When freelancers go off on their own, they’re usually so excited about the new adventure that they can underestimate the loss of perks and benefits. Health insurance, vacation, breaks—for all their faults, 9-to-5 jobs do have perks. It’s important for freelancers to take care of themselves.
So we’re exploring self care for freelancers by talking with some experts. Today we talk with Patrick Neve. He’s a freelance web designer and graphic artist, building sites with WordPress. You can follow him on Twitter.
“The life of a freelancer can drive you mad if you don’t find balance.” -Patrick Neve
Our conversation covers establishing a healthy lifestyle, getting up and being active throughout the day, and the value of vacation.
When did you learn it was important to take care of yourself? What convinced you to take it seriously?
This is an excellent question, and I wish it were asked more often!
My father was a professional bodybuilder in the 1970s, so as far back as I can remember, I wanted to pump iron like Pops. It wasn’t until I was about 16 when I began to take it seriously. I quickly fell in love with the way it made me feel. When you’re 16, it doesn’t take much effort to see results, so I was hooked. By the time I was 17, my strength had doubled, my confidence had grown, and my passion for strength training was now deeply ingrained.
My 20s and part of my 30s were pretty unhealthy, to say the least, but I never stopped weight resistance training. I lifted weights four to five days a week year-round, and this routine without a doubt saved me from some potentially serious health conditions.
It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I began to shift my eating and lifting habits. My daughter was born and all of a sudden “longevity” mattered to me. I spent the next seven years readjusting everything I knew about nutrition and weightlifting. I ate cleaner, I lifted smarter, and I began to incorporate more “movement” into my daily routine, such as running, hiking, and walks to the park with the family.
I was 36 when I had my first child, and I wanted to be an active father. I needed to do something about my inflamed joints and sluggish energy levels. I couldn’t stand the thought of having my children wait for their “old daddy” to keep up on vacations and family activities later in life. And I surely didn’t want to have a heart attack either.
The biggest change I made which brought the most results was nutrition. I removed all of the starchy carbs, refined sugars, and processed vegetable oils, and replaced it with lots of healthy fats, high-quality, grass-fed meat, bone broth, and tons of organic vegetables.
Now, at the age of 43, I’m 65 pounds leaner, and have more energy, endurance, mobility, and mental clarity than I’ve ever had before!
With the sedentary nature of coding/office work, how do you stay healthy?
For one, I try and get some movement in before I get to the office. When the weather is nice, I’ll choose one of the many hiking trails in my neighborhood and enjoy a 20-minute run prior to beginning my day.
I also make a habit of weight training in the evening three to four days a week. And I keep my workouts brief and somewhat intense. Around 30 minutes.
Lastly, during my work day, I get up out of my chair every 30 to 45 minutes to stretch or go to the restroom. I will often sip on a 32-ounce jug of water throughout my work day to cause me to get up and use the restroom more often. This prevents me from being too sedentary all day.
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?
Yes! This is the number one reason I continue to push forward with freelancing—even when times get rough. Having the freedom to choose when to begin (or leave) work for any reason is priceless. If one of my kids are sick, I can take the day off to care for them. If I decide I want to workout at the gym before work (instead of after), I can do so.
So, to answer your question, to treat myself, I will sometimes dust off the Xbox and play for an hour or two. Or I’ll sit down and spend a couple of hours learning a new cover song on my acoustic. Sometimes I will go to the mall and buy myself a new shirt or something.
We have to reward ourselves once in a while. It’s easy to feel guilty for doing this, but if you never reward yourself, you’ll burn out. At the end of the day, it benefits the family.
The life of a freelancer can drive you mad if you don’t find balance.
How do you make time for vacations and then ensure they’re actually restful?
Simply put, there is never really “time” for a vacation. But vacations are absolutely necessary to grow (and maintain) a healthy freelancing business. Any business for that matter.
I work really hard year-round to make sure we can afford to take at least two vacations each year. Usually one small one and a large one. We really like Mexico. We’ve enjoyed seven consecutive years in Puerto Peñasco. It’s a tradition. Yes, I always choose a room that has WiFi, because there was a time when I actually closed a website project while in Mexico, but I try to leave my phone in the resort when we hit the beach. This helps to disconnect a little.
We like to camp as well, and anyone that camps knows that reception is crap in the woods. I might read a Kindle book while the family is asleep, but that’s as bad as it gets.
Although I am guilty of it now and again, I would always recommend steering clear of emails while on vacation. Email can easily eat up hours of time that would be better spent creating memories with the ones you love.
Read more freelance advice from Patrick Neve.
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