When I started freelancing and began my own freelance writing business, I constantly found myself burning out. The flexibility was amazing, but with no set hours, I often worked all hours of the night. I soon learned that even though freelancing allows for the freedom to choose your own hours, it’s still a job, which means it’s important to set boundaries, implement healthy time management, and practice self-care.
What Is Self-Care?
These days it seems like self-care is synonymous with bubble baths, long walks on the beach, and chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these things, but self-care is so much more than that.
Self-care is about making time for yourself, replenishing your creativity, and doing things that make you happy. If you carve out time for yourself every day and practice self-care, I guarantee you will be a better writer because of it.
If you’re not sure where to start or if you’re a workaholic like me, follow these tips to kick start your self-care routine.
1. Create a Morning Routine
As soon as I created a morning routine for myself, it changed my entire outlook of the day. When I first began freelance writing, I would often roll out of bed, grab my laptop, and get to work before I even got ready for the day.
By doing this, I never created boundaries for myself and my work life and personal life blurred together.
Be sure to establish a morning routine for yourself. Speaking from experience, even if you do decide to work in sweatpants for the day, change out of the sweats you wore to bed and into a new pair of sweats. It might sound silly, but this will immediately set up a boundary between your work life and personal life. Boundaries are key to self-care.
Find what works for you. I like to get up, have a cup of coffee, and read the news before I pull out my computer to write. Some people like to start out the morning with a quick walk around the block, make their bed, or take a morning shower to wake them up.
Every person is different, so find what routine sets you up best for a successful day.
2. Establish Working Hours & Set Boundaries
One of the best and sometimes most problematic parts of freelancing is that you make your own hours. The only reason I say this can be problematic is because that means you can work all hours of the day, loading up on as much freelance work as you can handle, and no one will stop you.
It’s so important to create working hours for yourself and to stick to them to ensure a healthy work life balance. Just like in a normal job, occasionally you will work overtime or outside your normal hours, but make sure this is the exception and not the rule.
The second you let yourself slide and fit in work whenever you have a free moment, you let your boundaries slide, and then your work life once again becomes your personal life.
3. Take Breaks
Let me repeat this — take breaks! It’s so easy to get lost in your work, only to look up and realize it’s 6pm and you haven’t left your computer. This isn’t healthy and it will lead to burnout.
If you're like me and become so consumed in your writing that you forget to take breaks, set alarms to remind yourself. And when that alarm goes off, don’t just push snooze. Finish writing whatever sentence you’re working on, shut your computer and take a real break.
Even if that means just sitting at your desk staring at a wall. That’s fine! Give yourself permission to rest and recoup. Your brain won't work if you don’t. As a writer, your idea-generator (aka your brain) is your money-maker. Don’t burn that out.
4. Exercise Everyday
As a freelance writer, you lead a relatively sedentary life. You sit in front of your computer, write, and work from home for most of your day.
Since so much of your time is spent seated, it’s even more important for your physical and mental health to schedule in regular exercise time. This doesn’t mean you need to run 3 miles every day or do high-intensity workout classes. This could be as simple as taking a quick walk around the block.
A few of my favorite exercise activities include:
- Online exercise classes
- Going for a run
- Walking around the block
- Dance classes
- Going to the Gym
Maybe some days you exercise harder than others, and that’s okay too. The important thing is that you’re getting a little exercise and movement every day.
Plus, if you feel good about yourself, your writing will likely be better too.
5. Give Yourself Permission to Relax
This one is nearly impossible for me. As a creative entrepreneur, I find myself constantly needing to go go go. If I’m not working, I feel like I’m being lazy. This is a dangerous mindset and honestly a part of the capitalist world we’re a part of. We’re taught that if we’re not being productive, we are worthless to society.
This is completely false. It’s OKAY to take time for yourself and relax. In fact, not only is it okay, it’s incredibly important. No human is meant to work 24/7. I think as writers, sometimes we're so busy hustling to meet our next deadline or craft that perfect pitch, we forget this.
If you need to sit on your couch and watch every Bridget Jones’ movie (hi...I highly recommend this), then please give yourself permission to do so. Rest and relaxation can refuel your batteries.
As my mom constantly reminded me every day growing up, “a car with no gas won’t run.” If you want to keep going, make sure you don’t run out of gas.