelancers it’s the reality of going self-employed.

According to a recent survey, 59% of freelancers say they suffer from work-related anxiety, 56% suffer from depression as a result of their job, and 62% say they feel stressed due to work.

The study, conducted by office stationery and furniture suppliers Viking, compared these results to office-based workers and found that less than one in three (30%) said they suffer with depression and just 55% feel stressed.

So why are so many freelancers experiencing a negative impact on their mental health?

Here we look at some of the mental struggles many freelancers face and offer some tips on how to overcome them.


Many freelancers choose to go it alone to get away from crowded commuter trains or the annoying habits of their colleagues. But when you go from working in a busy office to spending long days on your own at home, the lack of human contact can have a detrimental impact on your mental health.

In fact, the Viking survey revealed that around two thirds (64%) of freelancers feel lonely on a daily basis due to their work which is contributing to their poor mental health. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to tackle the isolation of being freelance.

1. Network

Make an effort to engage with other freelancers. This could be online via Facebook groups or in person at networking events in your area. However you decide to communicate with other freelancers, talking about your experiences can really boost your mental wellbeing by showing that others are in the same boat as you.

2. Get out

If you are feeling isolated or alone it’s important to get out of the house. This could be as simple as a quick walk through the fresh air or something more substantial like attending a networking event or group class. You might even find it beneficial to take your laptop and work from a café or the library for a few hours.

3. Utilise coworking spaces

You can combine both of the points above by utilising a coworking space in your area. These shared office spaces allow you to get out of the house and get work done. Most coworking spaces offer flexible pricing so that you can attend as much or as little as you want to. Plus, communicating with other members can be the perfect way to tackle loneliness and grow your network without having to set aside additional time or thought to do so! To find out more about coworking read: The pros and cons of shared office space 

Money worries

When your income varies each month it can be difficult to budget effectively and plan ahead. This can cause a lot of stress for freelancers who have expenses to pay, even in their quiet earning months.

Plus, when you combine this stress with the added impact of late payments it can be difficult for freelancers to manage their money.

In fact, over three quarters (76%) of freelancers have experienced mental health issues as a result of late paying clients in the last 12 months, according to new research.

The report from Hitachi Capital revealed that 11% of surveyed freelancers have been diagnosed with a clinical condition due to clients failing to pay invoices on time. The most common conditions reported were anxiety (61%), stress (45%) insomnia (41%) and depression (27%).

1. Monitor what money is going in and out

In order to give yourself peace of mind it is important to have a constant grasp of what money you have going in and out each month. Using this data you can better plan ahead and ensure that you are always able to meet your essential costs. For more information read: How to manage a fluctuating salary 

2. Build an emergency fund

If money worries are leaving you particularly stressed or anxious, building an emergency fund can help to relieve some of the strain by allowing you to prepare for unexpected financial changes. For more tips on building an emergency fund read: The importance of an emergency fund 

3. Tackle late payment

With late payment adding to the mental health struggles of freelancers it’s important to have a plan in place to stop it impacting your cash flow. This process should begin with utilising your invoices and credit checks to prevent late payment and extend to the way you chase overdue invoices to limit the impact it has on your cash flow. For more tips on how to tackle late payment read: How to stop late payments threatening your creative business

Work/life balance

Whether it’s to escape the 9 to 5 or to spend more time with their children, for many freelancers the biggest draw of going self-employed is the flexibility it brings.

But, in reality, freelancing can be even more time consuming as the lines between home and work become blurred, making it hard to separate the two.

Even holidays aren’t providing a necessary break from work according to the Viking survey.

The findings revealed that freelancers struggle to switch off on holiday, with 30% taking their work laptop on holiday, 54% reading work emails and 48% replying to them.

1. Limit distractions

One of the reasons freelancers may find it hard to switch off is because they are making themselves available 24/7 by checking emails and social notifications on their phones. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce this. For example, you could turn off alerts so that you only check emails and other notifications when you want to, rather than every time something comes in. Also, you could benefit from not taking your work phone to bed with you. This stops you checking in right before bed or first thing in the morning and allows you to properly switch off for a few hours.

2. Schedule some self-care time

There is a common misconception that self-care has to be an elaborate act which requires time or money. In reality, it’s often the smaller acts of self-care which are more beneficial. Whether it’s finding the time to read a book, getting some exercise (even a quick walk can make a massive difference) or visiting a friend, taking a short break from your work can be the necessary boost to come back feeling refreshed.

3. Create a dedicated workspace

A good way to separate your work and home life is to create a dedicated workspace. Having a focused place to work not only means that you’ll get more done, but also that your work is likely to be higher quality. If you’re finding it difficult to do this at home you may benefit from using a coworking space. This creates a better balance by allowing you to get through your to do list in a professional environment and then head home without the worry of work getting in the way of your free time.

If you’re interested in learning more about what a coworking space can do for your business, why not book a tour at SO Fourteen, a stunning coworking office based in the centre of Southampton.


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