Being a freelance journalist has many advantages. The perks include creative variety, the flexibility of hours and freedom to work from home, but the absence of a fixed income can leave mental and financial strains.
The trick to removing the stress is working smarter and therefore leading a healthy work-life balance, according to Louise Goss, founder and editor of The Homeworker Magazine, a publication dedicated to providing tips on how best to work from home.
Control your outgoings
Goss said step one to navigating the financial uncertainty of the freelancing world is basic budgeting. This is because not every task a freelancer does will be paid, so that should be factored in.
"Budget as if you’re only working 12 days a month instead of 20, as you will be doing a lot of work that won’t be bringing in revenue," she said.
Spending wisely and saving money on the day-to-day necessities is also crucial, but make room for some cost-effective downtime too.
"Use Netflix instead of going to the cinema. Meeting up with friends during the day for coffee, instead of drinks in the evening. Appreciate the fact you have that flexibility."
Appreciate the upsides
Try not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself with peers who have regular, high paying jobs living an easy lifestyle - freelancing has its advantages too.
"Being freelance means you can do the work that you’re really passionate about. Choosing the work you do, and the flexibility that comes with that is important. A lot of people don’t have that," said Goss.
"That can sometimes counter-balance any negative thoughts you have about the little money you may be earning."
Supply and demand
Networking is absolutely critical for freelance journalists, especially for planning around income.
"Constantly make sure you keep up-to-date with your contacts and make those connections, because you never know who might be looking for an article," Goss said.
"Newspapers, magazines and broadcasters will always want content. You never know if your pitch is something they want. It’s about not being afraid to try."
Regular networking can also help with the potential mental isolation of freelancing.
“It can also be a way of combating life relations, by getting out, meeting people and getting to these events.”
Know your value
It is the oldest trade-off in the book: article for exposure.
Working for free can sometimes be a worthwhile deal for freelancers, but giving away too much of your work should not become a habit.
"If it’s something you really believe in, or it’s a publication that you’re desperate to write for, you have to weigh it up. But be wary of happily giving work away for free."
Goss encouraged journalists to "stand their ground" and not be walked over.
"Regard yourself as a professional, as somebody who is experienced in what they do. Gauge how much you want to charge for your work. Have self-belief and uphold a sense of professionalism."
Escape the four walls of your office
When the deadlines are piling up, it is easy to become a hermit and not leave the house. Be wary of not isolating yourself, instead try mixing up the scenery by working from coffee shops or libraries.
"Lack of human contact and interaction can be something that challenges journalists, as they generally like connecting with people and hearing their stories.
"Making sure you have appointments and getting outdoors will give you a fresh sense of perspective. It’s good for your own mental well-being."
Discipline and time management are both crucial to easing the pressure of a large workload or looming deadline.
"Looking at how you spend your time and developing those routines can be quite important. Having blocks of focus time where you aren’t too distracted by other things is also key."
If you find yourself losing motivation and creativity, switching to another task or taking a break can be a good idea - but try not to get sucked into procrastinating on social media.
"It can be a time drain, but it can also be useful. Set aside blocks of time to use it, and then move on."
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