UK Lifestyle and Interiors Blog

Interiors, lifestyle, arts and culture blog by award-winning writer, Nicole Mullen

Why I quit freelancing after six years

What do you think of when I mention the word freelancing? Rolling out of bed and into the next room at noon? Tapping away at a MacBook from the comfort of the sofa? Never changing out of your pyjamas? The self-employed dream is being chased by ever-more millennials; the Office for National Statistics estimates that almost five million people in the UK alone are freelance. I have freelanced, give or take, for six years. I’ve enjoyed a commute time of 30 seconds (to the next room); taken naps at noon (just because), and started my day at 2pm (because, wine).

“So, why on earth have you sacked it all in?” I hear you cry.

Almost five million people freelance in the UK, which means a whole load of MacBook shots on Instagram…

Almost five million people freelance in the UK, which means a whole load of MacBook shots on Instagram…

It’s lonely

As a home worker, days (heck, sometimes a whole week) went by where I hadn't left my flat. As someone who suffers with depression and anxiety (more on that later), it’s all too easy to settle into a routine of wake up > work > watch TV > sleep > repeat without having talked to anyone other than your boyfriend. Sure, there are online communications tools, such as Slack and Monday.com and, if all else fails, there’s always Instagram. But, there is a difference between catching up on a project via Slack and having real-life conversations with Actual Human Beings about your latest binge-worthy boxset. In fact, a survey by Epson found that 48% of UK freelancers admitted to finding it ‘lonely’ and, even more worryingly, a fifth claimed that the loneliness of remote working had caused them to have suicidal thoughts. As someone with an unconventional route out of university, I longed for my bygone intern days of asking colleagues how their weekends were, of having lunch together, and of being part of a team.

46% of freelancers report that it is ‘isolating’

46% of freelancers report that it is ‘isolating’

Work ‘til I die? No thanks

As a member of the UK’s growing gig economy, I’d often joke to fellow freelancers that we’d all be working ‘til we died. Because, if you’re self-employed, there are no Pension Plans, no fancy schmancy Health Plans and, god forbid you fall ill, no Statutory Sick Pay either. With the boundaries between work and life pretty much non-existent, it’s no wonder that remote workers take fewer breaks and sick days. Even when literally incapable of producing work to my usual high standards, I still had one eye on my emails and the other on Slack. From the other side of the world, I discussed projects; called clients; wrote content. When your work is just a tap away, the temptation is just too real.

When your work is just a tap away, it can feel impossible to switch off…

When your work is just a tap away, it can feel impossible to switch off…

It messes with your head

According to research by Epson, a quarter of freelancers have experienced depression. I am one of them. When there isn’t anywhere to be at a certain time; when, sometimes, there isn’t actually that much work to do, it’s difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed. From my experience, when you don’t get out of bed, you don’t do any work; when you don’t do any work, either you fall behind on deadlines or, for some, you just don’t get paid. Which only serves to exacerbate the symptoms of depression. Add to that the aforementioned issue of Sick Pay (or lack thereof) and, if you’re me, you end up spiralling.

Spiralling into depression affects a quarter of freelancers

Spiralling into depression affects a quarter of freelancers

Why quit now?

Good question. Whilst there are many benefits to being self-employed, I have found that, at this point in my life, the benefits of being an employee far outweigh the benefits of working for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I will certainly miss my 30-second commute and midday snoozes, but I’m super-excited at the prospect of structure, Sick Pay, and the simple act of saying ‘hello’ to someone in the morning.

Will I return to freelancing in the future? Maybe. But, for the next few years at least, I’m content in being a colleague - and that is A-OK.

What are your experiences of being self-employed? Do you love it or loathe it (or both!)? Share your stories in the comments below, or tweet me @nclmullencomms.