11 self-care strategies for freelancers

Andrew Carter

Freelancers Union

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
As freelancers and entrepreneurs, we’ve all heard the standard self-care strategies like take a break, eat well, exercise… yadda yadda. But there are a lot of things that many people don’t talk much about that you can do in your personal life as well as your business to help prioritize your health and well-being. I’d like to run you through a few little-known self-care strategies that you might not have considered thus far to help keep you focused on what’s really important in your business: You.

Know how you spend your time

Do you know how you spend your time? Where do you use your energy throughout the day? To start, do you know how many hours are in a week without Googling it?
FYI, there are 168 hours in a week.
So, let’s break it down, how do you spend a normal week?
  • 8 hours sleeping/day (56/week)
  • 8 hours working/day (40/week)
  • 6 hours cooking/week
  • 11 hours eating/week
  • Everything else
All together that’s 113 hours of things you “must” do. So, what’re you doing with the other 55 hours? TV, Netflix, social media? If you don’t really know, then it’s time to find out.
If you go to a nutritionist, what’s the first thing they’ll tell you? Keep a food log. If you go to a personal trainer what will they pull out? A workout log. Financial planner? A payment log. For these people to do their jobs, they have to know where you are right now to identify the areas of improvement.
It’s easy to keep a time log. Grab a piece of paper, or you can do it in a Word Doc. Create a table with 7 columns, one for each day, and 16 rows, one for each hour that you’re awake. Every hour, write down what you’ve done. At the end of the week you’ll have a very good idea as to where all your time goes.

Turn off non-essential notifications

Notifications were invented for one thing and one thing only: to distract you. I know it feels great that someone commented on your LinkedIn post or shared your newest Pinterest recipe. But, do you really have to know the second it happens? Waiting a few hours until you take a break or a little time to yourself will not change the fact that someone has interacted with your post.
Now, I understand that for social marketing the faster you respond to comments the better the algorithm places your post, so using them for your business in that way is understandable. For your personal accounts though, no way!
Do you need notifications that your Aunt Jannete has sent you an email on Gmail? Probably not. If you have a professional email for clients, then you can set up notifications for time-sensitive emails only if you must, but everything else is just a distraction.
Personally, when I used to get notifications, I would look at every single one, no matter what I was doing. It breaks your rhythm and concentration and it’s been shown to lower productivity and effectiveness. Not being productive and looming deadlines are a huge stress factor in most freelancer’s lives. Just try to avoid as many distractions as you can.
According to a study by Deloitte, if you’re like most people you’re checking your phone on average 47 times per day. But let’s be honest, we freelancers like our technology more than that!
Now, obviously, the numbers are different for different generations but even you’re reaching half those numbers, that’s still 15 hours of social media a week. How can you have any focused work time if you check your phone, on average, about 10 times an hour?

Vision/mission statement

Do you know why people are indecisive, make poor decisions, and waste time? It’s because they lack a vision or a goal. If you don’t know where you’re headed, then every small decision has to be weighed and considered. That takes a lot of willpower and concentration that most freelancers can’t afford to part with.
Creating a mission/vision statement for your company puts up filters that easily allow you to decide if something will help you fulfil those statements or not. If it will help you and you can fit it into your schedule, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Easy as that.
You need to have a direction and an endgame, or you’ll end up saying yes to every little project, poorly paying offer, and nightmare client out there. Set your boundaries and stick to them.

Pay yourself first

This is a very part of a financial plan, because if you don’t automatically transfer money out of your account right after getting paid it’s very unlikely that there will be any left at the end of the month. When you pay yourself first, it doesn’t “hurt” as much, and you’re setting yourself up for future success.
Now as self-care strategies go, it’s fairly similar but paying yourself first in this regard means doing non-urgent priorities before you do anything else. What are non-urgent priorities?
Those would be things like exercising, preparing a weekly food menu, meditating, journaling and doing the things that make you happy before you do the time-sensitive things. (Hint: you may have to overhaul your mornings, but most freelancers don’t have a specific time they need to be at the office, so it’s not that important).
If you plan self-care first thing in the morning, you’re much more likely to follow through. If you wait until 6 pm when you finish work, that glass of wine and the couch will beat out any health goals you had established. Pay yourself first, and you won’t have to worry about saving extra energy at the end of the day or money in your bank account. Both are good strategies.

