Last September, I left my comfortable job in digital marketing to run a business with my partner. Some people thought I was crazy, but most were envious of my new self-employed life.
On the surface it sounds like a dream – I can wake up late, I don’t have a boss and I can do whatever I want.
In reality, being self-employed is a lot more stressful than I ever imagined.
Lately, I’ve been struggling to deal with the fact that being self-employed simply doesn’t feel as secure as working a regular job.
When we have a great day, I’m already worrying about the next. When we have a setback, it’s genuinely scary – it feels as though all our hard work could be wiped out in an instant.
I’ve worked for many companies in the past and didn’t know or even particularly care what their financial situation looked like. Now, I’m painfully aware. If our business doesn’t make enough money, we feel the brunt of it straight away!
I’m prone to anxiety, so this new source of worry has been difficult to deal with. Instead of throwing in the towel and asking for my old job back, I’ve developed a handful of new habits and mindsets that have helped me to cope with the stress of running my own business.
If you’re struggling to deal with the uncertainty and insecurity that the self-employed lifestyle brings, these tips may be exactly what you need to hear today!
Eat a healthy, plant-based diet
I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I’m constantly amazed at how much impact our diet has on our mood and overall mental health.
When I’m consistently eating a healthy plant-based diet, my mind feels clear and positive. In large population studies, people consuming a Mediterranean diet that included lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes were shown to have a reduced risk of depression along with better mental function.
It’s easy to skip breakfast because you were too busy with work, or order a takeaway for dinner at 10pm because the time just slipped away. But one of the benefits of working for yourself is the ability to structure your day however you please, so take advantage of it and schedule in specific meal times (and stick to them!)
It helps to be prepared and stock up on healthy, plant-based options each week to ensure that you won’t be tempted by the siren call of Deliveroo or Uber Eats. I’ve found that it’s actually much easier to be healthy at home – when I worked in London, I was surrounded by stores bursting with sweet and savoury snacks. Now that I’m limited to my own kitchen cupboards, I find myself making much better choices.
I can guarantee that you’ll feel more productive and much more able to deal with stress when you eat a healthy, plant-based diet. Pass the hummus, please!
I didn’t realise just how much I was exercising back when I worked in an office. My entire commute for each day added up to about an hour of walking, and I usually took an additional 30-minute walk during my lunch break.
That’s a pretty decent amount of daily exercise!
These days, my commute consists of shuffling from my bed to my living room. That works out to maybe… fifteen steps?
I could already envision the potential weight gain, and I was determined to stop it in its tracks.
When I left my office job, one of the first things I did was to sign up for a gym membership. My chosen gym is a half-hour walk from my apartment and I do my best to fit in a workout two or three times a week. I also attend a 45-minute spin class every week if my schedule allows it.
On the days that I’m not at the gym, I go for a fairly long walk. It may not sound like much , but these exercise habits have helped to keep me healthy and active when I so easily could have descended into an extremely sedentary lifestyle.
Find a balance
When you work for yourself, it’s easy to forget that there is more to life than your own small business.
If I’m not careful, my whole world can become figures, sales and social media messages.
Simply taking a step back and remembering that there is life outside your little work bubble can feel like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Try visiting a completely new place, even if it’s just for the afternoon. Alternatively, go somewhere that always makes you happy – for me, it’s Hewitt’s Farm.
I also find it helpful to designate specific ‘work hours.’ I rarely start before 8am and I try to switch off by 6pm, although this doesn’t always work out! As I manage the social media accounts for our business, I often find myself checking Twitter messages right before bed. Never a good idea!
There’s no need to work every day. You may think you’re being productive, but you’ll inevitably burn yourself out. Remember, weekends are there for a reason!
Remember to socialise
If I’m honest, I need to take my own advice here. I’m a pretty extreme introvert (in my Myer’s-Briggs test, I scored as 93% introverted!) and most social situations drain me.
However, through being self-employed I’ve learned that I did enjoy interacting with my previous colleagues and now I actually miss the companionship and conversation.
I go through bursts of either feeling motivated to go out and spend time with friends, or feeling as though my boyfriend, family and therapist are the only human interactions that I need in my life! It doesn’t help that most of my friends are spread across the world – often when I really want to spend time with someone, I simply can’t.
In an ideal world, I would try to socialise with friends at least two or three times a month. I also make an effort to stay in touch through Skype and WhatsApp voice chats, and these small actions keep me feeling connected to the world.
