There are a lot of advantages to being a freelancer, but one of the downsides is perks. Vacations, health insurance, breaks—these are benefits you have to provide yourself. And it’s easy to overlook them. It’s important for freelancers to take care of themselves. So we’re exploring self-care for freelancers by talking with some experts.

Michelle Schulp describes herself as a “graphic designer, WordPress fan and epic nerd.” Michelle lives in Minneapolis and creates WordPress sites, PowerPoint presentations and visual design at Marktime Media.

“The biggest ‘perk’ is just giving myself permission to prioritize self care.” -Michelle Schulp

We talk about over-working, prioritizing personal health, and making business trips more manageable.

When did you learn it was important to take care of yourself? What convinced you to take it seriously?

When I graduated college, I got a full-time agency job plus I freelanced on the side. I was easily working 90 hour weeks with very little time for a life or relaxation, and I didn’t take care of myself or exercise. It didn’t get much better after I started working for myself, as I was still a demanding boss.

After starting to deal with chronic pain and the results of an exhausting, unhealthy lifestyle, I decided that it was a better idea to try to adopt healthy habits while I was still young than to keep going down this path. It got better when I moved to Minnesota, where it was so easy to stay active by biking, walking, or working out in the apartment gym. Eating well has been a conscious choice, and it’s difficult especially with all the travel and events, but I think the results are worth it.

With the sedentary nature of coding/office work, how do you stay healthy?

Because I work for myself at home, I can set my own schedule. I also don’t have kids or pets. So I’m lucky to be able to prioritize my personal health in my life by putting sleep, exercise, and healthy eating ahead of most things (including extra work) on most days. I work out almost daily, eat balanced meals, and try to get good nights of sleep as much as possible.

A benefits package is something most freelancers leave behind with the 9-to-5. What kind of perks—whether daily treats or once-in-a-while benefits—do you give yourself?

Well, I did purchase traditional benefits (medical/dental) for myself, which allows me to afford things like massage/chiropractic and regular checkups. I also have an affordable gym membership that enables me to work out while I’m traveling.

But I’d probably say the biggest “perk” is just giving myself permission to prioritize self care, even if it means I can’t burn the midnight oil or take on as much work as I may have otherwise.

How do you make time for vacations and then ensure they’re actually restful?

This is something I’m still working on! I do travel a lot, but they’re more like “trips” than vacations, since most of them are for work or conferences. However, lately I’ve made sure to allow myself at least one extra day in each destination, and extra time on either side of the event, in order to have time to work, decompress, relax, and exercise. And I try to make time for meaningful social events at every destination. Personal connection is extremely important to me and helps to balance out the larger networking/speaking/work obligations.

Read more freelance advice from Michelle Schulp.

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