Play a game you can win

When it comes to to-do lists, many freelancers and entrepreneurs are playing a game they can’t win. Our lists have 150 items that seem to just get longer throughout the day. We go to bed defeated because we think “we didn’t do much” and wake up overwhelmed because “we have so much to do”. There isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done on that list. So how do we make this freelance game winnable?
Change it.
I’ve borrowed a few self-care strategies from Michael Hyatt, but I must say, his Big 3 have actually changed my life. In essence, the Big 3 are the three tasks that you need to get done today to make your day a success.
Ask yourself, “What are the 3 most important tasks that will most help me reach my goals today?” Everyone can do three things today. The rest of the to-do list is just bonus points.
I like this strategy for many different reasons, but unlike a few of the common self-care strategies of “make a to-do-list” and “write things down”, the Big 3 prioritizes exactly what will help you the most today. This builds on the idea that “success is a series of small wins” and it’s oh so true!

Set time blocks

If you’ve been freelancing for a while you probably have a normal daily routine already, but you may not have let everyone else in your life know. Setting boundaries on your time is one of the most effective things you can do as someone who works from home. Say for example you work from 10AM-12PM on your biggest task of the day. Phone off, door closed, social media blocked (check out the anti-social app) and get to work.
Can you imagine how much you could get done with zero distractions? You need to be very firm with these time blocks. Although you’re working from home, you’re still at work. No being bothered by the kids, your spouse, the dog, the mailman, nothing. 98% of things can wait an hour or two without the world catching on fire.
Block out your timeslots and make sure everyone in your life knows that during those times you can’t be contacted (besides emergencies of course).

Make your bed

I can hear you now, “really? A list of self-care strategies including make my bed? Great advice buddy…” Now just give me a second. There are certain habits out there like exercising, daily goal setting, family dinners, keeping a food log, and yes, making your bed, which have been linked to improvements in completely unrelated areas. It follows the idea that “success begets success” and there’s hard data to prove it.
One small win like making your bed every morning makes going to the gym, waking up without hitting the snooze button, eating better, and being more productive not seem so hard.

Unsubscribe from everything that isn’t helpful

Let me tell you a little story. I’ve been living in Spain for almost 6 years now, and as of about a year ago, I was subscribed to over 20 newsletters from US-based retailers that I hadn’t used or read in over 5 years. I got daily emails from Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon.com and a lot more. Every day I would go into my email, and I would have to delete them manually. Every. Single. Day.
Why was I doing that to myself? Laziness probably. It may not seem like much to delete a few emails each day, but there’s a theory called Decision Fatigue. It’s based on the idea that the more decisions you make throughout the day, the more difficult each decision becomes, and so you start making worse choices as the day goes on.
So now back to my long list of subscriptions. I was wasting my precious decision-making muscle on whether I should read or delete emails from things I hadn’t used in over 5 years. That’s insane.
So, head into your Gmail and unsubscribe from every newsletter that is not helping you achieve your goals or improving your life (except mine, of course :-D).

Quit multitasking

Multitasking is “merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time”, as Steve Uzzel says in his book, The ONE Thing. Basex, an information-tech research firm, found that interruptions consume an average of 2.1 hours per day or 28% of the workday.
The numbers are probably a bit different than for freelancers–but maybe not all that different if you think about it. Office workers have to deal with their bosses, co-workers, emails, phone calls and everything else that comes with working a 9-5. As freelancers, we have to deal with a lot more distractions that they haven’t thought of.
At home, you have your couch 50 feet away, Netflix is just a few clicks away, your kitchen on the other side of the wall, the dog needs to go out. Maybe I should fold some laundry, I haven’t dusted for a while, how about I just take out the garbage… and on and on and on.
If we don’t firmly separate our personal and professional lives, they start to blend together, and multitasking becomes a part of our reality.
(I’m ashamed to say that I have a load of laundry in the washing machine right now. Hey, I never said I was perfect, but I’m working on it.)

Prepare weekly food menus

A lot of these self-care strategies involve planning, and this one is no different. Setting goals allows you to prioritize decisions. Paying yourself first is planning your morning around different self-care strategies. Setting aside 10 minutes every Sunday night to plan out your weekly meals will not only save you from reaching for the snack drawer but also the decision fatigue when you get to the store.
Tell me this, have you ever gotten to the store around 6 pm and you weren’t sure what you were going to get when you went? What’d you end up buying? I’m sure it wasn’t fish and vegetables.
We’ve all heard the standard self-care strategies of taking a break, exercising, eat well, drink water. Don’t get me wrong though! These are incredibly important self-care strategies, but I believe these don’t happen overnight, and they need to be planned.
Take care of yourselves out there. Freelancers are the future. Happy freelancing!
Andrew Carter is the founder of Healthy Freelancers, where he aims to help freelancers prioritize their health by learning to put themselves first. He’s a full-time translator from the US but currently living in Barcelona.

