Bad habits and excessive behaviour to cull if you run your own business.

Self-employment is rewarding but also often super-challenging, and never more so than during lockdown. Indeed, even when we are allowed back into cafes with our laptops, there’s certain things only freelancers and business owners know and understand.

We’ll be running to embrace everything from a socially distanced co-working space to an IRL meeting with a contact, or even a freelance mate round the corner we’ve only been able to Zoom. But what about the things we should avoid? We’re not talking hugs, air kisses or handshakes, but more things that, if you’re freelance, you might try and run from. Here’s a few to take note of.

1. Putting off your tax. I’ve been guilty of this all my working life. I confess that I used to send receipts to my accountant in the post and she’d send them back, smelling of cigarettes. This year for the first time, I did my return (well the new accountants did) in June. That’s two months after the year end. Unprecedented. There were tantrums. Tears. Angry stamping of feet and one moment where I walloped the desk with my fists because I couldn’t add things up that nearly sent a very expensive computer flying (not even mine, either). Now? There is total (if unfamiliar) smugness. So I say give it a go. Or get the accountant to do it for you. Yes, I was cajoled into it by a mortgage broker into doing mine, but am I glad? Me and the rebate I’m now getting sure are! To most of us the tax return is boring and dull, to some, an anxiety-inducing nightmare. But putting it off just makes that worse. I was forced to do it in a weird way, but it’s something that’ll stay with me now. I’m converted to early filing.

2. Expensive biscuits (and, during lockdown, home baking). I’m not saying never eat biscuits or cakes, but when you’re working from home, it’s very easy to eat your feelings. And then be angry because you’ve eaten your feelings. Freelancers often eat badly, and of course I’m not saying ‘do or don’t’ eat a certain thing. But, I guess, tread wisely. You’ll notice I say ‘expensive biscuits’… you see, I am a fan of the cheaper end of the selection. Jaffa Cakes, bourbons, a good old chocolate digestive. Expensive biscuits are, well, expensive, so avoiding those at least keeps the budget down if you do fancy a tea break treat.

3. Too many webinars (AKA networking overload). Networking is one of my ‘must-dos’ as a freelancer, but I’ve found it hard to engage in online webinars. I have now thrown myself into a few and found them super useful. But this is a warning not to go into overload. Five in a day might be pushing it! Really look at the content – is it relevant to you and your work? Check who is speaking and attending – are they people you want to connect with? Be careful not to join every seminar going, or you’ll burn out and need more biscuits to recover.

4. Self-care overload. Talking of more overload (because we get lots of overload, right?) I thought carefully about this one, as for me, self-care is of course the number one priority. But have you ever found yourself doing Yoga then having a bath then reading a self-help book (or reading it in the bath then dropping it…) then deciding to do a manicure? Sometimes we can do just one thing too many and there’s nothing wrong with a good nap or just a slob in front of the TV. I guess self-care doesn’t have to be active is what I’m saying!

5. Social media apps. Yep this is one I’m battling with too, but it comes up ALL the time with podcast guests. The pings, the red dots, the alerts… that’s the problem with the social media apps. Having them on your home screen, flicking between each one. Do you, like me, often check instagram before you have a wee in the morning? I’ll stop if you stop…

Words: By Jenny Stallard, founder of Founder of Freelance Feels “Wellbeing for humans who work for themselves”.

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