Last week, I experienced a Tuesday like no other as I spent the day working from an Epson EcoTank Perspex box office installation in the middle of Covent Garden as passers-by and the press observed me. I was in the box to highlight some stunning research Epson had done to support it’s Eco Tank range. The research looked at isolation and loneliness many freelancers often feel when working solo.
There are over 2 million freelancers currently in the UK with a prediction that by 2020 half of the workforce will be freelancing.
While remote working and freelancing has its many benefits, we workers need support. Epson is doing its part with the launch of its pop-up co-working space in London’s Covent Garden, which doubles up as a retail outlet until the end of October – it really is worth a visit, go once and you won’t want to leave!
Visitors to the Pop-up can expect a collaborative and creative working space with free secure Wi-Fi, access to a kitchen for refreshments and, of course, unlimited printing. Epson is also running a series of really helpful daily, expert-led workshops at the pop-up, specifically designed for freelancers, bloggers, self-employed people, students and families. These will cover a wide range of useful subjects, from invoicing, branding and GDPR to family crafts. The workshops are open to anyone so go ahead and book yourself into a few – the full list is available here: http://epsonuk.eventbrite.com/.
A warm, Insta-worthy spot, I was honoured to speak about my life and career there, sharing my tips on making the most of freelance life during the day. I know you guys will love it.
The Epson EcoTank Pop-up, is supporting gig workers, freelancers and bloggers by giving them a place to work for free – and the chance to connect with similar professionals.
It’s a joy to work with Epson as they share my values – from contributing to the communities in which they operate, supporting freelancers and bloggers to making technologies and products that are ideal for independent and remote working and that are made in an eco-friendly way.
Epson’s recent research has found that a huge proportion of freelancers find their work lonely. Worryingly, about one in four (25%) experience depression and a fifth (21%) of the surveyed freelancers claimed they’d had suicidal thoughts as a result of isolated working conditions.
We bloggers are hugely susceptible to the impact of isolation and loneliness on mental health so I want to share what helps me as I did on the press day launch where I gave a speech to bloggers and the press.
Below, I reflect on my day-to-day life, working from home from my kitchen table that I ‘hot desk’ with my family, sharing my own tips on how to implement self care for a more content and productive working life.
Excitingly, you can also win a new Eco Tank ET-2650 printer worth £230 too!
First up, for those new to the blog (hi), I’ll kick off sharing a little bit about myself. I was a multi award winning TV Director and Filmmaker pre kids (one of only 7% of women directors at the time, it’s now a dismal 4%) making short films, commercials, TV drama and docs and music videos- until I had my first son Oliver in 2010. I naively thought I could simply strap him onto my chest and take him on set with me once he was here. That he would seamlessly fit into my existing life and 12-15 hour days at work. How naive I was. The movies had lied to me. I suffered from a traumatic birth and emergency c-section, feeling rock-bottom for 10 long months before finding the courage to speak up and ask for help, and later, begin the process of returning back to work.
It was then, when I sought help from my GP and embarked on CBT with a psychologist, that I also started a new kind of therapy: blogging- and Honest Mum was born. I was one of the first bloggers in the UK at that point, and while I never anticipated blogging would become my career (I didn’t even know how that would be possible in those early days) and returned to directing fashion ads, before long, I pivoted into this democratic, empowering, creative digital space that made sense financially and also for my own wellbeing and that of my family’s. I could be with my son and work too.
By the time my second son, Alexander had arrived in 2012, I was a full time mumboss working remotely from home and flexibly too, and for the first time in history, without the need for a gatekeepers’ approval and commissions. It felt and still feels incredibly empowering. I simply wrote, would hit publish and connected with a like-minded audience which soon became a global audience. I was no longer relying on the BBC to green-light my projects, I’d become (albeit a far smaller version) of the BBC! I was in control of my career, typing away, baby soundly asleep on my chest LIVING THE WORK DREAM I NEVER KNEW WOULD EVER BE POSSIBLE IN MY LIFETIME.