14 Extreme Ways to Save (for Those Hungry for Money to Invest)

Craig Curelop | BiggerPockets.com


This article is not for beginners. It’s not for those just thinking about purchasing their first property in pursuit of financial independence. It’s for those who are ready, willing, and able to take their life in their own hands. It’s for those ready to seriously start making serious strides towards saving ~$20,000 to get that down payment for a first property.
If you aren’t one of the lollygaggers, if there is absolutely nothing that is going to stand in between you and freedom, this article is for you.
In this post, I am going to describe some extreme budgeting techniques that some of my friends and I have used to save a significant amount of money, allowing us to quickly jump into this real estate game!
Full disclosure: Some of these are extremely affective, while others may seem completely outlandish. I suggest giving them a shot before shutting them down.
Here it goes.

Living: The Rent Hack

The rent hack is house hacking before you have the means to house hack. What you do here is you find a 2-5 bedroom apartment or house that you can rent. You rent the entire thing from the landlord and turn around and rent it by the room (or Airbnb it) to other people such that they are covering your full rent payment.
For example, you find a 3-bedroom house for $1,200 on Craigslist. You rent out the entire place from the landlord for $1,200 and then rent out each of the other two bedrooms for $600 each. That way, you are collecting a total of $1,200 from your roommates, paying your landlord $1,200, and effectively living for free. The more bedrooms you rent out, the higher likelihood that you will bring in money from your living situation.
Note: You need to let your landlord know that you are doing this! This is a new idea so most will likely say no, but it only takes one yes to get started. I would hope that a couple of rejections are worth $600+ per month.

Transportation: Bike to Work & Turo

Ideally, the house or apartment that you find is within walking or biking distance to work. That way you eliminate your need for a car. If you don’t have a car, that’s great! Let’s keep it that way.
If you do have a car and don’t want to get rid of it, then you can rent it out on this site called Turo. People coming into town will borrow your car for a few days and will pay you to use it while you go about your day normally.
This is a very good way to transition your car from a “liability” that takes money out of your pocket to an “asset” that puts money in your pocket.

Food: Grocery Shop & Grocery Shop Cheap

Food is another large expense for many Americans. One of the reasons this is the case is because we so frequently go out to eat where the meals are three times as much. No thanks!
If you want to save in the food department, you need to start making the grocery store a place you frequent. However, grocery stores can be dangerous too! There are a lot of things that are tempting but that you don’t need. Stay strong!
A BiggerPockets user recommended the Mealime app to me. I started using it and it’s great! You can pick what you want to eat, and the app automatically populates the ingredients for you. When you go into the grocery store, ONLY get what is on the list. Once you start to stray from your list, your money starts to stray from your bank account.
I know, I know. That’s really not all that extreme, but I really like it so I wanted to give it a shoutout. Here are some of the extreme tips:

Buy in bulk.

Costco is one of the greatest places in the world to buy in bulk. You don’t need to buy your meat or produce at Costco if you don’t like eating the same thing for a week (though I do it). I’m talking about all non-perishable items: toilet paper, toothpaste, oatmeal, canned goods, etc. Buy these items in bulk ,and you’ll save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars over the course of the year.

Go meatless for lunch.

If you’re vegetarian, this won’t be too hard for you. However, if meat is the staple of your every meal, there is likely some slimming down you can do (pun intended). Meat is 30%-40% of the average person’s grocery bill. Only eat meat for one meal each day, and you’ll be saving 15%-20% of your total grocery bill AND you won’t get that mid-afternoon groggy feeling. Win-win!

Frequent the “dented can” aisle.

This is something I hadn’t heard of until about 20 minutes before writing this article. Apparently, in almost every grocery store there is an aisle where all of the damaged cans and boxes go. Here, you can pick up cans and boxes for a fraction of the price of the ones that are in “new” condition. The contents on the inside are exactly the same—they just may not look as nice in your cabinets. Unless you’re going to be on MTV Cribs (is that show still on?), I would suggest making a habit of perusing this aisle. I know I’m going to!

Gym Memberships: Convict Conditioning

Hopefully, you have taken my advice and are (or will be) biking to work. There is a good portion of your exercise right there. If that’s not enough (it’s not for me), I would suggest Convict Conditioning.
Convict Conditioning is a program designed by an ex-convict named Paul Wade. While he was in jail, he would help his inmates get into the best shape of their lives through this body weight exercise program, which involves minimal equipment and minimal space. They needed to be able to do this in their jail cells.
Look up the program. I believe there is a PDF version for free online. If not, there are a bunch of YouTube videos around it.

