Today I'm diagnosing myself with a severe case of the 'freelance blues'. By no means am I throwing the towel in or saying I dislike my new career path. I still love this corner of the internet, sharing and engaging with everyone is still the number 1 reason why I'm in this industry. It brings me so much joy. This is simply me telling you 2018 didn't quite start off the way I imagined, and without beating myself up too much I've decided to hit refresh (taking inspiration from Laura Jackson's New New Year) on the year.
Three months ago, I left my job to get a taste of the self-employed life, filled with enthusiasm and motivation I was raring to go. Self-employment before the age of 30 felt (and sounded) like a dream come true. I'd read countless posts from others in this industry heralding the leap as the best thing I'll ever do, how fulfilling it is, and how I'd never look back.
But nothing could prepare me for the unbearable loneliness and the challenges, mentally, freelance life brings with it.
The first few weeks felt great; just as I'd imagined, I woke up at 7.30am each morning, made breakfast, wrote to-do lists, ploughed through emails, edited photos all in the comfort of my own home. It seemed too good to be true, but this sense of ambition and self-direction quickly turn in to anxiety, loneliness and even fear. The 7.30 wake up calls, soon turned to 8.30, then 9.30 and before I knew it, I was pulling myself out of bed post 10 am. While my motivation levels were plummeting, my procrastination levels were skyrocketing, and I didn't know why. A catch 22 had formed; the more anxious I felt about not pushing myself to work, the more lonely I felt, but the more alone I felt, the less I wanted to work. Using social media as a form of procrastination only made the situation worse because that's when the comparison starts, and we all know how toxic that can be.
Sat at home on my own all day, every day, all I could think about were my old work peers, how I missed them, missed being needed, and missed having a purpose. But during some of my most stressful days, juggling my former job and blogging all I dreamed of was the freelance life. So now that I finally had the freedom why wasn't I enjoying it? And where was my drive?
Unbeknown to me at the time, I was (and still am) experiencing new unique stress, of financial instability and lack of emotional support. When you're used to regular income and always having a social network around you, you take it for granted. I hadn't fully realised how positively my previous job impacted my life. Financially but more importantly, mentally. Not having that security blanket all of a sudden has left me feeling incredibly lost. Some days I think 'yes, I've got this' other days I think I've made the worst decision I could make.
The mental, physical and financial challenges that come with working for yourself is a huge topic, but discussing it and overcoming the battle in small chunks is better than brushing it under the carpet entirely. Below are some things that are helping me to manage said challenges.
A shared studio space - Working in solitude five days a week isn't healthy for me. To overcome the loneliness, I'm going to start using a shared studio space. Not only will this get me out of the house more frequently and add structure to my day it will also be beneficial to bounce ideas of other people.
Running - Endorphins are my best friend, and there's nothing like a morning run to set me up for the day. Excercise is crucial for my mental health; it gives me time to think if I need it or time to empty my mind of all the rubbish stifling it.
The Fringe Of It - Amongst the podcast boom happening right now is this gem! Liv Purvis (What Olivia Did) and Charlotte Jacklin (Betty) have answered my podcast prayers. Putting these two out of touch grandma's (their words not mine) on in the background while I'm having breakfast or getting ready for the day is just like have two friends nattering in the background. They're only two episodes in, but they've already covered two crucial topics that I struggle with daily. I realise I'm not alone when I listen to these two and I'm currently living by their 'only speak to yourself how you'd speak to your friends' motto.
Cate St Hill's '10 things I've learnt since going freelance' - Re-reading Cate's post on how far she's come in the last six months is hugely reassuring and is just the motivational boost I need. Despite making the transition look so seamless she talk's through own struggles of finding a routine, learning to switch off and overcoming self-doubt.
Sharing more - I'm noticeably silent on social media when it comes to talking about my struggles with this industry, I just don't have the confidence, but when I posted a small rant on Instagram (see here) last week, the positive response was far from what I expected. Those who reached out restored my confidence that week, and it opened some interesting discussions. There's more to me than what I'm wearing, and engaging posts such as these feel more rewarding not only for me but my audience. Here's to opening up a bit more!