Empowering the Freelance Economy

Stressed? Sleepless nights? You’re not alone.

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New research has uncovered what is keeping freelancers and small business owners up at night. What can they do to get their much-needed ZZZs? Katherine Steiner-Dicks looks for some solutions.

  • New mental health research reveals the top business worries for small business owners
  • Only one in 10 sought professional help for declining mental health

The SME Business Owner Mental Health Report by The Accountancy Partnership, found that being unable to provide their product or service as planned was the primary fear for 40% of small business owners. The response comes amidst supply chain issues, the current staffing crisis and rising energy bills.

Worries often mean sleepless nights. Many freelancers and founders experience time management anxiety. They juggle a lot of clients and deadlines on a daily basis. Freelancers building up their client base singlehandedly are also often caught up in a vicious cycle of late nights and early mornings. Their bodies are so accustomed to less than 8 hours of sleep that their body clock is now prescribed to their bad sleeping habits.

What is the biggest worry of small business owners at the end of 2021?

  • Not being able to provide the service/product as planned – 40%
  • Not being able to pay personal rent/mortgage payments – 30%
  • Not being able to pay business rent/mortgage payments – 13.0%
  • Not being able to pay staff wages – 11%
  • Letting suppliers down – 8%
  • Making staff redundant – 4%
  • Putting staff on furlough – 1%

Financial fears have led to sleepless nights for almost a third (30%) of small business owners, as they are concerned about the prospect of being unable to pay their personal rent or mortgage.

The biggest worries for a further one in six (16%) revolved around their staff, with the premise of not being able to pay staff (11%), and having to make redundancies (4%) troubling business owners.

When asked to score the effect of the pandemic on their mental health on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no impact and 10 being maximum, the majority scored themselves on the highest half of the scale. This resulted in two-thirds (69%) of small business owners – approximately four million people – reporting the pandemic has had a moderate to severe impact on their mental health.

Despite the prevalence of deteriorating mental wellbeing among entrepreneurs, the research found that just one in 10 (12%) of those who have experienced issues sought professional help. A further quarter (26%) spoke to a family member, friend or colleague, 6% spoke to a business mentor or work organisation and the same percentage used an app or online resource for wellbeing support.

Worryingly, 6% of entrepreneurs do not feel comfortable asking for help when they need it and 2% do not know where to go for help.

Then there is family life. On top of business worries, there could very likely be feelings of guilt that the ball has been dropped when it comes to making sure the kids are well-adjusted and thriving physically and mentally. And when a parent knows there’s something wrong, but feels they are powerless to do anything about it there and then, it adds to the nighttime worry fest.

It may only seem like a small percentage, but this equates to almost half a million small business owners. It is evident that there needs to be better and more accessible support available to small business owners. Many SME owners work by themselves, so it can be a lonely and high-pressure career choice in some cases.

Lee Murphy, Managing Director at The Accountancy Partnership

“We have found that an improvement in mental wellbeing is a huge driver for people to leave employment to start their own venture, and we need to see more entrepreneurs taking care of themselves and their mental wellbeing throughout the process of being a business owner, not just when they choose to become one,” said Lee Murphy, Managing Director at The Accountancy Partnership.

Lee Murphy, Managing Director at The Accountancy Partnership

How to sleep better (even when you’re stressed)

🗒️ Rome wasn’t built in a day: create an incremental improvements list

We, humans, are impatient for the most part. We have a problem and we want a solution right away. That is why we rack our brains trying to find an end solution (at 3 am!) rather than thinking of incremental steps throughout the day or even the course of a week to find a path to our solution.

One can do this by creating a list of truthful steps to make things better. Write these steps on a notepad. Some people like to keep a notepad next to their bed to write down ideas or concerns so they feel they have done something concrete about their situation. This helps them feel less overwhelmed with a better chance of relaxing and getting to sleep.

Others may want to sit in the kitchen before they go to bed and get it all out onto paper. They may even want to physically keep their notepad away from the bedroom distancing themselves, so to speak, from their worries. Either way, it’s doing something, and that should provide some comfort.

📖 Reading

A novel, a self-help book, a magazine, but never work-related reading should be part of your nighttime routine. Reading often gets your mind off things and tires your eye muscles, which helps you get drowsy.

🧘‍♀️ + 📻 Meditative talking and music

Just the sound of someone’s calm, reassuring voice can put you in a restful state. Try out free apps, such as Insight Timer, which provides solutions to sleeplessness, anxiety and stress. You may need to get some wireless earphones, though, so you can listen if your partner is already asleep (lucky them).

🛏️ + 🪟 What is it about ironed sheets and fresh air?

Most people do not have the time or patience to iron their sheets as a hotel does. But you could have that hotel feeling by trying this life hack. Take your wrinkled sheets, pop them in the dryer with a handful of ice cubes and put on high heat for 15 minutes. Then take them out right away and place them on your bed. The combination of the heat and ice cubes supposedly creates a steam effect that irons out the wrinkles.

Fresh air, AKA open windows, is not only a good idea in these times of COVID and cold viruses but brilliant for a sound sleep. Obviously, just make sure if you open the windows at night that you have warm blankets or a comforter to keep your body temperature regulated. Any doubters? Here’s what experts from the Sleep Foundation say about the matter.

💬 Get it off your chest: join a freelancer forum in your local community

While we often offload our worries and upsets with those closest to us, they may not always be the best people to turn to when it comes to business concerns. Well, at least not all of the time. They will have their own personal concerns (and opinions). They could also be feeling overwhelmed if they think they have to solve your problems, too.

By talking to people that may have walked in your shoes, fellow freelancers and small business owners, for example, they may be able to provide some insights or alternative solutions that you didn’t think of. Also, just getting something off your chest and realising you are not alone can make a world of difference. And it’s free.

Seek expert help

If you need financial help, go to an expert. If you need mental health help, seek the advice of a professional. However, with such services in the UK, such as Relate, experiencing serious backlogs due to lockdown-linked depression, you may get more anxious waiting. But if you are feeling serious depression, then speak to your doctor immediately.

In the meantime, look to medical and financial professionals that have their own podcasts or books as they may have some reassuring advice that you can put to use.

For example, Dr. Chatterjee has a free sleep guide along with an inspirational podcast.

📒 Don’t put off doing your taxes

If you leave doing your tax return to the last minute, it could cost you. Rushing things could mean making silly mistakes, like forgetting expenses, misplacing receipts and not giving your accountant, if you use one, ample time to ensure you are using all your tax-saving benefits. Making Tax Digital is something you also need to be on top of, as we previously reported.

By getting the “boring” stuff out of the way ASAP, you can rest easier at night.

🤣Call a friend to have a laugh

Sometimes we just need a bit of perspective or a laugh to give us a brighter outlook on things. Arrange to meet up more with friends because they can often be the best medicine. And when you can’t meet up in person, arrange a weekly call at a mutually convenient time.

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