Nothing feels as good as realising your hard work is paying off. Though I would not be so crass (or naive) to suggest that hard work guarantees reward – because I of all people know that sometimes you bust your arse for little reward – those times when it does pay off feel even sweeter.
You have moments of self-doubt, even when you have been self-employed for a couple of years (like I have been) and experience quiet periods. It’s easy to get obsessed. It’s easy to let merely thinking about work swallow up your weekends. It’s easy to let worrying about a light workload drag you down just as it’s easy to worry about when having a lot of work, how you could possibly fit it all in with everyone’s deadlines and still put aside some down time for yourself. It’s easy to lose sleep and to descend into anxiety and depression.
Those little contracts, those little successes feel great and it can be a fantastic self-esteem boost to be rewarded financially and in terms of praise. It feels good in a workplace to feel valued, but I would argue that to be responsible for your own work puts even greater value on that work when a client wants to keep giving your more. When they describe you as reliable and hard working, and when they spread the word amongst their contacts that this is a guy who will do the job for you, it makes you feel really fucking good.
One downside of the work from home self-employed, ignoring the financial instability, is the lack of real human contact. We humans are social creatures, even an introvert like me needs human contact. Skyping with a client, even one that you discuss social issues with, is not the same as having social contact. It’s not the same as seeing friends at the pub, going out for a meal with an intimate partner or joining a social group with whom you have things in common. People who are isolated are certainly prone to depression – loneliness sets in and people who work from home are more prone to depression than those who commute a place of work and interact with people.
A second downside is that it is sometimes difficult to separate work from home life. Your home is your office. Your breakfast bar, your bedroom, the garden, the living room… these are all your office and it is so difficult to disconnect from it sometimes. It’s easy to check your emails late at night and do those “little” jobs at the weekend when you should be relaxing and most definitely having your mind off work.
It’s like a swarm of bees inside your head, persistently spinning around, getting into the corners of your mind, taking up all the space and creating a noise that is difficult to subdue. When your life is like that anyway, when you internalise your problems and the negative thoughts inside your head are always bubbling under, it’s bad enough. When you are consumed with thoughts of work and nothing else, and don’t give yourself enough of a break, you put yourself at high risk of depression
That’s why it’s so important to take your breaks, to get out and see friends, to wind down, to force yourself to take your mind off work for a few days. For me, I am reminded once again of the importance of using mindfulness techniques to help myself do so.