When freelancers go off on their own they’re usually so excited about the new adventure that they forget the loss of perks and benefits. Health insurance, vacation, breaks—for all their faults, 9-to-5 jobs do have perks. It’s important for freelancers to take care of themselves.
So we’re exploring self care for freelancers by talking with some experts.
Jenny Beaumont has 20 years of experience building businesses as an entrepreneur and freelancer. She’s helped organize multiple WordCamps in Europe. After taking a year-long sabbatical, she’s returning to the business world as an employee.
We talk about perspective, daily exercise, and the need for regular rest.
When did you learn it was important to take care of yourself? What convinced you to take it seriously?
This has been a lifelong struggle for me, having adopted some pretty bad habits at a young age. The road toward wellness began in my early 30s, prompted by a tumultuous personal life that inspired me to quit smoking. That put me in the right direction, but I still had work to do.
The most impactful period of my life that radically changed my perspective and priorities, was losing my closest family members to cancer in a very short time. I still have an image burned in my mind of a time when I was visiting my mother in the hospital, working on my laptop near her hospital bed. I remember how proud I was to show her what I was working on, completely clueless as to the seriousness of her prognosis.
None of us knew how to just be there with one another, to spend that time talking about things, or just sitting in silence, to accompany one another through those most difficult of times. Those are moments I can’t take back, but which have now reshaped my attitude toward life in a positive way.
With the sedentary nature of coding/office work, how do you stay healthy?
My day starts out with some light stretching and yoga, and I take regular breaks throughout the day, again stretching and just walking around a little bit to get the circulation going. Eating well and staying hydrated are big priorities, as is getting a good night’s sleep. Every evening, weather permitting, my husband and I go on a 3-km hike in our rural part of Normandy. Weather not permitting, I have an elliptical machine at home, and I practice yoga (in addition to my morning routine) regularly.
A benefits package is something most freelancers leave behind with the 9-to-5. What kind of perks—whether daily treats or once-in-a-while benefits—do you give yourself?
I have always considered my independence the biggest perk there is. And as I looked to close out my freelance business at the start of the year and join a company, being able to maintain my lifestyle was a big priority. The company culture at Human Made, where I now work as a senior project manager, has allowed me to do just that. Being able to shape my time, manage my energy levels, create variety in my days, and travel—this is essential for me to stay motivated, feel a sense of purpose and direction, and be at my best.
How do you make time for vacations and then ensure they’re actually restful?
Vacation is a pretty foreign concept for me. Now that I’m an employee for the first time in 20 years, I’m just getting reacquainted with the idea! Though, having just been off for two weeks—no work, no WordCamp organization—and during which time I chose to jump into home improvement projects (not exactly restful), I’ve come to understand that rest is a lot of different things.
Every day we need rest: It’s not something that we should push back until the last possible moment. We need to pace ourselves and take care of ourselves every single day. And then we also need breaks. Not just down time, but a time when we can step back from what we’re doing and think about something else. For me this is a different kind of rest, and just as important.
So yeah, I’m looking forward to figuring out the best way to structure this vacation time—more time off in shorter doses? longer periods away?—and making the most of it.