STRESS ISN’T ABOUT CUBICLES, COMMUTES, AND CAFETERIAS. IT’S ABOUT YOU.
Working from home, or from wherever you want, is awesome. The environment in which we work is incredibly important to the work we do. Getting to choose that environment is a bonus, but if you expect that moving away from the office and to a location of your choice will suddenly solve all the issues you had with work, you’re going to be disappointed. A stressful work environment can be created by your clients even if they’re thousands of miles away; but even more so, it can be created by you.
THE STRESS OF REMOTE WORK
This is not to say you were the source of stress in your office, but it is to say that you can control most of the stressors in your life no matter where they come from. Becoming a freelancer was a great first step, as this gives you far more control over those stressors, but working remote isn’t a cure all. It can come with stressors of its own. If your chosen place of work is at home, and you happen to live alone, then loneliness can be an issue. While the quiet may seem advantageous, many people actually have improved focus when they’re around others. The same goes for anxiety. You can mitigate various forms of stress simply by being around people. On the other hand, if you choose to work in a coffee shop or another public venue, the noise and energy can be stressful and distracting. Most offices, despite being full of people, at least tend to be quiet. You should try out different surroundings to experiment with. Which location allows you the most focus, and puts you most at ease? If you want real solitude, then your home is perfect. If you find calm in the outdoors, head to a nearby park. If you want to recreate the full but quiet vibes of an office, the library may be a good option.
CLEARER SCHEDULE, CLEARER MIND
No matter where you work, stress can follow you; because a lot of stress, is created by our own minds. Being in the right environment can certainly help, but reducing stress takes more than that. Some common stress relief practices include meditation, exercise, and tai-chi, but work-related stress can be lessened through simple actions like organization and communication. Work stress often comes from simply being overworked. This can stem from clients, but at the end of the day, freelancers control their work schedules.
Be cognizant of how much work you’re able to take on in a certain period. If you know that the work a client is giving you is too much to handle, or the deadline they had in mind is unrealistic, you need to be honest with them from the start. Be very clear about how much work you are able to accomplish in a set period of time. Create a detailed schedule of deliverables together with the client. Make sure everyone is on the same page and no one is freaking out because they’ve been waiting three hours for an email they were supposed to get. You should also clearly define what it is your job actually entails. Set the expectations with a client right from the start so they don’t think you’re designing them a website when all your doing is writing copy for a website. Once you’ve established clear schedules and responsibilities with a client, do the same for yourself.
Your own personal schedule won’t match exactly with a client’s because you have lots of other work commitments, oh, and a life to live. Create a master schedule that aligns with your personal schedule and the ones you create for each client. Doing this extra communication and organization doesn’t only help you stay on top of your work and feel less overwhelmed, but it leads to far fewer arguments with clients; and there is nothing more stressful than that.
IT COULD JUST BE THE JOB
If managers stressed you out from 8 feet away, rest-assure, they can do it from 800 miles away. If you’ve tried everything and your work is still giving you anxiety, then perhaps it really isn’t you. Really make sure of this before blaming a client, but if you are sure, then you may need to let the client go. If you really want the money or the job on your resume and think you can suck it up, go for it. It will actually help lower your stress now that you understand where the problem lies in the relationship. Simply knowing where the stress is coming from is a relief, as nothing freaks us out more than not knowing something. If you do choose to part ways with a client do it as respectfully as possible. Don’t say “you made my life miserable I hope you get in a car accident.” Burning bridges helps no one, especially not you. We all encounter bad clients, and each one is a learning experience. One of the best ways to improve your communication or collaboration skills is to work with people you really don’t like. Plus, you’ll now have a better idea of what kind of clients to steer clear of when looking for work.
Stress may be the greatest silent killer of all. Freelancers have the power to eliminate this stress from their working lives, but it’s not just going to happen. Stress is pervasive. We have to actively work to mitigate it.