Over the years, I’ve been told I’ve broken new ground with my digital work (that’s very kind) being the first blogger in the UK to represent an airline and I work across many divisions: all my passions from food, to fashion, the arts and beyond. Every job I had pre-blogging from directing to lecturing at universities and teaching English GCSE for a stint, have informed the work that I do today. The way I story-tell online.
I hope it shows how multi-faceted bloggers can be and what we can offer. I wrote my debut book Mumboss-The Honest Mum’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving at Work and at Home last year- which became a bestseller on its release, and sees me giving everything I know away so that others, primarily mothers who are handed the short straw in the workforce, have the tools and know-how to create flexible careers around their families.
I want all freelancers to feel valued and also happy in their liberating careers.
Epson’s research was staggering.
Epson found that solo self-employed workers are now a vital element of the UK economy, contributing around 125-140 billion pounds to the economy.
They surveyed 1000 freelancers and found that 91% work from home with many seeking a better work/life balance (53%) and greater flexibility (62%) with some saying they found working in an office stressful (47%).
While some found freelancing liberating, a huge 48% admitted it was lonely and 46% found it isolating with lack of office ‘banter’ and not being part of a team contributing to their feelings.
25% said they’d experienced frequent periods of depression and worryingly, a fifth claimed they’d had suicidal thoughts. The impact of isolation and loneliness on mental health is widely recognised, including by mental health charity Mind.
It’s paramount to look after yourself when working solo, to prioritise yourself.
My Self-Care Tips for Freelancers
- Work hard, rest harder.
Despite the flexibility of freelance life (convenience, lower childcare costs and working remotely and at any time, there’s a downside to working this way, particularly the failure to switch off.
The fact the internet never sleeps can mean you might not either and I know, I’ve been there.
Make sure you turn off that sleep-inhibiting blue light emitted from tech at least 60 minutes or more before bedtime, and take lots of exercise breaks during your day so you’re physically not just mentally tired by the time you go to bed. My smart watch alerts me to move every half an hour which helps.
I recently read in Bustle that taking a mental health day off when you need one is vital-a digital detox and chance to reconnect with nature and other people as so many of us feel we have too many mental and technical tabs endlessly open.
- Connect with others in person as much as possible.
Freelance life means no chatter at the water filter, tea station/ lunch with colleagues or after-work drinks. There’s also no Christmas party and no automatic work-related social life.
Online connections while important and nourishing, can never compare to face to face connectivity (being able to read emotion, experiencing eye contact and being tactile). It is harder to decipher tone while texting/ online messaging too so make those ‘meets’ happen. Meeting in person helps build and cement relationships far quicker than online communication ever can.
Please know that if you fear networking, that you’re not alone.
Baroness Margaret McDonagh’s (General Secretary to the Labour Party between 98-2001) advice a few years ago has also stayed with me, ‘Women aren’t good at networking and it’s crucial to push yourself to do this. To work on team building. It’s teams which achieve- never on your own. Sport stars still always thank the team which helped them be successful’.
It is vital to network in business, to find mentors, investors and be commissioned by others.
You become instantly more memorable and thus more employable when you meet those who can elevate your career, IN PERSON.
Online communication can only get you so far.
Fill your diary with IRL meetings and network as you are today. High fives everyone! Look at the month ahead and plan face-to-face meetings with people you’ve connected with on LinkedIn, FB or via email, anywhere frankly, as you have a greater chance of collaborations or a commission materialising from those meetings where you’re able to demonstrate how smart, passionate and committed you are in person. Equally, arrange meet-ups with fellow freelancers/business colleagues and like-minded friends too so you can discuss ideas, brainstorm and plan to pitch.
- Not sure where to start? Find a network:
Feeling isolated online is one of the reasons YouTuber Maggy Woodley and I set up The Creative Women’s Network with regular networking events hosted at hotels and restaurants for 30-50 women at a time, in an intimate closed-shop safe environment where like-minded women listen to guest speakers, can ask questions and network with ease. These events are complemented by an active private FB group where free members can chat, ask for advice, skill swap and share their work.
