5 ways to cut down on stress if you’re self-employed

Self-employment doesn’t guarantee a stressful work life. According to research by AXA Insurance, self-employed people are less stressed than people in ‘normal jobs’.

78% of self-employed people say they’re “stressed to some extent”, compared to around 90% of employed people. Just 22% of freelancers and business owners claim to work long hours, compared to 44% of those working for someone else. It turns out, instability, work/life balance, and earning potential are a bigger concern for people with proper job contracts.

Stress might be less likely, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. If you run your own business or work for yourself, you can reduce the stress you do feel when the pressure’s on or you’ve got deadlines stacking up. Here’s how.


1. Prioritise your work and your life

A lot of LinkedIn ‘influencers’ would have us believe the only way to get ahead is to work and work until you drop. There are loads of successful examples they could cite - multimillionaire Grant Cardone thinks “you need to stop doing the 9-to-5 and start doing 95 (hours a week)”, if you want to make as much money as he does.

That doesn’t leave you with much time for family, or a life, or even spending the money you’re so focused on making. It you’re not the kind of person who works well under that level of pressure, it’s a fast track to feeling very, very stressed.

How to get started right now: Make a list of your biggest priorities in life, both work-related and personal. Your business obviously takes one of the top spots and demands quite a lot of your time, but not all of it. Focus on what else matters to you.


2. It’s a cliché, but don’t sweat the small stuff

Perfectionists, and those with a natural tendency for anxiety, will often find themselves overwhelmed by pressure. These pressures come in all shapes and sizes, and if your natural response is to worry, you’ll worry about small annoyances just as much as the big problems.

How to get started right now: Think about the worries spinning around your mind right now. Will they matter in a couple of weeks time? A month? If not, don’t dwell. Do what you need to do and then find a way to put it to one side.


3. Learn your process (good and bad…)

Last minute Larry? There’s no shame in it. It’s better to be honest with yourself, than forcing yourself to work in a completely different way. We all want to be on top of things and super efficient all the time, but it doesn’t always come naturally.

How to get started right now: If you’re usually scrambling around the day before a deadline, give yourself a couple of extra days as a buffer. If you’re super forgetful, set reminders on your phone and leave yourself notes. Create new habits you can actually stick to.


4. Fill your mind with other things

You can easily measure the amount of time you spend on something and decide it’s too much or too little. Effort and thought are far more difficult to judge though. If something’s on your mind throughout the day, it’s draining in a way you can’t quantify.

If switching off from work keeps you awake or leaves you worried and preoccupied, find ways to completely immerse yourself in something else. It could be the gym, going somewhere busy (or quiet!), the cinema, coffee with friends - anything!  

How to get started right now: Whatever you need to take your mind off things - go and do it or book it!


5. Know your limits

Setting boundaries is really important for both you and your clients. Without clear expectations of what kind of behaviour is okay and what’s not, your time becomes less your own and you can start feeling irritable and resentful.

If a client’s contacting you at 1am, expecting a 24-hour turnaround, or dragging their feet with payment, it’s in your hands to let them know that’s not okay with you. That conversation is difficult to have, especially if you feel you need the money, but you could be surprised by the results.

How to get started right now: Identify some client behaviour you’re not happy with and think of a way to present an alternative and talk it out with them. Always be polite and consider their point of view, but don’t forget about your own needs.


Being your own boss might mean more responsibility and more pressure, but if you’ve chosen this path you’re clearly someone who thrives on it. Hopefully this advice helps you deal with the inevitable stresses that pop up from time to time, making your working day a bit easier.


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