This article is by freelancer Ethan Shone
Despite being a freelancer and despite being decidedly less than financially comfortable at the moment – guess what? I didn’t even turn my laptop on yesterday. I just needed a day; to decompress, re-focus and, honestly, to catch my breath. Now OK, I won’t be making this a regular occurrence, but I managed it – without prior planning and without causing myself any financial or professional problems. And despite what you might think about freelancing, this isn’t that much of a rarity.
With news out in July 2018 that UK workers took a record low number of sick days in the previous year, I reckon it’s more important than ever to take personal days to that promote good mental health and wellbeing.
The issue with being freelance is that sometimes, people assume you’re constantly taking time-off. But does of course that’s not the case. Just because you’ve decided to work for you, doesn’t mean the two are now inexorably connected. You are still a person, who deserves a break, who has off-days, who sometimes wakes up, makes coffee, goes to sit at their desk and… nothing, sometimes. (Sometimes nothing comes. This will happen. And often you’ll fight through it).
When you can’t – or when you simply don’t want to – you don’t need to feel bad about it. This is in defence of the freelancer’s day off…
Workaholism (aka freelancer syndrome) is bad
In freelancing – or any occupation which sees you working independently and as your own boss – it takes real commitment and motivation to achieve any kind of success. Particularly in the early days, you’re going to be putting in a lot of hours and perhaps not always getting a whole lot back in return. This can lead you to feel like any moment of the day not spent working is wasted, or at least, unjustifiable. This attitude of always having to be switched on is pervasive, and facilitated by the fact we live in an era of mass-connectivity. We often feel compelled to maintain this productivity indefinitely, without respite and as a freelancer, you’re often determined to never waste a moment.
Remember though that this pressure can actually be really counterproductive, and a freelancer’s day off is a good way to recharge and take stock of completed work. If you find it hard, try and recall all your past achievements by writing them down on paper. That way, when you return to work, you’ll feel more motivated than ever.
Burn-out = less productivity
If you are trying to keep up a constantly-productive work-rate for months on end, without taking time for yourself, then you can bet it won’t be long until the quality of what you produce starts to suffer. And it won’t be the only thing. Personal relationships, as well as your physical and mental health are all at risk when you fail to take the time to re-charge. And after all, wasn’t the freedom to maybe just take a day – even a morning – for yourself once in a while kind-of one of the reasons you decided to go freelance?
Yes, you accepted the massive responsibility of running your own business, but the benefit of that is the power to give yourself a little leeway from time to time.
You need to get inspired
If you’re a creative, and you spend your days drumming up ideas and working on your own content, there’s a real value in taking the time to just consume media, as well as create it. Whatever you decide to do with your freelancer’s day off, however inane or stimulating, there’s always a chance that you’ll take something from it which helps you advance in your career or improve as a professional anyway. Even if you decide to vegetate in front of the TV all day, you might just watch something that sparks an idea that leads to a paid gig, or allows you to write a better story or create a better illustration because it has inspired you in some way.
A day spent in a good book – or even a pretty crappy book – might give you some piece of insight, that actually, in the long-term, helps you out way more than whatever piece of work you’d have done that day.
Everyone needs to relax
But it’s also totally fine not to gain anything tangible. You might just relax. Talk a long walk and keep your eyes off a screen for a few hours. Make time for family and friends. Maybe just eat junk-food and binge-watch trash TV. These are your worst case scenarios. And here’s the secret: they’re totally fine too.
If the best thing that comes from your day-off is that you wake up the next day feeling that bit more recharged and that bit more ready to do some work – if that’s it? Then great. The important thing – the really key part of this – is that whatever you achieve on your day off, or don’t, be content with it. Don’t beat yourself up and wrack yourself with guilt. Tell yourself that you deserved it and you’re better for it; because you did, and you are. I assure you, the world will keep spinning and your clients will not replace you, should you decide to dedicate a day to you.
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