The gig economy is rapidly transforming the workforce. Thanks to this economy, freelancing has become a popular option, allowing people to put their skills to work to bring in income without taking on the commitment of a full-time employee position. The gig economy offers many perks like flexibility, and freelancing can be a rewarding and exciting career option because of it.
But freelancing can also have a negative impact on your mental health. While striking out on your own and even developing your own freelance business can sound appealing, there are some downsides to gig work. Before you decide to freelance, be sure that you’re armed with strategies to protect your mental health.
The Gig Economy Means Extra Work
Gig work may seem ideal since you can fit it in around your existing commitments, but remember that when you work as a freelancer, you’ll inherit a lot of extra work because you’re not a full-time employee at a stable company. As a freelancer, you’ll need to market yourself to companies and land gigs. From there, you’ll need to do some sort of onboarding process to outline the scope of the gig and make sure that you understand the specifics of the work needed.
But that’s not all. You’ll be responsible for monitoring all of your deadlines, and often you’ll need to follow up with your contact at each company for feedback and approval. Then, you’ll need to create and send out invoices, monitor those invoices to make sure that they’re paid, and keep track of all of your income and expenses for tax purposes.
This is a lot of extra work, and it can be tiring and stressful, especially when you’re new to freelancing and still establishing your process. With the increased stress and responsibility, you might be more likely to lose sleep, feel tired because of both the stress and the lack of sleep, and even experience physical stress manifestations like headaches and an upset stomach.
As you spend more time in the gig economy, perfect your processes, and find your rhythm, some of this stress will dissipate on its own. Still, it’s important to develop strategies to cope with stress. Getting regular exercise, taking up meditation or yoga, making time for some fun hobbies and activities you enjoy, and even talking to a counselor or psychologist are just a few ways you can prioritize your mental health in the gig economy.
Freelancing Lacks Stability
We’ve already mentioned how the gig economy does indeed offer many benefits. For some people, like those who have childcare responsibilities or have disabilities that limit their options for working outside of the home, gig work can provide a source of income and a way to join the workforce that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Gig work might even inspire you to start your own small business, taking charge of your career and your income. This economy is also friendly to workers of all ages — whereas seniors might experience age discrimination when applying for a traditional job, gig work is much more age-friendly and welcoming of freelancers of all ages.
Additionally, freelance work gives you unparalleled flexibility and allows you to pick and choose the type of work that you want to do, as well as the companies that you want to work for. Gig work can be ideal for college students, parents, and people who already have full- or part-time jobs who need extra income. But while there are many benefits, there are also downsides to the gig economy, and one of the most major downsides is that it lacks stability.
This lack of stability can be a source of stress for gig workers, but there are ways to create your own stability. Accepting long-term contracts can give you a recurring source of work, and working for multiple clients at once ensures that if one client no longer needs your services, you’ll have income from your other clients to help carry you through until you find another gig. Putting money away into a savings account can also provide financial security in case your freelance income suddenly changes.
Burnout Is a Real Risk
In the gig economy, you are your own boss, and there’s always the temptation to take on more work and to keep yourself fully booked up. The fact that you don’t have sick time and that your income is directly linked to your productivity can further drive you to spend more and more time working, sacrificing your free time for your gig.
Overworking yourself can have a significant toll on your mental health as a freelancer, and can even lead to burnout. Some common symptoms of burnout include feeling cynical about your work, physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches, a feeling of being constantly tired and unable to cope, and difficulty concentrating with a lack of creativity. To combat burnout and protect your mental health, it’s important to develop a schedule for your work and stick to it. Invest in self-care and treat your gig work more like a traditional job where you only focus on work during work hours.
Freelance and gig work can open up new opportunities and help you to bring in additional income. Before starting up as a freelancer, think about the mental health issues that you may encounter, and just make sure that you’re prepared with strategies to cope if they do occur.