Yi Xiang

A Young Writer in Search of His Voice

How to Manage Stress as a Freelancer

Don’t Ignore the Stress

The most important thing in managing stress is to do something about it.

You might think, it’s only temporary, you’ll be fine when you finish this project, or when you find some time to rest. But that’s nonsense. As a freelancer, what and when you work is mostly under your control. So if you feel stressed, it means your habits of picking jobs and managing deadlines suck. Unless you do something with these habits, your stress won’t go away.

And you know how harmful stresses are, right? The anxiety, the endless to-do list, the bad sleeps, and the whole too-busy-for-dating thing. And it could get worse, you could be too busy for sex.

If as a man, you are so tired that you don’t even want to have sex, what can you want? You will ignore your relationship, your friends, and your long-term goals. Especially your long-term goals. You could be too tired to ask yourself the question: do I want to work like this for the rest of my life?

Too much stress is just like a job too comfortable, it makes you ignore your long-term plans, it makes you forget your ambitions. You won’t be thinking about traveling the world, dating beautiful women, and learning Chinese, cause all you think about would be work. You’ll keep telling yourself that you don’t have time.

Stress eats your potential. So kill it.

How? By learning what gives you too much stress and get rid of them.

I’ll share my own experiences in this post, but you still need to experiment on your own. Everyone is different, and we tend to feel stressed for different reasons.

Avoid Bad Clients

I once declined a project that has a tight deadline, requires my physical presence at the client’s company, and pays pennies.

The client kept talking about how this would be a great learning experience to me, how there might be opportunities for future cooperation and how I should take this job.

Thank you for your manipulations, but I’ll pass.

Some clients are nightmares. I don’t know if there is something wrong with them as a person, maybe they’re just trying to do their jobs, but they will give you a terrible experience and little money, while asking for great results.

Perfect ingredients for several months of headaches and troubled sleeps.

If you’re desperate and the project is small, then by all means take it. Otherwise run away as fast as you can.

Accept Only Reasonable Deadlines

Tight deadlines suck. I have found that most of my stress comes from deadlines. The rest comes from having multiple ongoing projects, which I’ll talk about shortly.

There are two kinds of tight deadlines.

1.You have to get something done ASAP, preferably one hour ago.

2.You need to sacrifice your weekends for two months straight to finish that all important project so your boss could look good in front of his boss.

The first kind is usually an emergency, shouldn’t be too frequent, and should be expected, especially if your job description includes fixing things (fix a website, for example).

The second one, however, is literally a real killer. Chinese technology startups enjoy pushing their developers to finish a project in one month instead of six, then people die when they are killed overworked. Yes this actually happens. Some entrepreneurs even take pride in how their employees stayed up for days to code. Such madness.

Don’t work like a Chinese if you ain’t one, your skills ain’t cheap and your health matters.

One Deadline at a Time

Once while I was already working on an emergent coding project, I took another translation job that needs to be done in two days and subcontracted it to a friend, who I assumed would finish the job quickly.

But that didn’t happen, and I had to work at midnight myself to meet the deadline. It made me very anxious, ruined my sleep, and the next day’s morning.

Since then, I made a rule for myself: no two deadlines at the same time. I then took one step further, decided to take only one freelance job at a time. I make less money, but have far less stress, and more time to work on my own projects, like this blog.

Work on at Most Two Projects in A Day

I feel more tired after working on four projects a day instead of two, even if I actually spend less time working.

Because whenever I have to work on many projects in a day, I will be constantly thinking about the next thing I have to finish, and the next one, and the next one. Every time when I finish a task, instead of feeling accomplished or relived, I would remind myself, there is more.

Ideally, I would want to focus on just one thing. But that’s not always practical. I need to work for others to make money, and I want to work on my own projects. I’m not willing to stop doing either of them.

Of course, you should ignore this advice if you can start three companies at the same time. But then you wouldn’t be reading this post, you would be reading about how to invite more stress and achieve more, instead of how to achieve less and be happier.

When Working on Multiple Projects, Use Different Skills

I found that after several hours of coding, switch to writing feels relaxing, but switch to another coding project feels like shit.

After being focused for a long time, we need to do something else to relax. Keep using the same skill is just as bad as, if not worse than, working on one project for hours straight.

If you don’t have that many skills‚Ķ Maybe it’s time to start learning.

Have a Balanced Life

Stress comes when concentrating on your work for way too long that it occupies your mind and you can’t let go.

So the best way to manage stress is to have other things to do so that you can forget about your work at all.

Spending time with people works great for me, so is reading and occasionally gaming.

My most stressful days are when I’m focusing 100 percent on making money. I thought I would accomplish much, but I got anxious and angry (always angry when I’m anxious), and I made mistakes that I wouldn’t make, then I had bad sleeps. Needless to say, I was not very productive.

My most productive days are when I have plenty of time to work on one project I enjoy, and then stop when I’ve done enough.