Here’s the thing about being a freelance writer, you are the number one asset in your business. So if you don’t take great care of yourself, it’s going to have a direct effect on the health of your business.
That’s why in this article, I’m going to share five of my best self care tips for freelancers.
1. Brain food is everything
Diet, diet, diet (and water!).
Don’t get me wrong, I love junk food. I love carbs. I love potatoes, I love bread. I love it.
But it does not love me.
Over time, I have discovered that if I eat too many carbs during the day, it has a really bad effect on my brain. I can’t think clearly, and I’m usually really tired. And I’m way less productive than I would have been if I had just focused on eating better food.
So my first tip is to watch what you eat.
For me, I’ve learned that I just need to focus on eating protein, vegetables, and fruits throughout the day and drinking lots of water. And if I do that, then my energy stays even. And then I end up getting a lot more done.
Of course, I’m not perfect at this. There are still days when I just want a big sandwich for lunch, and I go ahead and eat it. But it’s a work in progress. It’s something that I’m still working on. It really does affect how well you work.
The same goes for your water intake. You want to make sure that you’re getting at least two litres a day. And steer clear of too much caffeine or soft drinks or anything like that, it really does make a difference.
2. Make time for movement
My next self-care tip for freelancers is to get your body moving. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t love exercising.
But if you’re sitting in an office all day, you really do need to exercise. I know I have had problems with my back and my neck and exercise really does help.
It can be something as simple as going for a walk outside every morning before you start work. I find this a great way to get a bit of sunshine and fresh air before I dive into my work each day. But you can do any exercise.
Just find something that you enjoy doing, because then you will stick with it.
For me, it’s walking, pilates, and sometimes a bit of yoga. But whatever works for you! Just make sure you’re moving your body regularly so that you don’t end up all hunched over at your desk and really sore at the end of each day.
3. Boundaries with clients
Now this is something that I definitely struggled with a lot early on in my freelancing career. It’s something I’m still working on, but I’m slowly getting better at it.
Boundaries are really important, especially when you work from home. So it could be something as simple as only checking your emails once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and not checking them again until the following work day.
It just helps your brain to separate work time from rest time. And if you’re constantly available via your email, it’s so hard to just switch off and get out of work mode. You would feel like you’re constantly in work mode, and it just makes you really tired, cranky, stressed, and resentful.
It’s really important to have very clear start and finish times for your days.
In terms of boundaries with clients, I’ll share a personal story…
When I first started my freelance writing business, I was still working full-time in hospitality. Hospitality jobs, if you’ve ever worked in one, you know the hours are crazy. They’re all over the shop. So as a result, I was working for clients at really random times of the day.
Sometimes I would finish work at nine o’clock at night and then I would do two hours of freelancing work when I got home. So my clients became quite used to me being available sort of, whenever.
When I transitioned to just freelancing, I tried to establish more of a nine-to-five routine but my clients were still in Europe and American timezones.
So, they would have this expectation that I would be available when they’re at work. It was my own fault because I had set that up by the way I was working while I was still at my day job, but that was by necessity.
I had to reestablish the boundaries with those clients.
Once I did transition to full-time freelancing, it was just a matter of clear communication and saying “Hey, I realised I was available, a lot more, a couple of months ago, but now I’m full-time freelancing and I’m only working the set hours during the day. So you can expect to hear me hear back from me during those hours. But if not, you’ll hear from me the following workday.”
So boundaries are really just about clear communication with your clients.
4. Make sure you have hobbies outside of writing
Self-care tip number four is to try and have some hobbies that are not related to your job.
Again, I am not perfect at this. But over the years, I’ve come to realise that it’s really important to have some sort of interest outside of business. So that could be something as simple as joining an art class or a photography class or something, whatever you feel interested in doing.
It’s nice to have some hobbies that are just hobbies. You’re not trying to make money out of them and there are no expectations on them. It’s literally just something for you to enjoy.
It really helps to add a bit more happiness and joy to your life and gives you a more well-rounded life.
5. Avoid context switching
Finally self-care tip number five: avoid context switching.
So what do I mean by that?
Say you’ve got three different client projects that you need to get done in a day. One is a blog article, one is a sales page, and one is an email campaign. And you plan to do each of those projects from start to finish on the same day.
That is really putting a lot of pressure on your brain because you’re constantly switching context. You’re researching, planning, drafting, editing then researching, planning, drafting, editing and so on.
It gets even worse when you’re checking your emails or responding to Slack messages while you’re doing these projects as well!
Now I am totally guilty of this.
And this is something I’m starting to work on as well because it really does affect your productivity.
My typical day goes like this: Outline an article. Then check my emails. Then apply to a new Upwork job. And then come back and write a couple of paragraphs on the thing I just outlined.
Switching, switching, switching. It’s just really hard for your brain to keep up and you get tired a lot faster, and you end up being a lot less productive.
So here’s a solution I heard recently on a podcast from Amy Porterfield: She suggests theming, your days as much as possible.
So as a freelance writer, let’s say, on Mondays, you might do all the research and the outlines for all of your client projects that week. And so you’re just asking your brain to do one or two tasks. That’s it.
Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, you might actually just do the drafting of those projects. So smashing out your first drafts. And then on Thursday, you come back and you do the editing.
Do you see how by theming your days, you’re giving your brain less work to do?
Less context switching helps you get more done faster.
This is something I’m just starting to try and implement with my own clients. It’s not always possible to do it this way. But it’s something I’m definitely trying to move towards in the future because I do see how it can help with the mental load as you go through your workday.
So those are my five self-care tips for freelance writers. I hope you enjoyed them!
If you have any others to add, leave a comment! And if you’d like to download my free writing checklist, you can do so here.