Starting a business and becoming your own boss is an appealing concept for many people. Saying goodbye to the authority and direction of somebody else is a great feeling, and can offer a strong sense of freedom. Being self-employed and answering only to yourself is certainly an attractive idea, but what happens when you quit the reliability of a monthly wage and need to make every decision by yourself?
Being self-employed is something that many people aspire to and is an increasingly popular employment option. Research shows that in the UK, more than 5 million people are self-employed, up from 3.2 million in 2000. This equates to over 15% of the workforce. Despite self-employment offering many benefits, it can also be incredibly stressful, which can sometimes seem to outweigh the many positive aspects of being your own boss. If you are finding life as an entrepreneur or freelancer stressful right now (especially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic), there are productive steps you can take that will help you manage and reduce your stress levels.
Make Sure to Stick to Working Hours
Do you find yourself starting work first thing in the morning, and then finishing late in the evening, having not seen the sunlight all day? Working long hours can have a significant impact on every aspect of your life. If you are staring at a screen all day and with work always on your mind, you may find that your relationships begin to suffer and that you spend very little time doing many other things that you enjoy.
It’s normal and healthy to want your business or freelancing career to be a success, but you must avoid compromising yourself in the process. Pushing yourself to work every hour of the day can leave you suffering from several health complaints, both physical and psychological. Prolonged periods of stress can lead to your becoming burnt out.
To ensure that you do have some downtime each day and that not every one of your waking hours is spent staring at a screen and thinking about work, you need to set yourself working hours. Setting your own work hours is an excellent way to make sure that you are not spending too much of your time working, and that you have the opportunity for some downtime in your schedule too.
When You’re Self-Employed, It’s Often Sensible to Ask for Help
Being self-employed can involve a balancing act with many different tasks to fill your day. Feeling that you have to achieve every single task involved in running a business or freelancing can be overwhelming. Hiring a member of staff, even if they only work one day per week, can be a significant help, and will relieve some of the pressure that you are under.
If you are looking for an alternative way to keep the feeling of being overwhelmed at bay, why not consider outsourcing? In the long term, outsourcing some aspects of your business can bring some incredibly positive results.
The beauty of outsourcing is that it enables you to receive expert support and guidance. You will gain all of the specialist expertise that you need, without having to take on the expense of hiring a new employee.
Accounts, marketing, and IT services are all popular areas within small businesses that are often outsourced. Likewise, if you freelance, you don’t have to learn about website design, SEO, and social media marketing to get ahead – if you can outsource some of these tasks, which involve a specific skillset, then you can save yourself from a lot of stress, frustration, and overwork.
Address IT Vulnerabilities
Does your business have lots of niggling issues that need to be sorted? These unresolved issues can become a significant source of stress if you try to ignore them. You can tackle your weak points and rid yourself of these constant worries simmering at the back of your mind or at the very least, ease some of the pressure.
IT security is a common cause of stress among the self-employed. Taking control of your IT systems, and ensuring that they are robust enough to meet the demands placed on them is crucial. Maybe you often worry about how secure your systems are, and feel concerned that you may get targeted by a cybercriminal? Tackling this worry head-on is vital, as if you do become a victim of cybercrime, you will regret not taking action sooner.
Once you have addressed your weak points, you will be free to focus your attention on your business without endless worries at the back of your mind.
More Hours Doesn’t Always Translate Into Greater Productivity
Spending lots of time in the office, and very little time relaxing at home can contribute to your rising stress levels. So, you spend the vast majority of your time in the office, but just how productive are you once you are there? Productivity and time spent at work are not the same things. In fact, you may find that you can get far more done each day by spending less time working. In fact, studies have consistently revealed that fewer hours spent working than normal (e.g. four days a week, instead of five) translates into enhanced productivity (due to reduced stress and improved focus).
When thinking about productivity, it is useful to think about the number of hours that you have spent at work, and what you have accomplished in that time. The results of this comparison can often come as a shock and can completely change your attitude toward time spent in the office.
To make the best use of your time, it can be useful to divide your day up and allocate different tasks to different times. Instead of repeatedly checking your emails throughout the day, why not make the best use of your time and check them once in the morning, and then again in the afternoon. Sticking to these new rules and putting an end to continually checking your email will leave you free to focus on working your way through your to-do list.
Do you take regular breaks when you are working? If not, you could be harming your productivity levels. Taking frequent breaks may seem like wasted time that could have been spent working. However, this is not the case, as research shows that taking regular breaks is beneficial to productivity, as it allows you to return to a task with better concentration than you would have if you took no breaks. Another big bonus of taking frequent breaks – especially if you’re going for walks and being in a natural surrounding – is that it will help you to bring your stress levels down.
Organisation is an Essential Skill for the Self-Employed
If you are always busy but feel like you are not making much progress, it is time to examine what exactly is disorganised about your work (since disorganisation is usually the main culprit). When you begin to feel overwhelmed by the number of things that you need to do, the simplest way to feel better is to prioritise your time more effectively. Without a plan of the work you need to do each day, you need to do it can be hard to stay focused and to get tasks completed. Plus, you may end up juggling so many tasks mentally that you forget about some of them.
A daily schedule and to-do list (either written out or stored on your computer), with logically prioritised tasks, will help you to feel in control of your workload and significantly reduce your stress levels.
Connect With Others
There is no doubt that running a small business or freelancing can be a lonely experience from time to time and sometimes, way too often. When deadlines are looming, and you still have a ton of work to complete, your stress levels can skyrocket.
Getting organised will not only help you to reduce your stress levels but to bring them down even further, it helps to share your experiences with others. There is no shame in admitting that you feel stressed; in fact, it can be helpful to share how you are feeling and seek out support from others who have faced – or are currently facing – similar struggles. Joining a networking group can help you to connect with others in the same situation, and to express your concerns and experiences, which is an excellent way to help ease your stress.