A freelancer’s 3-step guide to ongoing happiness

This is a blog about finding my daily happy. I’m not talking about singing on hillsides in the middle of the day kind of happy. I mean more joy, than not. More contentment, than not. More smiling, than not.

And it’s not entirely for selfish reasons that I’m doing this. Self-care is good for business.

I assume you’re a little interested because you’re here, reading.

First, I want to share a story. Indulge me if you will.

In 2013-2014, I experienced a lot of change. My copywriting business had its biggest year but I also had a kid and we moved to the USA. I was patting myself on the back for being a work-anywhere freelancer but life was hectic. It still is.

But no one gets a medal for being The Busiest.

Even when I wasn’t working, part of my brain seemed to be constantly writing emails, briefs, blogs and copy, managing projects and my team. You know, it’s what you do when you’re a business owner.

But more than once, I looked enviously at business owners who seemed to be carefree, content and, well, happy. I’m sensible enough to know that if I wanted to join the happy club, I had to make some changes.

Three not-so-impossible changes with huge returns.

1. More self-care.

I decided I was just as important as clients, family and friends and I now devote as least part of each day to self-care.

I meditate. If you think meditation is just for hippies, you couldn’t be more wrong. A growing number of business leaders are attributing their success in part to regular meditation and the practice of mindfulness – and I’m on board. Just Google “mindfulness for business success” and you’ll see what I mean.

Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace, explains that a calm mind is like a bright clear blue sky. Occasionally, the sky is clouded but the blue sky is always there. What we’re looking for – a calm, contented mind – is always there. I love that analogy.

Using the Headspace App I discovered that in just 10 minutes a day, I could:

  • Be more present and in the moment (and resist distractions). That translates to maintaining focus on the work I’m doing but also savouring the time I’m not working.
  • Let go of stress and other negative emotions in a timely manner. I still get stressed, anxious and angry but rather than letting the trigger run on a loop, continuously feeding those emotions, I’m learning how to experience it then let it go. That last part is pretty handy.
  • Be more aware of others; to listen more actively and appreciate people with a more open heart. Far from becoming a walkover, I’m focusing on quality not quantity in my relationships (business and personal).

The result? I’m becoming more productive when I’m working and able to actually switch off when I’m not.

I walk. I don’t hike a local mountain. I just take the kid and dog for a spin around the local streets. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes, sometimes longer. The fresh air, movement and time away from my computer help boost my creativity and my ability to focus.

I try and spend time on a hobby. My business has sucked up so much of my spare time for so many years that I forgot what hobbies I enjoy. This is essential me-time that helps spark all sorts of neural pathways in my brain.

I cut myself some slack. Sometimes I stay in bed instead of meditating. Some days I don’t walk. Some weeks don’t allow for hobby time. I won’t pretend I’m nailing all this self-care but I’m trying.

2. Less crap work. More passion.

The next change was to take a good, hard look at what my business had become. Successful, sure, but what was I working towards? I felt like I was on a treadmill without an end in sight.

With less time available for work (thanks to my mini-me) I had to get more focused. I didn’t have time to waste on work I didn’t enjoy.

I looked at the intersection of what I love doing, what I am good at and what I can charge for. I stopped writing copy for clients (for maximum stress returns) and started sharing my knowledge via copywriting courses and coaching.

Now I work with people who want to learn what I know and are excited to work with me. That kind of energy is contagious so I’m getting topped up all the time. I’ve moved from being a commodity to helping others build successful businesses around their writing, and I love it.

3. Information detox for less noise.

My last big change is to cut out some of the noise in my life. Noise from crappy ‘news’ media, shit TV, blogs that leave me feeling like my life is missing something (I’m looking at you, parenting blogs), people who aren’t a positive influence in my life.

I’m unfollowing people I don’t know who share updates I don’t read. I’m reducing the number of times I check social media each day. I mean hour. Okay, each minute.

I’ve had notifications turned off for a while now and it’s nice. I mean, how urgently do I need to know I have a new email or someone liked my photo on Facebook? Seriously.

The result is less internal chatter. The peace is quite nice. I have more capacity to look outwards.

So how does all this relate to you?

Good question. It’s all very well talking about what I’m doing but I leave you with these three challenges.

  1. Invest in yourself. Block out 15 minutes every day to step away from your desk and do something for yourself. Try Headspace, take a quick walk, listen to some music without doing anything else.

If you find yourself saying I don’t have time today, consider this: 15 minutes is about the time it takes to make and enjoy a coffee. And you make time for that, don’t you?

Aren’t you important enough for 15 minutes in your entire day?

  1. Look at what you spend time on each day. If you’re not happy with some of the work you do, don’t do it. Outsource it or adapt your business to focus on those things you love to do.

When you truly love what you’re doing without being bogged down with the work you hate, you’ll be more productive and profitable.

  1. Remove distractions. Work out what’s most important to you. What’s important to read, learn, share and do to achieve your goals? Ditch everything else.

Self-care is a slow drip that adds up over time. Keep at it.

I won’t pretend you’ll transform into someone who is calm, content and happy 100% of the time. I’m not sure that’s achievable… and it sounds a little dull.

Now I’ve bared my soul, I’d love to know if you think I’m speaking wisdom or total tosh. Are you on a treadmill or running your own race?

Belinda WeaverAbout Guest Blogger, Belinda Weaver
Belinda is a marketing and SEO copywriter who confidently walks the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand. She teaches copywriters how to build successful businesses around their copywriting. Be the first to hear about her next Copywriting Master Class.

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