Things You Must Not Neglect When You Go Self-Employed

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Learn from this cat and don't neglect self-care

Us self-employed folks tend to be pretty single-minded. And that can be a strength! Without laser focus and hyper dedication to our work, many of us would never have reached the point of having a viable business model. But these traits can also have a downside. They can lead us to neglect other areas of our lives in a way that is often incredibly harmful in the long run.

So when you’re up to your eyeballs in your business plan or drowning in work, what should you still make time for? Well, in my opinion, here are five things you absolutely must not neglect when you go self-employed.

Your health

When I first started freelancing, 60-hour weeks and skipping lunch and eating dinner at my desk became par for the course. I wondered if this was normal. While there will occasionally be weeks where that has to happen (as there might be in any job) it isn’t and shouldn’t be the usual norm. No-one can work that much consistently without it having a negative impact.

When you’re really busy, it can be easy to neglect your health. You might eschew healthy meals in favour of takeaways or microwave meals to save time, you might try to get by on less sleep than you really need, or you might stop making time for healthy habits like exercising. You might even put off things like medical appointments if you feel like you can’t step away from your desk.

But when you neglect your health, everything suffers. It is impossible to be your best self or run your best business when you’re malnourished, exhausted, sick, or stressed out. This way lies burnout, which will eventually force you to take a break. So make like the cat in today’s featured image, and take a nap when you need to.

Your family and friends

I’m sure my partner won’t mind me saying that he’s given me a few badly needed reality checks over the six years we’ve been together. There have certainly been times that I’ve inadvertently made him feel neglected because I was working so much that we barely had any quality time together.

Ask anyone in our community why they’re self-employed (or want to be) and you’re likely to hear some variation of “to have more free time for my loved ones.” And that’s a great goal to have! So why, then, do so many of us do the opposite?

Your loved ones are the most important thing in your life at the end of the day. Never neglect them in favour of working more if you can possibly help it. Yes, occasionally you will need to say “I can’t go out tonight, I have a deadline” or “please don’t bother me this afternoon unless it’s an emergency.” But if you’re saying those things all the time, that’s a problem.

Loneliness is a big problem for freelancers and self-employed people. We can be a very insular bunch if we’re not careful. Make sure you’re spending enough time with your favourite fellow humans.

Loneliness is a big problem for freelancers and self-employed people. We can be a very insular bunch if we’re not careful. Make sure you’re spending enough time with your favourite fellow humans.

Your hobbies

There’s something of a running joke about my generation (Millennials) that we don’t have hobbies any more because we keep turning them into side-hustles. And, yeah… for many of us, it’s sort of true. For example, I love to knit, and I occasionally find myself wondering if I should set up an Etsy store or something.

But hobbies that we don’t monetise or try to turn into jobs are so so important. A friend of mine is an incredible baker, and people keep asking them if they’re going to open a cake shop someday (“no, because then it wouldn’t be something I do to relax any more.”)

But if you’re not monetising it or making it part of your hustle, it can be so easy to neglect things that bring you simple and uncomplicated joy. Please don’t! Play games just because they’re fun. Read books or watch films or listen to podcasts for pure pleasure. Dance or make music or write or draw or knit or sew or cook just because you love it, without any thought for how you can turn it into a business. Hobbies aren’t a luxury – they are vital.

Long-term projects

When you work for yourself, it can be tempting to focus solely on whatever is making money right now. And that makes a lot of sense – the mortgage won’t pay itself! But if at all possible, you should also be setting aside time in your week or month or longer term planning and longer term projects.

Here’s an example: I’m redrafting my novel right now. This falls into the weird space of “not exactly work” (because no-one is going to be paying me money for it any time soon) but “not exactly a hobby” (because writing is my job and I want to sell this novel for money eventually.) It falls into the grey area of long-term projects: things that might make me money down the road, but certainly not yet. (And probably not much, because fiction is notoriously horribly paid.)

Is there something you want to do for your business but you keep putting it off because it won’t immediately generate income? Try to build time for that in. Even if you do half an hour a week, you’ll be around 25 hours closer to your goal a year from now.

What have you learned not to neglect when you work for yourself? Any hard-won wisdom to share with your fellow readers. You know what to do…

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