Freelance writing seems like a dream career to many: giving up the rat race to tap away at a laptop in your pyjamas sounds ideal, to say the least. The thing is, freelance writing can be bad for your mental health. A global survey reported that freelancers are the least likely to feel that they are ‘thriving’ in their jobs.

The very same things that make conventional employment unappealing – irritating colleagues, pointless meetings and office politics – actually add much-needed structure to life. For many people, the daily office routine forms the basis of their entire social life. So after the novelty wears off, working at home can be quite lonely. Here’s how to manage the isolation so that freelance writing doesn’t take its toll on your sanity …

Even stay-at-home writers need to dress for success

It’s tempting to put on your comfiest pair of pants and promise you’ll just wash your hair tomorrow. But paying attention to grooming will have tangible effects on your state of mind. In the morning, get dressed as though you were going to work. Wear something you’d feel comfortable in if you were suddenly surprised by a client.

Don’t be a doormat

Yes, you work at your house. But you’re not doing housework. You’re a writer. Especially if you’re female, working at home will often mean that you’ll wind up doing whatever domestic chores crop up, and this can really eat away at your writing hours.

If you don’t have a physical office door to shut while you work, make a firm mental barrier between you and anything – kids, dogs, neighbours – that might interrupt your concentration. Set boundaries. You can be a domestic goddess once you’ve finished writing for the day.

Give the writing a rest sometimes

It may seem like a dream at first, but working at home quickly starts to blur your sense of what counts as relaxing and what counts as work. Mentally, it’s not really ‘relaxing’ if it’s in the same room you’ve just spent six hours working in.

Cordon off times and workspaces devoted to your craft and then defend both your free time and your writing time. Don’t let them bleed into one another. A colourless week where every day is more or less the same means you never get the psychological reset you need.

Be a sociable writer

The irony in journalism is that while you’re working feverishly to communicate your message, you’re actually isolated and not technically communicating with anyone. Especially if you’ve always made friends at work or within your field, freelancing means you’ll have to make an extra effort to be sociable. Leave writing behind and turn off your analytical brain once in a while. The next time you turn up to work you’ll feel refreshed.

Don’t be lazy about networking with other writers

It’s a common trope that writers are loners who chip away at their craft in solitude, tarnished somehow by the prospect of lowly things like marketing. You’ll naturally have to push your personal brand as a self-employed writer, but networking also has another benefit.

When you regularly encounter fellow freelancers, you can learn from them. Commiserate, celebrate and collaborate with those on your wavelength and you won’t fall prey to the angst and depression of an artist who feels like they’re in a vacuum.

As a creative, your mind is your primary tool of work. Keeping well-rested, psychologically healthy and alert means you’ll write better, period. If you’re transitioning to freelance work after conventional employment, spare a moment to make sure you’re supporting yourself mentally, too.

About the Author

Magazine Journalism at SA Writers CollegeLyndsay Wilson is a South African freelance writer and ex-grammar teacher who found her psychology background the perfect springboard for writing. She has ghostwritten dozens of 5 star Amazon titles on women’s issues, lifestyle, relationships and mental health. When she’s not arguing about the Oxford comma, she hikes, does salsa and gets up to mischief in the kitchen.