• Jenny Stallard

Feeling the Freelance Feels

An introductory post to how I found myself setting up Freelance Feels.

Freelancing is seen as a holy grail. For me, freelancing is journalism, writing, editing. But it can mean so many different things – from those connected to my industry (designers, photographers, PRs, sub editors) to life and business coaches, dog walkers, marketers, actors, therapists (massage, hypno, you name it)…. The list is endless.

But there’s one thing I believe unites us all. The Freelance Feels.

"A freelancer is like a cactus"

Because while people who have a job with set hours and a boss think we’re free as birds, often we are in a quagmire of self-reflection, lonely or isolated, pensive or cut off from the world in which we work remotely.

And so it was I found myself in March and April of 2019, feeling all the Freelance Feels. I wasn’t good. Around 4pm every day there were tears. Exasperated, exhausted, quiet tears, often while something like ‘Say yes to the dress’ went on in the background on the telly.

I had reached what I now see as ‘Peak Freelance’. And rather than being some panacea of ‘all the work ever’, for me this was that moment where working for yourself was anything but the holy grail. It was a poisoned chalice, and as the world around me seemed to think I was living it up with my flexible hours, holidays at the drop of the hat and writing for lots of different brands, the reality was that I felt useless, pointless, confused and alone.

My industry – and I suspect many other freelancers feel the same, even if they’re not in media – is changing. And staff jobs are just not ‘the thing’ anymore. They’re few and far between if you’re looking for one, and the ones you might be offered are usually on a salary which you just don’t want to accept. (I'll post on money and asking for what you're worth another time - a huge topic for Freelance Feels!).

Some come to freelancing by choice – a desire to have that much-craved flexibility – while others by default, like me, who is freelance since April 2017 following redundancy.

It’s been two years in April 2019 since I went back to freelancing and as I type that I realise perhaps why I have had a small meltdown about it. After all, imagine if those two years were spent intensely dating. Sitting down every day to try and meet someone. Getting ghosted by them time after time. Or told ‘thanks but no thanks’. Going on dates (AKA for coffees or to events) and then not hearing back from that hot person you met. And then when you do meet someone (AKA a contract) it’s three months of true love followed by Thank U, Next. They go back to their family and you are back out in the world of freelancing/dating.

It’s the same theory of selling yourself to people you don’t know as a commodity, and it’s exhausting.

But here’s the thing. Just like I found with dating I didn’t want to stop because I wanted to meet someone and share my life with them, so it is with freelancing.

Deep down, I know I like being self-employed. After all this is not the first time I’ve done it – I first went freelance in August 2005. It’s something that can really work for you if you find the right balance, and writing down that date shows me that this is something I’ve tried to make work for a long time now. And still want to. And I also realised that I’ve never truly committed to it. I’ve always been out there ‘being’ freelance but then slipping into staff jobs when the right one came up.

So I am launching Freelance Feels with that in mind. Because I can’t write a wellbeing self-employment blog if I’m not self-employed! And I also want this to be a way of upping the amount of self-care I practise. I had become mildly depressed, sitting at home pitching out stories and looking for work. So I took matters into my own hands. I began writing about the wellbeing and mental health aspects of self-employment so I can reach out to others but also make sense of it all myself.

Because while freelance life has lots of ‘everyday’ challenges – invoicing, spreadsheets, juggling clients, attending events – they’re all underpinned by one thing: Our emotional and mental wellbeing. I’m going to explore that on this blog and, very soon, a podcast, too. There are so many of us out there, growing by the day – people who want to work for ourselves, who want the good things, but sometimes also find the bad: for some it can be as bad as anxiety and depression, self harm, retracting from society.

The aim of Freelance Feels is to be honest, but hopeful. This is about the impact of self-employment on mental health and wellbeing and what we can do to find balance. Some posts will be written just by me, some might be guest posts and others will have quotes from women who can add to what I'd like to say. That could be psychotherapists, coaches, or authors and writers who can relate to the themes explored in Freelance Feels.

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