Working Well when Freelancing can be easy to forget.

With over 2m people freelancing in the UK, more people are turning to working for themselves, but what impact might that have on your mental health, and what things do you need to consider when you’re freelancing to make sure you can work well? We asked Matthew Knight from community support group Leapers – to share his advice on looking after your mental health when working for yourself.

You know the drill – now you’re freelance, not only are you doing the work, but you’re also sending the invoices, finding the next project, chasing those invoices, accounting, marketing, sales, not to mention all of the other stuff you’ve got happening in your life, remembering to take a moment to make sure you’re doing ok can easily fall to the bottom of the list.

1 in 4 people will struggle with poor mental health at some point this year – that’s a huge number, and even if you’ve been fortunate to never have poor mental health, looking after your own emotional wellbeing when freelancing is critical. After all, there are no paid sick days, and not being able to work is not really an option for many of us.

So, we’ve set ourselves a mission: to support the self-employed and their mental health. We’re doing this in three ways:

  1. Awareness – we’re telling as many people as we can that mental health matters, and encouraging freelancers to actively think about it, before they leap into self-employment, and once they’ve moved to freelancing.
  2. Community – we’re encouraging people to join our community, a sort of ’team for people without a team’. Even if Leapers isn’t right, there are many communities which provide a support network – people who understand the experience, people you can talk to about what’s happening, and find ways to work well.
  3. Things – we create tangible stuff which help people maintain good mental health, understand their personal stressors, and put actions in place to manage them. Different people need different approaches, so we create lots of types of things, like podcasts, ebooks, chats, emails, fridge magnets (coming soon).

It seems simple, but honestly, even just the first point – helping people to actively think about the value of looking after themselves, helps people to work well. It’s the small things which have positive impact, such as journaling.

We suggest the best place to start is to take 10 minutes at the end of each day – in a notebook you’ve dedicated to this, write down 5 or 6 things you did today. Then mark each one with how it made you feel: was it positive or negative? Was it motivating or frustrating? Was it fun or stressful? A simple tick or cross. Do this for a week, and see if there are patterns. Do this for a month, and see if the patterns continue. Over time, you’ll start to understand what motivates you, and what stresses you out.

You don’t need to do anything to even manage that stress yet – just actively being aware of it is the first step.

And then, start to talk about it. 

Perhaps within a community for freelancers, maybe with peers, with friends, with your team-mates. Whomever you feel most comfortable sharing when you’re not feeling at your best – let’s face it, we all have off-days, it’s human. Share what you’re experiencing with others, and see how others dealt with similar situations. Listen and learn. Even if no-one replies with much more than an emoji hug, writing it down, putting it in to words, helps you understand the experience better.

Where you go from there, entirely depends on your personal experience, the way you approach challenges and successes, and the sector you work in – but just putting 10 minutes aside every day, to think about your own mental health is critical. We’ve got lots of tools, techniques and approaches, plus the wisdom of over 1600 members sharing the way they approach things, you can be sure to find something useful.

Over 60% of freelancers say that poor mental health has affected their ability to work. Don’t let it get to that point. Put you on your to-do list, and prioritise understanding your own stressors, sharing within your community of support, and finding tangible things to put in place to give yourself some structure and support.

Matthew Knight is a community host at Leapers, a project supporting the mental health of the self-employed. As an individual you can register as a member for free, or find resources and tools at If you’re an organisation who hires freelancers, there’s also guidance on working well with the self-employed via the Freelance Friendly Businesses network at

Freelancer interview: Tommy Minchin, Architectural Technologist

This week’s interview is with Tommy Minchin, an Architectural Technologist I met recently at Minor Oak co-working space in Nottingham.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Tommy Minchin, a qualified Architectural Technologist and Director of MNCN Architecture Ltd (est. Jan 2019). At MNCN Architecture Ltd we provide a variety architectural design based services that take a project from it’s inception to completion. These include those associated with achieving planning and building regulations approval as well as miscellaneous products such as marketing images. The developments we are currently working on primarily fall within the residential and commercial sectors from small house extensions to large office buildings.

What led you to start freelancing?

I have always been attracted to the sense of autonomy that comes with being a freelancer/self-employed and throughout my early career, had the sense that this is something I would end up exploring. Therefore, when a relative of mine who is also in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering & Construction) industry discussed the vibrancy of the market in September 2018, I decided there was no time like the present and decided to leave my job in Birmingham to become self-employed.

What issues have you had since starting up?

  • Loneliness from only working from home (this may seem minor but can lead to major effects on well-being if not supplemented with more social working environments).
  • Misunderstandings with Clients who are less familiar with the life cycle of a construction project.

What things do you wish you’d known before starting out?

  • To incorporate more social working environments in to my weekly routine.
  • To thoroughly explain to all clients the step-by-step process of a building project and the approval that is required to be obtained prior to starting on site.

What’s the best thing about freelancing?

The sense of autonomy and flexibility that comes with managing your own time. The incentive of seeing a direct correlation between work quality/effort and earnings. The ability to form a business/life on your core beliefs and principles.

How would you like to develop your freelance career in the future?

I aim to continue to grow as an individual with particular emphasis on becoming a better manager and designer within the ‘MNCN Architecture Ltd’ bubble. For MNCN in particular, the aim is to constantly progress towards ‘creating spaces and places which enhance our daily lives’ while evolving to suit the changing needs of ourselves and our environment. In addition to this, I certainly aim to diversify my portfolio of businesses/services in the future but they will more than likely still relate to those carried out at MNCN.

Anything else you’d like to tell anyone thinking of or currently freelancing?

While many may believe freelancing is a good idea and could suit them, it’s very easy to fall in to the trap of finding a reason to be content with the comfortable and structured version of life provided by a typical 9-to-5. While there are legitimate advantages to this, it is important to remind ourselves that we live in a time of such a wealth of options and opportunities that we should be empowered to give ‘Plan A’ a go with the knowledge that the comfortable ‘Plan B’ will always be there if needed. With that being said, I’d also like to add the practical note of how important it was for me to have a secondary income while building the business in the early stages. This is something I’d strongly advise aspiring freelances to consider, whether it be reducing the hours at their current job or finding a part-time solution.