Opinion: Putting freedom back into freelancing

Do you ever find yourself feeling bored or burned out by freelancing, even after you chose it to escape the typical nine-to-five routine? Every day feels the same, especially if your work tends to leak into the weekend?

The good news is that it’s probably not down to being self-employed, considering that freedom is one of the big attractions in working for yourself. And it’s also easily fixed once you recognise the issue.

Unconsciously slipping into the same habits and routines is an evolutionary trait of the human mind that can probably be traced back to our ancestors in caves. If you’re learning which berries are non-lethal by trial and error, it’s a good thing that you start picking the edible varieties without really thinking about it. And that now means we end up choosing the same one or two lunch options even when there might be lots of risk-free food available to try.

Making new choices also uses mental energy and willpower. It’s why the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama famously wear the same style of clothes every day.

But it’s also why bad habits are harder to break than creating new ones. And the reason you can end up working with the same clients, in the same way, day after day. Which can not only impact your enjoyment of freelancing, but also have a negative effect on the quality of work you’re providing.

Everyone is happy with different levels of predictability in their lives, but some amount of spontaneity and freshness will benefit your creativity, help you avoid boredom and burn out, and even make life appear to slow down.

Putting freedom back into freelancing

And putting the freedom back into freelancing is quick and simple. You don’t need to turn your life upside down. Just plan some new experiences, even small ones. You might be surprised at how much difference it can make.

Try a new home office layout, or working in a different location. Choose an alternative route for your lunchtime walk, or sample some food you wouldn’t normally pick. Read a book, or listen to music, outside the genres you normally enjoy.

If you usually write on a computer, try drafting something with a pen and paper to see how it might change things. Swap your smartphone for a camera, set your meeting agenda in reverse order, or schedule some time to learn a new skill.

And you don’t necessarily need to plan an amazing novel experience on a daily basis. The benefits of increased dopamine and happiness, reduced stress and a better sense of purpose will last for a while, as your brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself is stimulated.

And if you need a direct business benefit to justify the time and expense, it can help you avoid falling into the habit of relying on the same client work continuing indefinitely. It’s easy to slip into a comfortable routine and stop looking for new leads and opportunities. Which makes it all the more painful if all your projects suddenly come to an end.

Do something different, embrace the freedom in freelancing, and your work and business will benefit along with your own wellbeing.

Read more of Dan’s previous opinion columns on freelancing here, including bad briefs, living with another freelancer, and why everyone should be self-employed at least once in their careers.