Mia’s been having a pretty hard time of it lately. Although she works from home, a large part of her job involves managing freelancers, and because of this, she has to be available during different time zones to deal with the ridiculous emergencies that get thrown her way. Unfortunately, what is classed as an emergency is often downright bizarre, and can involve someone’s great, great granddaughter who lives in another state suddenly needing a ride to the hospital because they’re in labour and there’s LITERALLY NO-ONE else available to drive them (true story), to someone dropping the work they’d agreed to do because they’d rather go out and get drunk (also true story). Mia often has to sympathise with these excuses and cover the work herself because, well, after eight years of working in the industry, things never change.
But now Mia is pregnant she has somebody else to think about in addition to herself and her husband Fred. Fred is used to Mia working long hours, and rarely complains, but Mia’s worried that the stress of running a freelance agency could be harming her unborn baby. After a particularly bad Monday, which involved Mia contemplating throwing her laptop out of the window and giving up on freelancing for life, she decided she’d better research some stress relief tips. Surprisingly a lot of these worked, so she wanted to share them. She’s written the advice below with pregnant freelance writers in mind, though all tips can be moulded to suit whatever freelance industry you work in.
1. Learn to Say No
Learning that ‘no’ is a complete sentence is key when you freelance as otherwise you’ll either end up agreeing to work that you have no clue how to complete, or you’ll end up pulling all-nighter after all-nighter in order to get everything done. And do you know what you receive for your efforts? Usually nothing except for the client thinking you can pull off the miraculous feat you just managed whenever they want you to.
Saying ‘yes’ to everything not only leads to high levels of stress, but it also leads to a lack of respect. And Mia wants you to trust her on this: it’s easy for people to have no respect for you when you work online because they can communicate via email and instant message rather than face-to-face. It’s definitely not something you want to encourage.
In 2018, Mia finally said no to a large client she’d had since the start of her freelance career who was constantly pushing her to do more, despite her already working seven days a week, and being on call during all hours of the day to accommodate them. It was nerve wracking to lose her regular income, but her stress levels drastically improved in the weeks that followed. Plus, after a few months, she’d managed to replace the large client with a few smaller clients, who were much more respectful of her time. While it’s probably best to line up new clients before doing what Mia did, she doesn’t regret it at all.
Also keep in mind here that you ARE going to need to take some time off when your baby is born, so the sooner you can learn to say no to demanding clients, the less stress you’ll have once your little bundle arrives. No-one wants to be taking phone calls mid-way through labour, and you definitely don’t want to be getting stitched up in the hospital while worrying about the press release you need to write before 9am the following morning.
2. Raise Your Rates
While raising your rates does come with the risk that you may lose a client, it’s also not a bad idea if you work for someone who causes you endless amounts of stress. In some cases, it’s just not worth doing anything other than showing them the door, but in others, the extra money may make the job worth it… especially if you can spend it on adorable baby clothes, nappies, the brand spanking new travel system you’ve been eyeing up, or the state of the art baby monitor you just know you need.
Mia recommends increasing your rates on a yearly basis anyway. Inflation causes expenses to increase, and you also gain more experience the longer you work in the industry, which means you can demand a higher rate for your service. Not only does doing this ensure you remain competitive, but it will also alleviate the stress of any money worries you may have when it comes to maternity leave. Freelancing is not a job that comes with a guaranteed monthly income, and you always want to ensure you have enough money set aside for when the proverbial shit hits the fan and every single one of your clients decides to go on a digital detox retreat for a month without warning.
3. Stop Striving for Perfection
Striving for perfection is good, but only up to a point. If you’re constantly overthinking the articles that you write, you’re only holding yourself back. The longer a project takes you to complete, the less per hour you are making, and the more projects you have that still need your attention. Mia doesn’t suggest submitting shoddy work, far from it, but she does recommend budgeting your time according to the pay and sticking to it. Once you have worked in the industry for a while, you should have a pretty good gauge of how long a project will take you to complete, and how much you should charge depending on the requirements.
Plus, it’s important to mention here too that taking on projects that are outside of your skill set is not the best idea. It’s much easier to turn the job down, or recommend a colleague who is better suited.
4. Ask for Help
Pregnancy is exhausting, whether you freelance or not, and some freelancers forget to ask for help from those closest to them. If you need to take a nap to boost your energy levels, don’t feel like you can’t. Perhaps a close colleague may be able to help cover the work you have due, or perhaps your husband can finish work early and pick your toddler up from nursery for you. You could also ask your spouse for some additional help around the house.
Mia is quite lucky in this respect as Fred also works from home, but in a less-demanding job. He often takes on the majority of the housework and cooking, freeing her up to write when she needs to. Sometimes she needs to ask him to help with parts of her job too, and on the occasions where this has happened, she’s found she feels better and less stressed.
No matter what your situation, don’t feel afraid to ask people for help. In many cases, they’re unaware that you’re struggling and will happily do what they can to help lighten the load.
5. Schedule Some Downtime
Finally, it’s important to remember that your body is growing an actual human inside you, and this means you won’t be able to keep up with all the demands you faced prior to pregnancy. It’s vital that you schedule some downtime, away from your laptop where you can relax, recharge, and do the things that you enjoy.
Since falling pregnant, Mia has tried to ensure she is ‘out of the office’ by 6pm and wherever possible she takes full weekends off. Knowing what she’s like, Fred has begun hiding her work laptop so that she is unable to access it until the next day, and she’s stopped feeling so burnt out and overworked.
Despite the stress she was feeling on the Monday described in the introduction, Mia knows that at 6pm she doesn’t need to worry, or even think, about work until the next day. She puts her out-of-office reply on, and anyone who can’t wait until the following day for a reply is not someone she particularly wants to be working with anyway. It’s not caused any problems yet, though (touch wood). Scheduling downtime for herself and setting clear boundaries has worked really well in Mia’s case and proves that even the biggest workaholics can change things if they have to.
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