A Freelance Web Designer’s Guide to Managing Stress

Many people that work for others imagine that working for themselves is a dream come true.  You set your own schedule.  You can work from home each day.  There isn’t any in-office bullshit.  It’s your job on your terms.  While all those things might actually be true, that doesn’t mean that work stress goes away.  In many ways, it’s worse for those that are running their own businesses.   You have obligations to clients, deadlines to meet, meetings to get to, all while running your business and being your own boss.  It can be overwhelming and at times during my own career, I have sometimes wondered if I made a terrible mistake.  Just clocking hours for a regular paycheck can seem dreamy.  However, just a few techniques can get things under control and make working for yourself less stressful.

Here are five things you can do today to reduce stress as a freelance web designer:

  1. SCHEDULE EMAIL MANAGEMENT – One of the most stressful things for me has always been emails.  I have so many incoming emails each day that it can feel like I’m playing Wack-a-Mole.  I have learned that 1/2 hour to one hour of morning email management is what works for me.  Then I do project work.  At lunch, I do another email scan, and then for 1/2 hour to one hour at the end of the day, another email check.  I don’t check email after I leave the office for the day.  I also don’t respond to clients during off-hours.  I schedule my replies for the next morning.  Tools I use for these techniques include, SaneBox and MixMax.
  2. LIMIT MEETINGS – More than 20 years ago, I worked for was a small retail chain called Jay Jacobs.  While we had meetings all the time, they were focused and not the biggest part of my day.  I worked on completing my actual job (allocation analyst) on most days.  I briefly left that company for Eddie Bauer to do the same job.  When I got to EB, we had meetings all day.  I never had time to do my actual job.  Meetings were long and unfocused.  People would be at work for 12 hours because 1/2 the day was spent in a conference room shooting the shit.  When I started my own web design business and it started to grow, once again,  I had meetings happening all the time.  Perspective clients, BNI one-to-ones.  At this time, I offered a free consultation.  I was so stressed because I never had time to do my actual work.  Since then, my actual meeting time has become less and less.  I now have about six hours of meeting time available to clients/potential clients and colleagues each week. That’s it.  And it’s only on two days.
  3. SCHEDULE VACATIONS AND DAYS OFF – Plan one real vacation a year and schedules days off just because.  You not only need a vacation every now and then, but you need personal days, too.  I recently blocked out every other Friday afternoon on my calendar for the summer.  I want to work on home projects or maybe take a magazine down to the beach.  My husband works nine-nines and has every other Friday off.  This way, he and I can enjoy some summer together.
  4. MEDITATE – This has been a game-changer for me.  I don’t know what I would be without a daily mediation practice.  My mind wanders so guided meditation works best for me.  Check out YouTube and find something for free.
  5. EXERCISE – Whatever makes you feel good.  Walking, running, swimming, biking, hiking, the gym, or at-home workouts.  What works for me changes all the time, but as long as I’m getting 1/2 to one hour of movement a day, I’m less stressed.

The rule is to make keeping stress under control a priority.  It’s just as important as that looming deadline or meeting with your biggest client.  I have fallen into the trap of thinking that just getting my to-do list done will solve my stress.  That never works because my to-do list grows every single day.

If you don’t care for yourself, you will find yourself burnt out, less creative, and uninspired.  You are too valuable for that!  🙂

RESOURCES:  Entrepreneur – Top Tips for Managing Stress

About WebCami

Cami MacNamara has been designing websites since 2002 from her home office in Seattle, Washington. Her career started as a way to be a stay-at-home mom. Certification soon followed and persistence paid off. Cami has designed 500+ websites and wants to share what she learned along the way. Look for her at WordCamp Seattle. Follow: WebCami.com / Twitter / Instagram