Having a bad day
Having a bad day when you’re a freelancer is hard. Last week I had one.
I haven’t been having a great time recently so this was probably the culmination of that. Don’t my get me wrong, things are not trauma bad. They are not even terrible bad. They could just be better for various reasons I wont go into.
It started when I had a user research interview participant get quite upset in our session. This was two days before a training session I had booked on doing research around sensitive subjects — ironic. I didn’t de-brief this session with anyone. I should have. But who?
Then I couldn’t book a slot to swim at the time I wanted. I really struggle to keep up an exercise routine so when something gets in my way it’s hard. It was just a small thing but to me it felt like the routine I had carefully planned to help me build habits around exercise had fallen at the first hurdle.
I then realised, in quite quick succession, that I had forgotten to book train tickets to a conference (they are now extortionate) and I have not been saving enough tax. Again, small rectifiable things but they just got added to the pile.
My period started.
I walked up to the cafe up the road that does hot desking. It took effort to motivate myself to do this but I knew once I was there I would feel better. I could walk there and back in the sun and being out of the house and amongst people would help. I plugged my work laptop in, nothing happened. I smelt a smell of burning plastic. I gave my full cup of tea back and walked home.
I’d somehow broken a mac given to me by an agency.
This is when I finally cracked. But there was no one there. There is never anyone there because I no longer have any colleagues. This hurt because it was my biggest fear about going freelance and I was in danger of spiralling.
I felt like all the things I’ve been doing to try and help myself just kept getting thrown back in my face.
Normally in these circumstances I would plough on, working my way through the to-do list to try and make myself feel productive and purposeful.
For some reason this time I knew this wouldn’t help so I stopped. I did the one urgent thing I had to do then I closed my laptop. I emailed my accountant to tell them I couldn’t chat at 3pm.
I watched Friends because it felt comforting. I watched a video of my niece singing silly songs to make me smile. I sat on the sofa under a blanket, drank 2 cups of tea, ate quarter of a chocolate orange and read a copy of Grazia. I started to feel less like I needed to cry every five minutes.
I picked up my phone and started to write this note. I find writing helps me process things sometimes. And it’s nice I now have an audience of people who are interested in my writing.
This experience worried me. It made me wonder how often this will happen and what else I need to put in place for times like this. I thought I had put in place networks and support systems before I started but maybe what I have isn’t enough. I was proud of myself for stopping, for managing to practice some self care, but I’m not sure it’s enough long term. I’m also a bit worried how many chocolate oranges I might get through.
It made me wonder how many other freelancers feel the same. I think the main thing was not having anyone there I could talk to in the moment. Someone did happen to text me at the time, a friend and peer, and he offered to speak at 9am the next day. Someone I reached out to offered to talk at 5:30pm that evening. People are busy and it was kind of them to both offer but what I needed was someone right that moment. Like you have when you’re part of an organisation — there is always someone you can grab for a chat. Or usually, in my case, someone spots your puffy eyes and takes you for a cuppa.
So as a designer I see a problem and I want to fix it. How might solo freelancers support each other in real time and make sure everyone always has someone they can turn to at any time of the working day?