It may sound simple, but showering and putting on clean clothes can completely set the tone for the day.
I very rarely have a productive day when I’m slobbing around in my pyjamas with dirty hair and unbrushed teeth. Sure, it’s nice to relax a little on the weekends, but through Monday to Friday I do my best to ensure that I’m as clean and presentable as possible.
It’s not about looking good for others – it about feeling good for yourself. When I’m clean and dressed, I simply feel more ready to take on whatever the day throws at me.
Leave the house
If I’m not careful, I can go days without once leaving my apartment. This sounds nice and cosy in theory, but in reality it leaves me feeling sluggish and unmotivated.
I’ve found that getting outside at least once a day (even just for a walk around the block!) keeps me feeling connected to the world and never fails to lift my mood. It’s a nice reminder that there is life out there beyond the four walls of my apartment.
Connect with others
Being self-employed can feel a little isolating at times. Most of my friends and family work regular jobs and don’t quite understand the pressure and stress that comes with working for yourself. I’m lucky that I have Elliott – he’s been doing this for a lot longer than I have and can offer valuable insight gained from the wisdom of experience.
Connecting with someone who is in the same boat as you can feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. It’s such a relief to hear that the things you are feeling and experiencing are completely normal for the situation that you’re in, and you’ll probably find that you’ve been coping a lot better than you thought!
My advice? Reach out to other self-employed people through social media – most of them will be thrilled to chat! I recently spoke to someone though Instagram who was also struggling to deal with the stress of running her own small business, and it felt so good to realise that I’m not the only one.
There’s nothing better than complaining about annoying customers and frustrating advertising companies with someone who understands exactly what you’re going through!
When I think of self-care, I imagine taking a bath and putting on a face-mask. That’s definitely one aspect of self-care, but there are so many more than are completely unique to you!
My idea of self-care is taking the time to do something that I love. This could involve working on my blog, watching a fascinating documentary or cooking a more complicated meal. Self-care doesn’t have to be something that benefits you externally, like a pedicure or eyebrow waxing. My favourite forms of self-care are the things that benefit you internally.
When you’re self-employed, it’s easy to get sucked into the habit of working around the clock. Make sure you put aside some time each day to do something that is completely and utterly self-indulgent!
Develop a routine
I am definitely a creature of habit. If my routine is disrupted in any way, it sets my whole day off-kilter.
My last job was a routine-lover’s dream. I had a regular commute, scheduled weekly meetings, a predictable to-do list and set times when I would start and finish work.
So when I woke up that first morning of being self-employed with no routine and no clue as to how the rest of the week would look, I was immediately filled with anxiety.
Since then, I’ve developed a new routine that I do my best to stick to. I’ve found that waking up at the same time every day helps immensely, as well as having a list of regular admin jobs that I do first thing in the morning.
It may sound a little boring, but I like having a basic idea of how each day is going to look. Having a consistent routine helps me to stick to healthy habits and be more productive with my day – however, it might help to be a little more flexible than I currently am!
It may surprise you to learn that I’m actually fairly pessimistic. In any situation my mind goes straight to the worst case scenario, and even when things are going well I find myself waiting for something bad to happen.
I always thought that stressing about the future would help to prepare me for when bad things did inevitably happen, but recently I’ve learned that it’s actually just a waste of time.
Sure, it makes sense from a business point of view to be prepared. That’s why we have savings, back-up plans and up-to-date CVs. But living in fear of what’s around the corner can actually cripple you and stop you from making savvy business decisions out of fear that something could go wrong.
Don’t let stress consume you. Trust me, time spent worrying is always wasted.
If you’ve been struggling with the self-employed life, I completely relate. I didn’t realise just how much courage and self-belief it takes to run your own business. I’ve learned more in the last ten months than I ever did working for someone else!
Some people might wonder why we do it. Why put ourselves through all of that stress?
The simple answer is, because we love it. This little business feels like a plant that I’ve spent all of my time and energy nurturing, so seeing it flourish is the most fulfilling feeling in the world.
The growth, knowledge and experience that I’ve gained through being self-employed makes all the worry and uncertainty completely worth it.
Psst – I’ve also written a blog post for my office-dwelling readers. If you’re feeling a little left out after reading this article, check out 10 Easy Ways To Stay Healthy with An Office Job!