Mental Health Tips: For Freelancers, By Freelancers

Post on January 5, 2024

Yes, there are many great things about being a freelancer, well, the word “free” is right in there. But, free does not mean easy. We get that even if you are happier as a freelancer than as an employee, it doesn’t mean you don’t struggle sometimes. 

We asked our community of workbuddy members, which comprises of some of the best freelancers in town, for tips on how they take care of their mental health. Especially if that new-year-special anxiousness is creeping in, here are some reminders.



1. Set boundaries, amen.


Someone wise once said that mental health is all about how well you can stay balanced. And balance requires boundaries. To avoid burnout as a freelancer, you have to learn to enforce boundaries for two main groups of people: your clients, and your friends and family.



For clients

State your terms clearly in writing. For example:

  • In your contracts, include a T&C section that states what exactly is included in the project, how many rounds of revision are included and what the cost would be for any extra requests. You can also list fees for last-minute requests or significant changes to the project.
  • In your email signature, add a line about your working hours, so your clients can clearly see when you are available and when you are not. Setting automatic “out of office” emails & Instagram DMs for your days off (especially if they are not weekends) is a surprisingly effective hack. Not only does it guide your client’s expectations, it also frees you of guilt, giving you peace of mind.

For friends and family
Freelancers often feel pressured to “help out” (do free work) for friends and family or even clients promising a reward of “exposure”.

Here’s a handy list of how to reply to such requests. We love this list and refer to it many times!



2. Keep a routine


You may laugh because freeing yourself from routine was precisely why you chose the life of a freelancer! On a serious note, some kind of routine, even if it’s not 9-to-5, helps settle your nervous system. Think of this as a boundary for yourself. 

Research has proven that predictable routines are calming and reduce anxiety. Why? Because when you have a routine, you don’t have to spend so much energy planning your day, arranging your tasks and deciding what to do next. There is less “decision fatigue” and less anxiety about the unknown, which gives you greater capacity to focus on what you are doing now.  

Routines around sleep and exercise are especially important because routine makes those good habits effortless. If nothing else, be disciplined in this, and you will reap the benefits! Date yourself – whether a good night’s rest or a sweaty session at the gym. Consider these calendar invites a commitment to your future awesome, well-rested self! We're here to cheer you on.




3. Make your workspace inviting


You’ve probably noticed that your everyday surroundings have a powerful impact on your mood. A messy desk evokes different feelings than a clean, organised workspace. Studies show that the impact goes beyond our immediate reaction—for example, living in a cluttered home can actually stimulate the production of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Plus, the pandemic taught us how stressful living and working in the same space can be. So as well as keeping your workspace tidy, keep it separate.

Sometimes, that’s hard to do at home or you may need a change of space – consider a coworking space. Most coworking spaces in Singapore have been designed to boost your mood and help you stay productive. So take advantage of their expertise (and natural lighting and ergonomic chairs and cute cafés) and see the difference it makes to your mood!



And coworking spaces aren’t necessarily expensive. You can hotdesk from a variety of coworking spaces all across the city with a workbuddy pass that costs as little as S$129 a month.



4. Stay social


Humans are social creatures. Whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert, your social life has an undeniable impact on your mental and emotional well-being. So carve out some time to hang out with your besties, and treat it with the same importance as a client meeting. No flaking!

It’s a good idea to try and make friends with other freelancers too, even if they work in unrelated fields. Firstly, it makes a huge difference to have someone who “gets it” - who knows the ups and downs of freelancing and can relate to your struggles. Secondly, they are more likely to be available for activities when everyone else is working (Monday afternoon hike, anyone?). Thirdly, they could be potential customers/ clients/ partners now or in the future.




5. Change the scenery


In a 2020 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers found that days with varied experiences were associated with more positive emotional states than days when you're situated in the same place all day.

When presented with a new or different environment, your brain lights up and you feel more stimulated and interested. It’s refreshing. It’s inspiring. This is why travelling is so fun. Luckily, you don’t need to travel to feel these benefits. Just try working from a different location and see what happens!

To harness these benefits, workbuddy lets you access multiple coworking spaces with one pass. With a workbuddy pass, you can hot desk from a different coworking space every day if you feel like it! You get to choose from any of Singapore’s best coworking spaces and stay for a day, a week, a month… your choice. 

To get started, try it out for free for a week.



6. Get real rest, please!


How are you spending your downtime? In bed watching TV with snacks? Scrolling the ‘gram? TikTok? These are all fun, but sadly, none of them are actually restful. 

You must’ve heard – TV and social media are designed to be addictive and stimulating, i.e. small doses of dopamine that entrench the cycle of addiction. You don’t feel rested and replenished after one episode of a series, do you? No. We gotta binge the whole series in one go and when it’s done, we want more!

We’re not saying you have to cancel your Netflix account to protect your mental health. Not at all. Just remember that, when you are genuinely tired, get some REAL rest. 

Any and all of the following have been shown to be truly restorative: sleeping or napping (obviously), meditating, yoga, massage, and any sport/hobby that is screen-free (anything from swimming to knitting). Take (or find) your pick.




7. Practice gratitude


Sounds silly, but it actually works. Take a second to stop right now, look around and name 3 things you are grateful for. Could be your health, the sunshine, the nice cup of coffee you just had. If you’ve found 3 things that you are genuinely grateful for, can you find a few more? 

How about the fact that people are paying you to do what you love? And the fact that you are a freelancer, when a while ago it was just a wish! That’s a lot to be happy about right there. 

A Harvard Medical School study states, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

It really does work. Try it right now and see if you feel even a smidge more cheerful. Do it every day and the benefits will compound until you realise that happiness is not that elusive after all. 



At workbuddy, we are committed to promoting  spaces where every member feels supported, heard, and valued. Together, we can develop a brighter and healthier future of work! 
Narrow down your search for the best coworking space in Singapore with us. As a member of workbuddy, you get access to all of the best coworking spaces in Singapore with a single pass, so you can try a few before you settle on one. Plus, the first week is on us. Download the workbuddy app for your free trial.