Creative Freelancing & Mental Health: The Negative Effects of Remote Work

We have all had the conversation:

“I’m a [insert practice] freelancer. I work remotely,” You explain.

“Oh wow, that’s so cool. So you get to work from home? From anywhere? I’m so jealous.” The 9-5er says, wide-eyed by the possibility of flexibility.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side and I don’t mean to complain. But the reality of remote work can be a lot less appealing than it sounds. As the weeks go on, the flexibility can feel more limiting and lonely.

This is especially true for young, self-employed, creative, and highly motivated individuals. This group needs social interaction beyond ‘Likes’ and ‘Follows’ and mentorship that supports professional and personal development.

After 2 years of working remotely as a freelance copywriter, I came to terms with the negative mental health effects of working from home. The time gave me countless opportunities and rich experiences – I was able to travel, work from different time zones, and explore unconventional opportunities – but it also left me with periods of loneliness and anxiety.

Behind the autonomy and glamour of being your own boss lurks a week in pyjamas and sustenance through cereal. What follows are some of the less pleasant, less talked about aspects of remote work that can take a toll on your mental health, personal life, and work.

Isolation

“I’m alone a lot,” I said to a friend after weeks of sitting alone at my kitchen table. When I explained that I’m alone a lot throughout the week, most people had realization and understanding wash over their face.

“That’s tough. My coworkers are my friends and the ones that aren’t make for great stories,” one friend offered.

The commiseration of long work days, talking through creative blocks, and the ebbs and flows of the work day are lost when you sit at home or float anonymously between cafes and libraries. The growth, promotions, benchmarks, and baselines that so many employed people take for granted can be placed on your back burner, or considerations you never even make as a sole proprietor.

When you work in an office, you are part of a team. Even if the department begins and ends with you, there is a sense of something larger, a greater goal and a greater good. No matter how wonderful your clients are, meetings won’t fulfil this sense of belonging and camaraderie. Working on ad-hoc projects and being divorced from data, insights, and celebrating major milestones that your work has contributed to can become the norm. It can make you feel like you haven’t made progress and make the wins seem smaller – or go unnoticed, depending on your projects, goals, and personal recognition.

Sleep Schedule

Being free from the reigns of regular 9-5 can be liberating, but if you naturally operate on a different rhythm, it can also cause mental strain. Many creatives express high productivity after dark. Unfortunately, staying up late and missing too many mornings can lead to an increased sense of lethargy and make you feel out of tune with the rest of society.

Fear

Self-employment is exciting and empowering but the days of fear and hustle never go away. Living contract-to-contract and constantly seeking your next lucrative gig can induce anxiety and lead to stress. Without the support system of a wider team and varied experience in marketing, sales, and contract writing, finding leads and closing deals can be even more stressful. It is easy to feel at the mercy of clients and feeling a lack of control is normal, if unpleasant.

Imposter Syndrome

Some days I envy people with a job that involves clear ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers. I couldn’t do them, but it would simplify a lot of the daily struggles and internal battles I face. Most creatives have moments, days, or periods of feeling they are not good enough. Feeling like a complete fraud isn’t unique to those who make for a living, but it is certainly prevalent among people who are paid to use their imagination to create inspiring, unique, and distinct solutions for a range of problems.

This sensation is often referred to as “imposter syndrome” and it can be aggravated by new clients and extended time alone. Limited feedback, free hours for overthinking, and a connection to the endless digital network of comparisons can stoke the flames of self-doubt.

Balance is essential and with the growing number of sole proprietors and contract workers, more and more support systems are being developed. Co-working spaces, open digital communities like Maker’s Collective, and a growing database of online resources and opportunities to connect are available. Take advantage of them and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

If you are a hard-working, creative freelancer, maker or entrepreneur that works alone and has experienced any of these feeling before- you are not alone.

Here are some resources for you that we recommend:

We would love to hear, what other resources have you used to embrace and overcome mental health, stress, anxiety, loneliness, etc. as a freelancer or business owner? Let us know in the comments, join our community and share or email us directly here.

 

Guest Blogger: Lauren Rabindranath

Lauren Rabindranath is a Community Manager and Freelance Copywriter who specializes in digital marketing content. She has worked remotely while travelling to over 20 countries. Currently, Lauren works from and for a coworking space for creative freelancers in Toronto, Canada. Her passions include arts and culture, placemaking, and developing strong local connections for a positive impact. Connect with her on Twitter @laurenxrab.

What/Why I Make:
I make connections and build relationships through my work as a Community Manager. As a copywriter, I create resources that help people find information, inspiration, and a sense of belonging. I create because I believe in the power of passionate people and giving in a world that often tells you to take.

Find Lauren at the following:

One thought on “Creative Freelancing & Mental Health: The Negative Effects of Remote Work

  1. Love this. Completely true. The fact that I meet with clients on a daily basis does not replace the energy and feeling of togetherness one experiences when working with a team in a traditional 9-5 environment. I may feel empowered and fulfilled when experiencing success derived from my own efforts, but that has no effect on decreasing my feeling of isolation. I’d like to consider a co-working space, but also feel I’m too busy to warrant the distraction; I feel I’d just end up talking about my project for 2 hours, and listening to others’ projects and then feel I’d accomplished nothing. With that said, at a certain point, the diatraction, or rather, the socialization and the knowledge and connections I’d gain, might arguably end up being more valuable in the long run, especially given how important mental health is. When is your next meeting?

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