Tips Dealing with Stress as a Freelancer


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Being a freelancer is stressful; this is an undeniable fact. For some people, the stress is easy to manage because they’ve learned ways to deal with it. For others, it’s a challenge that their education and previous experience didn’t train them for. If you’re finding the stress of freelancing to be just a little too much, then sit down and take a deep breath. I’ll be taking you through some of my advice for dealing with stress as a freelancer.

#1 Get Out
One of the best things I can do for myself as a freelancer is getting out of the house on a regular basis. There are days where I’ve found myself working on a project and when I walk away, I feel absolutely out of it. So when I know that I have a busy day in front of me, I try to find ways to get myself out of the house. It can be a simple walk around the neighborhood, a drive to pick someone up, a trip to the store, or a trip to the bookstore.

It’s important that you get outside of your house and your place of work for anyone, regardless of career choice. However, this is especially important for freelancers because our work can often keep us inside of our own homes. Getting outside means that we’ll do some actual interacting with people. As a total introvert, even I need the occasional chat with someone. It helps keep my social skills intact as well as keep me connected with the people that I care about.

#2 Carve Out Break Time
It may be tempting (and almost easy at times) for a freelancer to spend all their time working when their work is inside of their house. You will find that spending every waking hour working will drain you. This is true even for other jobs. You need breaks throughout your day to help keep you focused and happy. There are several ways of creating break time, and I can’t tell you all of the different ways or which one will fit you. But I can tell you how I structure my time.

When I’m working on projects, (like writing this article for instance) I set up a Pomodoro timer. While Pomodoro timers are typically thought of as the tomato timers, there is another way to do it. The website I use is, although I have used other apps and websites in the past. I use a timer for 25 minutes of work and then 5 minutes of rest. After three periods of productivity, I set a longer timer for 35 minutes of rest. And then I cycle through it again. In a two hour period, I get about an hour of solid work.

Some people might not think that that’s a lot of good work, but it works well for me. The short bursts and mental relaxation time mean that I have better focus when I’m working. Even if my times don’t sound right to you, you can play around with how long the breaks and productive periods of time are. And even if this method doesn’t sound like a good fit for you, you shouldn’t underestimate how much your brain might need a break.

Now if you’ve already got breaks built into your day and you feel like you’re going insane, then I would suggest taking a day off and making that day off a regular thing. You can make it a Sunday or Saturday to align with the normal weekend. You can also make it any day of the week that works best for you. Give yourself a goof off day where you can lie in bed and watch Netflix all day. Most jobs get days off, and you shouldn’t be an exception just because you’re a freelancer. As enticing as that extra job might be that you could do if you had one more work day, you need the time off.

#3 Chase Your Dreams
Freelancing is still just a job. Even if you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing, you’ll find yourself wanting to do something more. You shouldn’t let your dreams of doing more sit by the wayside. If you dream about doing something with your life, then keep chasing that. Just like with a 9 to 5 job, you should find time to go and do the things you love and want to get better at.

Finding this time may seem a little stressful since freelancing often takes a lot of time out of the day. But getting up an hour early or going to bed an hour late may be the way to find the time that you need. Or maybe use the breaks that you take during the day to put in a couple of minutes towards that goal. It will all depend on the type of goal that you are pursuing, but you shouldn’t be afraid to keep chasing the things that make you happiest.

#4 Keep Lists
I use a planner to keep track of all my commitments, freelancing and otherwise. I also use a planner to keep track of the habits that I’m trying to instill in myself, but that’s just one use of a list. Lists can be little ones jotted down on sticky notes or big ones covering entire pages. But use lists to your advantage.

If you’re having problems focusing on a big project, use a list to break that big project down into smaller things. You may find it easier to let your mind deal with the little issues instead of the whole picture.

If you’re having a hard time staying on task, then have a list that you have to follow item by item. Don’t let yourself skip around. Work on project 1, then item c, then task ii. Keep your mind focus on what comes next. I’m prone to jumping around from task to task no matter what I’m doing, so creating a focusing list can sometimes keep my brain focused on what I’m meant to be doing.

Another benefit of lists is that it is a convenient place to keep track of all the things that you have yet to do. This is especially helpful for bigger projects with tons of working parts. You’ll want to make sure that the things that you have yet to do are still what you think they are. As reliable as you think your brain is, you’re liable to forget at least one item on your list if you only rely on your brain to remember it.

#5 Know Your Limits
When finding new freelancing work can be exciting, take care of yourself. You may think that that new project won’t be too much work, but the client might have some other things in mind. I’ve taken on jobs that I thought I could handle and then found that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Talk with potential clients about what they really want. If you’re using a website to gather clients, this could prove especially helpful because some job descriptions aren’t always detailed enough to give you a good idea of what is really necessary for the job.

There have been job descriptions that have been a simple sentence. While that sentence is enough to give me a reasonable idea of the kind of job that I’m about to get involved with, I always try to spend some time talking with the client to double check my assumptions as well as the client’s expectations.

If the job is still within my hour constraints and skill set, then I take it on. I learned my lesson easily on that it’s not worth over exerting myself. It may seem reasonable to ask myself to do an extra hour for a couple days, but asking myself to ignore all social interactions for a week to meet an insane deadline for a client is insane.

Your mental health, physical health, and social life are worth protecting. If you need to compromise for a day or two because of a surprise project was given to you by your client, then that’s up to you, but don’t make it a regular thing. Give yourself some space to breathe.

Freelancing can be incredibly rewarding as a career path. You get to pick your hours and your jobs. Your life can be moved from place to place easily. But nothing is perfect, and freelancing is certainly a stressful career path to pick. It can be easy to get caught up in project after project and forget your sense of self. If you find yourself frustrated with your lifestyle, take small steps to start changing it. Eventually, you’ll be on the right track and feel better than ever about the career that you have chosen.


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Very helpful, thank you for writing this. I have a problem with stretching my days way too long and I can feel it taking it's toll lately. I have this fear that if I give myself too much room to breathe, I will fall behind or miss an opportunity of some sort. Vacation scheduled for June though, and totally unplugged. I'm due for a recharge.


Registered Member
Very helpful, thank you for writing this. I have a problem with stretching my days way too long and I can feel it taking it's toll lately. I have this fear that if I give myself too much room to breathe, I will fall behind or miss an opportunity of some sort. Vacation scheduled for June though, and totally unplugged. I'm due for a recharge.
That will be super nice. I had that fear too when I started freelancing. But I hope you have fun in June! (and that you find some small breaks between now and then)


Registered Member
A very nice article. Lists can be really useful for any aspect of day to day life, but especially helpful when you need to get things done or need to write your thoughts and ideas down, so you don`t forget them. Definitely use lists to your advantage.
I use a timer too! I wear this watch mainly for its countdown timer capability. Without even looking at my watch, I can set a timer for 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes. This makes it easy to set break times and work times without much interruption.

I also find it's important to take lots of breaks and get out of the house. It definitely makes me more productive.

Great article!