The impact remote work has on my mental health is a complicated and nuanced issue. I currently work as a freelance artist (amongst other services). I use the dining room table to make my art, the garage for printmaking and a shared desk in the home office for my writing. Outside of my home, I occasionally facilitate workshops for a London charity where I work on site as part of a larger team. It’s a balancing act between flying solo, working with others and collaborating digitally.

When I was freelancing at university, this same ‘office setup’ all took place at my favourite local coffee shop. It was challenging but, as most new freelancers do, I muddled through. Freelancers often put their work before their well-being. Although my freelance experience has had its highs and lows which have be rewarding and skill enhancing, it's also mentally exhausting to the point where I never feel I can take a break.

My mental health and my workload have always had an ongoing battle with one another. Being freelance in the creative industry, for me, has always been a turbulent journey. I don’t define my practice as one thing. I am an artist, maker, educator and writer so have different experiences and skills to offer when looking for work. This is positive, as it means I can look for a range of different projects, however, I am not always confident in my approach when it comes to finding different types of work.

There are so many pros and cons to working as a freelancer especially when working remotely from home. It can be so rewarding when I hustle for a job and find new projects to get involved with, but the lack of a day to day work routine can also be a real challenge. 

Mental Health Remote Working

I now understand the importance of self-discipline, though I am constantly working on it. I take on new projects to compliment (and balance financially) my own creative practice. I make and create my art intuitively but, if I have a looming deadline, I try to work on client projects in the morning when I am most alert. I can then devote myself to making art as a way of rewarding myself and balancing out the day. 

I suspect there are many other freelancers out there who feel like this and work in this way. Working on my own can sometimes feel isolated and lonely, so it is important that I step out of my own headspace and connect with likeminded people. I occasionally use social media for this, although that comes with its own pitfalls. Can I make a real connection with someone I’ve never met before? Can I trust a stranger with my insecurities? Does it help if I share the challenges i'm facing via a tweet or Facebook post? 

I have come across projects run by other freelancers who are encouraging others to talk about these challenges and learn from one another. Career Curious run by Liz Seabrook and Jess Duffy is about female curious creativity coming together and developing careers through sharing experiences and talks. For the past year this has taken the form of events across London where women in business and freelancers connect and talk about their own personal experiences. 

Initiatives like Career Curious are so important to bring people together. Physical events like this can be a networking opportunity as well as a way of putting names and faces to a digital handle. Freelancer Club runs similar events that bring their members together. Their Freelancer Club Breakfast meet-ups that focus on the impact freelancing has on one's mental health is particularly valuable when it comes to making meaningful connections.

Group Session Freelancers

When your work life is filled with financial anxiety due to a lack of regular income, it is important to keep reflecting on where you are going and where you have been. Progress is not always based on your bank statement. I am very much in this cycle as I write this. 

As someone who struggles with depression, I think it is vital to strip it back to the basics. This is what I say to myself when I am having a particularly low day. When you’re self-employed and rely on your own drive to get out of bed in the morning this makes it particularly difficult. However, I have also learned that shifting from one activity to another, even if it is having a quiet cup of tea, shower or trip to the post office to send out work, I am still moving forward, despite it feeling like I’m stuck in the mud.

Working remotely as a freelancer has given me the freedom to really focus on what I want to do as a creative individual. It’s about finding ways to push myself without burnout and learning how to navigate these ebbs and flows. 

Freelancer Club hosts regular Freelancer Breakfast Club meet-ups for members to talk about the impact freelancing can have on their mental health. Check out these events and all others here