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They say it takes 12 weeks to form a new habit, and it looks like the Covid-19 lockdown has given us the perfect opportunity to do just that. I know that for many freelancers, myself included, work has slowed down significantly because of the pandemic. It can feel overwhelming, depressing, and at times I would much prefer to go back to bed than dealing with the situation.
The temptation to pretend that it is all just a big staycation and binge on Netflix to stay sane is high. Unfortunately, I cannot really afford to feel too sorry for myself, and I am sure many of you can’t either. Luckily, quiet periods can be great opportunities to invest in professional development and self-care, and create a more fulfilling life.
Need a bit of motivation and inspiration? Here are 8 easy habits the self-employed can form now, so when things go back to some sort of normality, we will all be at the top of our freelancer game! *insert flexed arm emoji here*
Create an optimised workspace
Like many freelancers, on any normal working day, I used to rotate between my dining table, kitchen island, bed, the local coffee shop and my sofa. This means that I developed a pretty terrible posture, only alleviated by regular walks to and from the coffee shop and weekly pilates studio visits. All activities which are not doable at the moment.
Spending that much time at home has forced me to create a dedicated working space in the house, with a decent seat. Many experts also believe that in the post-Covid-19 world, working from home will become the new normal. So now is the time to invest and make a corner of your bedroom/living-room/kitchen a place to concentrate on work and sit straight.
Update your portfolio
I had not updated my professional website since January 2019… How bad is that?! I just got busy and forgot… Yet a good professional website with an updated portfolio is essential to secure new clients.
So, don’t be lazy like me, and dedicate at least a couple of days to update (or create) your website and online portfolio. And don’t forget to ask for feedback once you are done! I am sure many of your freelancer friends will be happy to review it (looking at you Aba and Zuzanna) and they will probably come up with great suggestions to make it even better.
Find an exercise routine you like
We are all stuck at home and it doesn’t look like gyms are going to reopen any time soon. Yet exercise is extremely important to fight boredom and keep a healthy body and a healthy mind. Among everything I am mentioning in this post, a consistent exercise routine is the only thing I have truly stuck with for the past 7 weeks, that is because I have finally found what works for me (only took 34 years).
I find 60-minute-long sessions daunting, so I looked for something shorter that would still deliver results, and I fell in love with circuit and HIIT training (I know I am very late to the game, but I used to be so intimidated by HIIT classes). I love that it is 30 minutes maximum, it makes me sweat all the calories I am not burning on my usual outdoor activities and, because I am at home, no one will look at me embarrassing myself (I had to Google ‘burpees’ to know what I was supposed to do).
Volunteer to give back to your community
We live in a world where many people need help, and as we have more time on our hands, we can spare some of it to give back to our community. You can do the groceries for your elderly neighbour, prepare care packages for healthcare workers or even foster a rescue pet.
I personally love being around animals, so I volunteer as a dog walker/carer with Underdog International.
Create! Create! Create!
Boredom ignites creativity. You always wanted to write a book but never found the time to do it? Do you miss drawing or painting? Do you find a lot of joy creating recipes for your family? During downtime, you can find a great sense of achievement by doing something different. Not only is it good for your mental health, but it also makes you a better freelancer by stimulating your creativity and learning new skills.
I personally have reignited my love for film making. I have always been passionate about video production but never had a professional opportunity (yet!) in that field. So in the meantime, while things are quiet, I am making short travel videos to help people escape their homes and I am trying my hand at comedy acting on TikTok.
Expand on a new platform
Talking about TikTok, like many 30-something-year-old, I have developed an unhealthy addiction to it since self-isolation started. First I hated it, but once I figured out how it worked I became obsessed! Plus it fits right in with my desire to create more videos.
Think of any platforms you have considered in the past but never had a chance to join. Pinterest? Medium? Youtube? Who knows? This could be how you secure your next client?!
Invest in some training
Professional downtime is the perfect excuse to finally do some training. Most freelancers, or any professionals in that matter, are very guilty of not dedicated enough time to refresh their skills and/or learn a new one.
Yet training is important for both professional and personal growth. This is why I have joined Grow & Glow*, to learn more skills and thrive as a content creator and a digital communications manager. They are so many amazing online courses available and many platforms have incredible special offers at the moment because of the coronavirus. So if you always dreamt to attend a masterclass led by Jodie Foster or to learn how to use Photoshop, now is the time!
Make self-care a priority
Freelancing means constantly juggling between not enough or way too much work. We are constantly under pressure to do or find the work, and quality relaxing time (read not just sitting on the sofa watching some Netflix) is often the last thing on our list. I have been very guilty of this last year! I had so much work that even when I had free time, I had no energy to do anything, not even run a bath.
Now more than ever, self-care is very important to help you manage unwanted intrusive thoughts. So make sure to schedule two or three activities just for yourself each week. It can be a bath, reading that book you have meant to finish for months, 5 minutes of meditation or even a mid-day nap!
So next time you are in between gigs or there is a global pandemic, you know what to do, just form one, two or all of those 8 habits. Easier said than done, I know, but give it a go if you can, I promise you will feel great you did it!