A freelancer’s guide to managing mental health in 2024

We adore working for ourselves. It can be immensely fulfilling, providing freedom, adaptability, and the chance to follow your passions. However, there is no denying that it also has a unique set of difficulties, such as unstable finances, erratic workloads, and the isolating nature of the work itself. And in 2024, a lot of freelancers are experiencing more stress than ever before as AI, algorithm modifications, and economic unrest continue to upend everything around us.

It can be difficult to maintain one’s mental health in this ever changing environment. Unpredictable income, impending deadlines, and the constant search for new work can be extremely stressful. The absence of conventional workplace support systems makes it far too simple for independent contractors to experience overwhelm, burnout, and disconnection.

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We therefore reached out to freelance creatives across disciplines to find out how they are handling the particular mental health challenges of today in order to support those of you who are struggling and prevent the rest of you from struggling in the future.

Their frank observations provide insightful viewpoints and useful tactics for promoting wellbeing in this uncertain time.

1. Healthy habits

The importance of self-care was one of the recurring themes. As a powerful stress-reduction strategy, this means giving physical activity top priority for many.

Designer Lizzy Doe says, “My number one tip is to get out in nature,” illustrator Sam Rodriguez says, “Exercise as often as possible,” painter Amy Lou says, “I swim as much as possible; to relax and focus on one step at a time towards my goals.”

Because it diverts your attention from your issues and causes the body to release endorphins, which improve mood and lower stress levels, physical activity is widely recommended as a stress-reduction strategy. Additionally, joining a gym or running a marathon are not requirements. Simple physical activities such as yoga, jogging, or walking can have positive effects.

Not feeling like working out? Numerous alternative methods exist for managing stress. One is to practice relaxation methods, which can ease body tension and help quiet the mind. For instance, using the diaphragm to breathe slowly and deeply can assist in triggering the relaxation response in the body. For four counts, try inhaling through your nose, holding your breath for four counts, and then exhaling for six counts through your mouth. This can improve your mood and increase the amount of quality sleep you get each night—seven to nine hours—in your sleep.

Playing music, gardening, or reading are a few examples of enjoyable hobbies that are a tried-and-true method of reducing stress. As long as you allow yourself to take time away from work and worry, even small indulgences like a warm bath or massage can have a profound impact. In fact, more often than not, that relieves stress more than the activity itself.

Regardless of how you handle stress, it’s crucial to establish healthy habits now rather than waiting for it to take over your life. “Avoid burnout by taking breaks,” advises Emma Rodriguez, a graphic designer. “When you start to recognize signs of being overwhelmed or exhausted, just take a day to recharge and do the things you enjoy.”

2. Mindset matters

If you don’t change your mindset, no matter what stress-reduction technique you choose—like journaling, exercising, meditation, or watching cat videos on YouTube—it will only help you get so far. And that entails, well, becoming less anxious.

“There is never a reason to be anxious,” says visual artist Bram Vanhaeren. “Focus on what you have in control: good health, family, and doing good for others.”

Emma Rodriguez continues, “Remember that the work you’re doing isn’t life or death.” She ought to be aware of this. “I work part-time in health care, so I have seen life and death,” she says. “It’s a constant reminder that ‘urgent’ definitely does not mean the same thing in the creative industry as it does in other lines of work.”

The self-taught visually impaired artist Ryan Annett echoes, “Eventually we die and time is short.” “I’ve been taking longer than usual breaks from social media as of late. Scroll less about doom and more about simply trying to enjoy life.”

Retaining perspective and avoiding pessimistic thinking can act as effective protective barriers against hopelessness and anxiety. Author, poet, and instructional artist Oyamo Richard concurs, stating that “this phase shall eventually pass too, just like others before.”


3. Be mindful

Regular, structured methods act as an anchor for some people. “Daily journalling and a 15-minute guided meditation help me start my day with a clear and focused mind,” Samyuktha Krishna says. “I try to start the day with simpler, more manageable chores to establish a calmer tone for the remainder of the day. When things don’t go according to plan and there aren’t any deadlines, I try to remind myself that it’s acceptable to fail occasionally or to take a break. I can do it differently the next time, provided I take something away from it.”

Having said that, a lot of us discover mindfulness in the work itself, particularly when dedicating time for side projects. “When I’ve had quieter weeks, I love joining art challenges such as JEHANE’s ‘Golden Thread’ on Instagram,” Lizzie Doe says. “It gives me tonnes of inspiration and a great community vibe.”

4. Finding balance

When you’re in the right frame of mind, issues like a lack of freelance work become less overwhelming to solve, and you can begin taking constructive action to address them. For instance, Michael Miller, an art director, states: “I’m using this time to make hard pivots, learn how to develop a proper studio practice, and embrace the physical and digital community of industry mentors.”

To make an impact, though, you don’t always need to alter your whole strategy. To be sure, many people are redefining success and their professional lives in response to extreme workload swings. “Being a ‘calm’ company of one with a few income streams, interesting projects, and like-minded clients” is the key to reducing stress, according to marketer Stu Goulden. His current goal is purpose-driven, long-term growth, noting that it is “better to keep tiny overheads and total freedom.”

Creative copywriter Patrisha Robertson, who has recently been emphasizing “Walks, gardening, studio cleaning, learning, and reconsidering what’s important in work and life,” echoes this sentiment of valuing balance and fulfilment over heedless ambition.

Naturally, none of this is simple, and illustrator Florence Sabatier notes that it can be difficult to deal with these kinds of demands on one’s own. “It’s really difficult, and some days I’m afraid about the future,” she claims. “To be a little less fatalistic, I have to constantly remind myself that things aren’t set in stone. But in terms of mental health, these are crucial times to seek help as well as talk to others about it. Therefore, you don’t have to handle a situation by yourself that can be challenging to handle when you’re not in charge.”



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