Fun Extreme Budgeting Tips

This is the area that might get the most push back. These are extreme, fun—albeit less impactful—ways to save money, but they do work!
Let’s talk about saving on utilities:

Take military showers.

This is when you only use the water in your shower for functional purposes, to get yourself wet before you lather up and right after to rinse yourself off. For 90 percent of the time, your water is off and you are just washing yourself.
In this same category is making sure you shut your water off while you are brushing your teeth, shaving, and performing all other idle sink-side activities.

Put a two-liter bottle in toilet tank.

Get a two-liter bottle, put a few rocks in it, fill it with water, and place it in the back of your toilet tank. By doing this, your toilet will need less water to fill the tank, and therefore less water will be flushed. If a two-liter bottle is too big, try a one-liter bottle.

Hang clothes to dry.

This is self-explanatory. It’s no secret that your dryer uses a whole lot of utilities. I’d recommend getting a clothes rack, and if it’s a nice day, hang dry your clothes. Depending on where you live, it may only take two or three hours to complete.

Unplug electronics when not in use.

When your electronics lie idly but are plugged in, they are still using electricity. If you aren’t using your TV, appliances, and other electronic devices, unplug them! You’ll save quite a bit of electricity this way.

Cut sponges in half.

Look at the size of most of the things that you wash. I would bet that in most cases you do not need the ENTIRE sponge. Why not cut them in half or even thirds to make them last two or three times as long?

Put a soap bowl next to the sink.

Now that your sponges are cut in half, I would bet that they can fit in a small bowl beside your sink. Fill that bowl with soap and water, and put the sponge in there. That way, you are saving water and saving soap all at the same time!
There it is—some extreme ways you can save to expedite the time towards your next investment. Again, some of these are silly and some are affective, but I do, have done, or know people who do all of these ideas. If it works for us, it can certainly work for you.

There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Idea

“Any idea can be a great idea if you think differently, dream big, and commit to seeing it realized.”
-Richard Branson, CEO and Founder, Virgin Group
You have a great idea and you want to turn it into a viable product or business. What do you do? Here are some tips from one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, Richard Branson, from a guest column he wrote for Entrepreneur magazine.

Step 1. Take It to the Hammock

Don’t be in a rush to start building a spreadsheet of projections and ordering inventory. Start out by relaxing in a comfortable place. Branson prefers using a hammock at his home on Necker Island. This is where he can relax, settle in, and envision the development of his idea.
There are two things Branson believes are crucial to the success of a new venture: frustration and enthusiasm. His first business was selling records in the late 1960s, selling them for less than the major retail outlets. He was successful because he combined his passion for music with his aggravation at prices the big stores were charging customers for it.
But the key is to love what you do. “Are you enthusiastic about how this business will make a difference in people’s lives?” Branson asks. If you are, he goes on to say, you’re more likely to persevere in the face of struggles you will inevitably encounter.
A mind map is a very effective way to brainstorm new ideas.

Step 2. Give It the Mom Test

Sometimes the people closest to you can be your best intitial sounding board. Tell them about your project and if they don’t get it, other people might not either.
Branson says “Ask your mother for her honest thoughts on your plans. If she glazes over when you describe the new venture, return to your hammock and start over. If she gets excited, you could be onto a winner.”

Step 3. Take a Risk

This is the part where most people hesitate, because it’s risky. It’s easier to hold back and wait for the perfect time to move forward. But this is a mistake, Branson says. “Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for the perfect moment—they create it.”

Step 4. Test it Out

It’s said that entrepreneurs are willing to take risks. This is true, but successful entrepreneurs are the ones who mitigate the risks they take. This means developing, testing, and and getting market feedback on your product or service, then refining and improving upon it, as you move forward.
Branson’s advice: “Develop some samples of what you intend to sell, and when you’re happy with your product or service, begin the best and cheapest form of market research you can—ask your friends, family members, neighbors, and social media followers to try it out.”
Don’t get down about adverse feedback. This is a process, and you need to be prepared to be flexible, willing to make adjustments to your product or your plan. (Without saying so, Branson is applying the lean startup philosophy of the MVP—minimum viable product.)

Step 5. The Ultimate Test

Once the product or service has been tested and refined to your satisfaction, it’s time for the final test: Will it sell?
Once you’ve made those changes, try selling small batches of your product or offer initial introductions to the service wherever you can — online, door to door, at street fairs, and so on. Continue asking for feedback, and keep in touch with those customers. Make sure you get the branding right: Does it stand out? Do your brand values attract eager customers? Will they also attract talented employees?
When this happens, you’ll encounter new, practical problems. Such as how to distribute your product, how to manage cash flow, and whether to raise capital from investors.
The kinds of problems we hope you will have.