Minimize Freelance Stress the Easy and Clever Way


Are you working as a freelancer? Do you constantly feel the pressure and stress of running your own business? In this article we’ll have a look at how this stress can be made easier to handle for you by following a few simple tips. You probably know a few of these from before, but are you able to remember them when it counts?

A certain amount of stress is healthy to keep you focus, but being able to keep the right balance can be really hard sometimes. This can result in anything from ulcers to insomnia, eating problems, restlessness, relationship problems and depression. Stress can also cause you to do your work at a lower quality and even have you work slower, ironically.

Picture by Muriel Miralles de Sawicki

For most people, the symptoms don’t have to be huge or dramatic, but it all starts with small tendencies and it’s important to try minimize the stress to not end up in a bad situation. The fact is that most people are more stressed than what they wish they were and often their work is the reason.

Now let’s have a look at some tips for how you can get less stress and more time to do your job properly.

Don’t take on more than you can handle

Picture by Marco Michelini

This tip is in my opinion the most important one. A lot of freelancers want to have the time to do as much as possible, to earn a lot of money and step forward in various ways. As much as you need to get things done to make a living, you have to make sure you only take on the projects you’re actually able to successfully do without putting your own health at risk. If you’re able to keep a good schedule and only say yes to the projects you’re able to do within the work hours you’ve set, you will feel less stressed every single day.

Have a schedule and keep it updated

Picture by Maxime Perron Caissy

To be able to make the best of the first point we’ve mentioned, you need to find a way to keep a schedule. For some people it works best to buy a simple book and write everything down by hand, while most of us prefer to use calendars in our computers and cellphones. The biggest mistake you can do is not having a schedule. You should look through it daily and remember to add new meetings or projects that have been added. This can help you in reaching deadlines and generally get days with less stress.

Use proper equipment

Picture by Dmitri Popov

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but having a computer and software that works will definitely have you stress less. Make sure that you are updated with the latest software updates and that everything works as it should. And of course you must have a good backup routine in case something happens. The last thing you want to happen is to have software that messes up your work, a computer that runs slowly and so on. Once you’ve taken the time and money needed, you will see that you are a lot more effective and feel less stress.

Realize you’re not perfect and admit it!

Picture by Bob Smith

A lot of stress can be because we’re trying to be someone we’re not or trying to do things we’re insecure doing. By making sure you say yes to only projects that you have the right expertise for, you will eliminate a huge source of stress. If clients want you to do parts of a project that you know are beyond your expertise and you’re afraid to lose them because of this, you could instead try to find another freelancer that can work with you.

Always have a plan B

Picture by Nate Brelsford

Many times you’ll realize that stress can be caused by last-minute changes due to a plan failing. No matter how good you are at planning, you will sometimes be in need of a plan B. By having thought through how to solve different situations that occur, you will not have to think of all possible scenarios or feel very stressed. Your plan B can be working with others, having some spare time that you save for these scenarios and so on.

Solve conflicts

Picture by Sebastian Danon

If you have anything unsolved or feel insecure regarding any client relationships, this can cause a huge amount of stress. Take the time needed to talk with your client and do what needs to be done to solve it. You will feel a lot better after and not have to spend a lot of energy worrying.

Tidy finances

Picture by Ivan Prole

Many freelancers worry all day and all night about their finances. How to get enough clients, how to get the bills paid and so on. This stress will always be there at some degree, but it can also be minimized. Keep a budget so that you know at all times how things are looking and how many projects you need to get to have ends meet. Always do work that you’re proud of and get returning clients who help you have a somewhat steady income. And finally, if you have the chance, get a buffer through savings to make sure you can pay the bills and get what you need to survive.

Exercise and sleep

Picture by Iwan Beijes

If you are tired or out of shape, you will be stressed easier and deal with it in a much more unreasonable way. By setting up a schedule that includes exercise and going to bed at a decent time, you will not only feel less stressed but also deal better with the stress that occurs. You don’t have to go run a marathon every month, it can often help with just smaller things like an hour on your bicycle every Sunday, playing with the kids, yoga on set days, tennis with the wife every Wednesday and so on. Use your imagination and you’ll be able to have fun, get fitter and minimize stress.

Learn to ignore what isn’t important

Picture by Scott Liddell

Having the ability to turn off “everything else” to work as well as you can, is a great ability to have. Most of us have to be available to clients through mail and phone, but did you ever think of all the unnecessary distractions you keep falling into daily? You can help yourself to better efficiency by not checking Twitter, Facebook and so on all the time. I personally have set hours for checking emails and Twitter and it works great for me. For a lot of people the distraction coming from “everything else” will cause a lot of unwanted stress. Before you know it, you’ve spent a lot more time on Twitter than you planned to and so on.


Picture by Chris Withers

You may not feel it right now if you’re fairly new to freelancing or if you have a great way of doing things already. But, chances are you’ll have to deal with unhealthy stress at some point. By thinking through this beforehand and making some small changes to how you do things, you’ll be able to keep it at a healthy level. Even if you currently have a high level of stress but deal with it really well, it wont be like that forever. We all get older and your stress level today can lead to problems years down the road.

Think through these things, look at your own routines and try to do the adjustments needed for a long and happy freelance career.

We’d love to hear your comments and own tips as well.

Good luck!



  1. Paul Smith

    Very good. I think the excersise bit is very important. I find even just a quick run can give you a boost and extra energy and more focus when you return to your design desk.

  2. Adie

    Great article.

    I have to say from past experiences that the point I find most stressful is taking on work you aren’t necessarily comfortable doing. It certainly does increase your stress levels having to worry about getting these things done and sometimes even finding help with them is just as stressful.

  3. Dila

    My, my.. this is so true it’s scary! Been a freelance for a year now but I still find it hard to kick procrastination out of my work schedule. But thanks for the reminder, Hilde. It’s been very helpful :)

  4. Jackie Evancho

    This is very actual today and I think that you got the right point.Thank you for sharing this!

  5. Great tips and a good reminder for me :) Working freelance is scary at times – whether when you have too many projects or too little projects. Heh. Really need to balance up and sleep more.

    I think ultimately one needs to treat “working time” like as if he/she is in an office. Minimize distractions, and push yourself hard to finish work within a stipulated time!

  6. Useful article as it is easy to overlook the situation and get deeper and deeper in all that stress. So it is very important to take breaks and to organize yourself.

  7. Adam Bluhm

    Great tips. I find that I get more stressed when I try to take on more than I can handle (too optimistic sometimes) and that results in a trickle down effect to everything else. If I’m too busy that I can’t take a break to exercise as much as I want during the week, then that stresses me out as well. I’m learning that I have to schedule time for me to relax and decompress.

    • Hilde Torbjornsen

      Great points Adam. My advice is to schedule “relaxing”-time as well as all of your other projects as it’s definitely important. Many freelancers are way too optimistic at times (myself included), so we need to remember to have time for things that are not related to work as well. It will pay off by giving more energy and more efficiency as well :)