Five Ways to Deal with the Stress of Living a Freelance Life

by Chris King

As free agents, independent professionals and freelancers, we often face stressful situations - too many projects, too few projects, difficult clients, lack of sufficient cash flow, money worries, a glut of paper and reading material - you name it. I just completed three and a half weeks of jury duty - talk about total disruption of my freelance schedule! In this article, I will share five ways that I deal with and minimize stress in my freelance life. Use what works for you. We are all different.

The number one stress reliever for me is consistent exercise. It is easy to become so busy that we put off exercising. After all, it is time-consuming. Fortunately, I teach ten fitness classes a week, so must be there. And yes, it does take up a good deal of time, but it also produces more productive time for me. When I don't exercise as much - I used machines several evenings during the trial, but it still wasn't as regular or the same as usual - I find that little worries disturb me. These rob me of solid working time. I also don't sleep as well, so have less energy for creative pursuits. Even if I am dealing with a sticky situation and/or a pressing problem, I feel so wonderful after a high-intensity workout I can tackle just about anything with a clear mind and a positive attitude. Another great benefit is the creative idea generation that occurs while I am pushing myself physically.

Take the time to organize, organize, and organize. For me, there is very little more therapeutic than organizing. If you have as many different interests as I do - and most free agents, independent professionals and freelancers do - you accumulate a huge amount of "stuff." Papers, books and magazines to read; articles, contracts, and project information to file; supplies of all types, computer disks and paraphernalia that you need to be easily available. All of this can become overwhelming quickly, take up a lot of searching time and produce an unfathomable amount of stress. Again, we hate to stop what we are doing to file, sort and/or create order, but it will save us so much stress in the future, it is well worth the effort. Stephen Covey in his terrific book,The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People calls it "Sharpening the Saw." He tells the story of a man who is struggling to cut down a tree while using a dull, rusted saw. He doesn't want to lose time by sharpening it, so is making no progress. This is a great time to throw away papers, magazines and stuff you haven't used for years. You may also find useful information and ideas that you have forgotten about. I liken organizing to a thorough cleansing.

Re-evaluate your working space and equipment. While we are talking about "cleansing" let's also talk about cleaning and order in our environment. In the process of organization, we should take a look at how efficient and pleasant our work area is. I am not suggesting spending a huge amount of money - especially if you are experiencing cash flow stress - but adding a few extras to spruce up your office space, whether or not it is in a room of its own, or part of your bedroom, dining room or kitchen. Even if you feel that interior design is not your forte, by adding a touch of color, a striking poster, a more comfortable chair, a light catching mobile or a friendly goldfish (emphasis is on "gold"), you will enjoy your daily endeavors with less stress. Check out books and web sites on Feng Shui. You will be amazed by how the placement and choice of colors and objects will change your life and career.

Make a plan and set goals. I won't spend a lot of time in this article on goal setting, because I have already written a whole article about the power of setting goals ( Use the Power of Goals to Enhance Your Freelance Life ) and there are so many fine books and tapes that deal with goal setting for you to read and listen to. I just want to say that by knowing where we are going, we remove a lot of stress from our lives. We know when to say "yes" and when to say "no" along with the steps we need to take to achieve our goals. It is the getting there that produces the fun and the peace of mind we seek.

Network and socialize - we all need other people in our lives. When we work on our own and mainly deal with clients, we can so easily tend to become loners and avoid social contact with others. We don't have to be involved with rowdy situations like those generated by the bar scene. I find, however, that by joining groups and organizations that focus on my interests and areas of business, I meet others with the same direction and goals. We can discuss our victories and losses on an equal footing, which helps to reduce stress. I find that these friends deal with the same problems and worries I deal with. They can offer tips and solutions and I can share what has worked for me. This win-win approach is incredibly calming.

So, try some of my tips, continue the ones that work for you, and let me know some of the ways that you reduce your level of stress. Here's to a stress-free year for all of us!


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