How talking about freelancing saved my mental health
Jenny Stallard hit a crisis point when she became freelance for the third time in her life. By encouraging other freelancers to speak about their feelings, Jenny found the support she needed.
Freelance life has always been a part of my working life – even when I’ve been in staff roles, I’ve often done some freelance work on the side, and I’ve actually gone freelance three times in my career.
The first two times, I chose to make the leap, but the third – which began in April 2017 – was after redundancy. And for the first time, I found myself struggling. Instead of a power and purpose thanks to my deciding to work for myself, I had chosen freelancing as a default following the redundancy. It seemed like a natural step, as I’d been freelance before the staff job and kept in touch with my contacts. However, two years later, in April 2019, I found myself floundering. Really floundering.
Instead of flourishing as a freelancer as I had always done before, I was stuck. Work was scarce, I was also working from home more than I ever had before. I was used to doing in-house work most of the time but now, sat at my desk in my flat, I found myself crying in the middle of the afternoon. I was lost, and unhappy. Lonely, confused and self-depreciating as I scrolled through social media comparing myself to everyone else, and their seemingly successful freelance lives.
Talking to some trusted freelance friends as well as my sister and mum, I knew I’d reached a crisis point. I wanted to be freelance but I felt unhappy being freelance. The thing was, I also knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
As is often the way with me, as a writer, I thought about putting pen to paper. Well, fingers to keyboard.
And I wrote some blog posts about my feelings. I tried to make sense of what I was going through by writing it down. What started as a way for me to try and find some clarity began to grow, and I made the scary and nervous step to turn my words into a website. I had a name – Freelance Feels. While other sites (very helpfully) offered advice on the how of freelancing, from pitching to chasing invoices, Freelance Feels looked at the feels of it all. And I chose a symbol; a cactus.
I had seen some cacti at the Chelsea Flower Show and they made me think of freelancers – surviving tough conditions but still needing love and water. Spikey, sometimes, but needing to be in order to survive.
As I built Freelance Feels, two amazing things happened. I began to find a lot of followers who felt the same way – a community of like-minded cacti. And perhaps most importantly, I began to feel better. The cloud of depression began to lift.
Founding Freelance Feels had become therapy, of sorts, for me.
Freelance Feels has given me a reason to push on as a freelancer. The responsibility of posting on Instagram, and now running a podcast and newsletter, mean that I have more to focus on, more to be happy about.
I know there will likely always be some darker moments, but charting them through the platform gives it all some balance.