How to stay human when you’re a freelance mum

Self employment as a mum can be rewarding, empowering, inspiring and wonderful. It can also be isolating, lonely, and difficult to manage.

If you are crow-barring all the hours you can in between nursery, the school run and household tasks, and the only other human you see in your day is the postman (waves at Neil), then read on for some brilliant tips on staying human from Jo Gifford.

How to stay human when you’re a freelance mum

Human beings are designed to need other humans. We need conversation, the outside world, debate, interaction, exercise. When you do the school run and return home to work solidly for six hours at your desk alone, all essence of feeling human can easily disappear.

Here are my tops tips on staying human as a self-employed or business mum, to keep you sane, self assured and sociable.

Get out more

This is a classic remote working default setting, but working mums can fall so easily into the trap. I usually know I have been in the house working too long if the outside world appears to be “too 3D’, my usual warning klaxon that screens have taken over!

Working mums tend to juggle a number of roles, and self-employed or business mums more so, making time away from work or children difficult to justify. Building in regular walks and changes of scenery even for 20 minutes in a day will help you stay productive, focussed and, well, sane.

Go nocturnal

I find that winter can be particularly difficult for staying human, as if you haven’t made it out before darkness falls at 4pm, cabin fever can easily set in. So, when the winter months rob daylight and Vitamin D from us, consider swapping an hour or two of work in the daytime for an evening session if you can. Getting vital Vitamin D will help you stay energised over winter, and if you are likely to spend the evening at home, think about exchanging a chunk of time in the evening in place of a sanity-saving break in the day.

Book human dates

Make sure you see another adult in actual, human flesh form at least a couple of times a week. Between small people and the social media world, a distinct lack of adult interaction can occur. Schedule in a quick coffee with a friend or associate to keep up your human quota of 3D people.

Do something new

Working with others brings the benefit of water cooler talk, office banter and interaction, alongside commute time (usually). Challenge yourself to do something new each day to keep your mind creative, challenged, and ticking over. It can be as simple as reading a new blog, finding new music, trying a new coffee, turning left on your walk instead of right – making tiny changes can yield big results in widening your perspectives, and is something I encourage  on my idea generation course.

Use coworking spaces

Trying out some coworking spaces can be a lifesaver. I use a local Regus Express lounge, and I have a wonderful coworking space in London when I visit. I also tap into local networks which run ‘Jellies’, coworking days for self-employed people and freelancers, and of course the humble coffee shop is not to be underestimated.

Coworking spaces are ideal for when you have to work on something but need the buzz of people around you, and you are maybe open to the odd conversation and natural networking. I like to work in Hot Numbers in Cambridge for blog writing days, a business lounge for project planning, and sometimes I shake up my environment more for copywriting and content brainstorming.

Sleep well and switch off

Another common problem with self-employment or running your own business is knowing when to switch off, especially when we are trying to stay on top of work tasks, school paperwork, ironing, packed lunches and everything else. I can easily fall into the trap of going to bed only to get on the iPad and be drawn back into emails and Twitter conversations. Our circadian rhythms react badly to RGB screen stimulus before bedtime, something you will know only too well if you wake up exhausted after a wired and tired evening in bed.

Try to set some boundaries and switch off well before bedtime to get the best rest that you can. Obviously there will be times when a deadline looms or juggling work and a poorly small person make things tricky, but as a general rule, switch off and do yourself a favour.

Mentor with others

Working alongside others can allow us to grow and learn from our colleagues, something which can so often be missing when we are self-employed. Hook up with a friend to do some mutual ‘buddying’, and once a week or month meet via Skype or Google Plus to chat about work, learn from each other, and be accountable to someone else.

Self-employment or running your own business brings with it a wealth of benefits. Flexibility, autonomy, confidence, income streams – all of which suits the life of a working mum perfectly, but it’s not without unique challenges. Staying human not only makes us happier in our work, but happier in our home lives too. My children definitely benefit when I have been looking after myself as I should.

Want to read more about freelancing?

If you’re planning on going freelance, or need some tips to help give your freelance career a boost, take a look at these articles:

You can also find plenty more expert freelance advice – including financial tips – in our dedicated freelance help section.

How do you manage to stay human as a self employed mum? What habits have you developed to keep away the cabin fever? Share them with Jo Gifford on Twitter, or get in touch with her through her website.