Many now collaborate with one another and have supported each other’s careers and the energy at our events is nothing short of magical. At the end of each meet-up, Maggy and I ask each member to stand and request something they are seeking from someone else in the group, followed by what they can offer in return e.g. I’m a fashion designer so can offer a bespoke dress in return for social media support to help grow my business. This was first introduced to me by my friend Jessica Huie MBE in our annual Passion Into Pounds events with The British Library, and many meaningful collaborations have been borne from this.
Try it with your own friends and colleagues.
- Practise self care when working from home:
Eat well, push yourself out of the door to communicate with others even if it’s just buying a paper from your local newsagents, do yoga at your desk, embark on some forest therapy (yes that’s a real thing, Google it)-go hug a tree (as I do with my kids) and make your office environment work for you. Get your home office set up so that you can work efficiently and effectively. Take the stress out of your work day by investing in technology that is reliable and works! Epson EcoTanks are a perfect example of this, three years’ worth of ink that you insert only ONCE, saving you an average of 90% on the cost of ink – the refill bottles that are used in an EcoTank printer hold the equivalent of 94 cartridges worth of ink.
They’re also hugely reliable and are perfect for families. Any parent will tell you that children come with a HUGE amount of admin with homework printouts and more needed by the day. When you set up your home office, get yourself organised with your laptop, EcoTank printer, your Google calendar and a wall calendar too (I need digital and paper not to miss anything). Reduce the worry so you can focus on your business.
- Fight the comparison paralysis
Stop comparing your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 101. It’s easy to fall for the social media lies/ best bits edit. First off, unfollow those who make you unhappy and curate your feeds with like-minded people who warm the cockles as we say up North. Do that IRL too. Start a gratitude diary you fill in nightly in a bid to enjoy the present and all that you have already which will stop you constantly pining for more. This will also elevate your mood and combat feelings of self-doubt. If you’re suffering from anxiety, depression or feel suicidal, please reach out to family and friends. You can also speak to someone confidentially at charities Mind and The Samaritans. Don’t be afraid to say you’re not OK. CBT changed my life after a traumatic birth.
- Find your Tribe
Finally and most importantly, surround yourself with those who get you. People who want the best for you and who will be honest with you in your life and career. This support will always act as a foil when self-doubt and the imposter syndrome set in which they do for all of us. Repeat after me ‘I am enough’. ‘I am Beyonce’!
I’m happy to be giving away 1 Eco Tank Printer (RRP £230) you can win by entering below.
Epson EcoTank makes it easy for users to work from home by replacing cartridges with ink bottles. Even if you’ve stocked up on cartridges, it still takes time to replace a cartridge and can be quite messy. If you have a busy schedule, Epson’s EcoTank is an easy solution as it has an ultra-high-capacity ink tank system, which holds the equivalent of 94 cartridges worth of ink and can save you an average of 90% on the cost of ink.
EcoTanks are also ideal for families. Any parent will tell you that children come with a huge amount of admin with homework printouts, timetables and forms. EcoTank printers are reliable, great for the environment and helps to reduce the worry of running out of ink so that you can focus on what really matters.
The EcoTank 2650 with print, copy and scan features, provides a great choice for busy households. Being a fuss-free printer, it only takes three easy steps to set it up. It also features an LCD screen and SD card slot, making it easy to control without a PC. It connects to the Wi-Fi meaning you can send documents to print from smartphones and tablets and you can even email files from anywhere to have them printed.
Check out all the info about the printer: https://www.epson.co.uk/products/printers/inkjet-printers/for-home/et-2650
Ends October 16th 2018 at midnight.
No cash alternative.
If the winner does not reply within 7 days of the email being sent, a new winner will be randomly selected.
This is a sponsored collaboration.