I’ve noticed that many people who don’t freelance think the freelance lifestyle is one of holistic, stress-free hedonism, enjoyed by people who have lots of free time to exercise, socialise and chill while setting their own hourly rates. Consequently, they must be calm, carefree, well-toned lucky so-and- sos who must be rolling in it.
Newsflash: This is not the case.
Freelancing isn’t an easy, fluffy option and it doesn’t necessarily provide a healthier, stress-free lifestyle either. I draw your attention, freelance wannabees and wonderbees, to some health pros and cons of freelancing.
Being your own boss
Pros: You don’t have the worries of working for an evil boss who expects you to come into work when you’re half-dead. You can recuperate at your own pace, working when and as much as you can, and make up the hours later if you choose to. You’ve also eliminated the mental stress of trying to interpret someone else’s wishes and meet their expectations.
Cons: No health insurance. Nobody else to take responsibility for making sure you have a healthy working environment that’s well-lit and ventilated. You’re responsible for making sure you take breaks, eat and drink at reasonable times, and get up and move around regularly to lower your heart disease and diabetes risk. It’s down to you to purchase equipment, lighting and furniture that won’t cause RSI, vision problems or backache.
You’ve also gained the stress of being wholly responsible for acquiring and retaining clients and completing work, plus the constant worry of whether you’ll earn enough this month to pay the mortgage. There are few guarantees, even fewer long term contracts, and no colleagues just a desk away if you get stuck on something.
Choosing your own hours
Pros: You can work when you feel most alert and energised and take time out for family duties or that mid-morning karate spin crossover class you’ve wanted to try (although you’re still wondering how you do a roundhouse kick with one leg while pedalling with the other).
Cons: It’s up to you to get yourself out of bed each day and get a reasonable amount of work done – and to know when to stop. You’re wholly in charge of your work-life balance. You may find yourself working long hours, particularly when you begin freelancing, just to get the money in. That can leave little time for rest, relaxation or exercise. You may also find that other people don’t respect your work-life divide and expect you to be available for emotional and physical help all day – because you’re ‘not at work.’
Working by yourself
Pros: You don’t have germ-ridden or emotionally toxic colleagues to contend with. Office banter and multiple ringing phones aren’t there to distract you, meaning you can manage your workload better and avoid stress. Mental and physical health win.
Cons: There’s nobody to cover you if you’re sick. If you have deadlines to meet, you may find yourself slogging away even when you’re in a state in which you would never have dragged yourself to work.
You’re also responsible for ensuring you have some human interaction outside of your family or housemates who trudge in at 6. Freelancing can get mighty lonely and isolating.
Apologies if these bald facts have burst any freelance bubbles, but it’s best to be realistic about these things. Ultimately, your freelance lifestyle can be as healthy as you choose to make it – if you take responsibility for reducing your stress and motivate yourself to move, take breaks and exercise.
Now, I’ve been sitting here on my hedonistic freelance butt quite long enough. I’m off to make a coffee and do 50 laps of the house.