Back in 2020 when I was still an employee, trying to fit in what was expected of me (+ the pandemic on top of it all) led me to burnout. In November 2020, I decided to create my own business and started working as a freelance translator, as well as an author.
It’s been more than a year now, so I think I can tell you how the switch from employee to freelancer impacted my mental health. It might be useful to the ones who are thinking about doing the same, and wondering if it’s really worth it for their mental health.
I’d like to mention first that I am a multipotentialite. (If you don’t know what this means, browse through my old posts, you will find a few articles on this.) Back then, I didn’t know what was a multipotentialite either, so that might also explain why I forced myself to be ‘normal’. A multipotentialite will be the happiest when they can work on different things they find an interest in, instead of focusing on one single thing that would make an expert out of them, to put it in a very very simple way. So I was always bored, no matter the company in which I was working, no matter how diverse my managers tried to make my tasks. I was there to earn money, not because I found meaning in it, not because I loved my job.
I was an international recruiter back then, and for an introvert, let me tell you that this was completely out of my comfort zone. And for a time, I was proud of that. Proud that I could accomplish things I thought I would never be able to do, like conducting interviews with CEOs and managing directors from famous healthcare companies. But then as the months went by, anxiety settled. I would get sick every Sunday night, got insomnia and thus would feel very weak when my Monday alarm would ring. I didn’t want to go to work anymore, I was scared of everything – not finding the right candidate, but also finding the right candidate, not managing to get a call with them, but also managing to get a call with them.
When I moved back to France at the end of February 2020, my mental health was in shambles already, but I was so desperate to hide it. I found a new job in the same field, I thought starting anew in my country and in a city I loved, surrounded with friends and family, would be enough for me to get better. Well, the first lockdown took place in March, so bye bye friends. I was fortunate enough to be back with my parents so at least I was not alone. I only started the new job in May, because they didn’t want me to work from home. And that’s when my journey to hell began.
I quickly realized that this company was not for me. Things they had promised during interviews were fake and superficial. Their work ethics and methods were despicable to me. They expected me to be available from 8am to 9pm without being paid for the extra hours of course (which is illegal in France). And they forced me to apply these methods. It made me go crazy. I didn’t want to become the kind of person I hated. Not for a job, not for all the money in the world. But there was the pandemic, and my student loan I had to pay back, and I panicked. I thought it would be ungrateful to quit. I thought it would be difficult to find something else anyway. So I stayed for three months until I collapsed. Insomnia, anxiety attacks, I even cried at work. Symptoms of burnout, my doctor put me on sick leave, and I never came back.
This led me to question everything in my life. What I actually really wanted to do with this life, because then I was at least sure that I didn’t want to go on like that any longer. Long story short, I decided to pick up my old dreams and became a self-published author and freelance translator. In this article I will focus more on the freelance side of the story.
I was terrified of jumping into the unknown world of freelancers. I pretended to be strong, I pretended to be confident for my family, but I was far from that. I was worried I wouldn’t find clients, I was worried I was not skilled enough for this, I was worried that I would never make enough money out of it.
Fast forward one year and two months later. I found clients in a field I love (Korean webtoons) and was surprised to actually love what I’m doing. There are weeks where I have tons of work, and weeks where I can just chill and do what I love. The amount of money I make is still quite irregular and I’m not where I want to be yet. But let me tell you I am so much more at ease in this ‘chaotic’ environment then in the strict and tidy life of an employee. I can say yes and I can say no to my clients and potential clients. I’m making my own schedule, and it’s always changing. If I need a day, to go somewhere, to travel, to see a friend, I can take that day. If I don’t feel well, I can just adapt my workload or even just relax and read the whole day if I have nothing planned on that day. I can work early in the morning, or late at night if I had insomnia the night before and only woke up at 11:30 am. I am free to do whatever I want, and that, that has no price. I’m working on me, and on my business, and it makes me smile. Of course, I’m very thankful for the fact that I can stay at my parents for now, because anyway my income is not stable enough for a landlord to accept me, and I also have projects to move abroad when the pandemic will be over. In the meantime, I’m trying to save money, while developing my little world to the best of my abilities.
My mental health has never been better. For years, I was only in survival mode, trying to make it through another day, just another day. For years I thought I would eventually end it at some point. Now I feel content with my life, with who I am, and where I’m going. Not everything is perfect, of course not, I still have bad days where I feel like a failure and where it feels like it’s never going to work out the way I aim to… but there are more days where I’m proud of where I am, and I’m excited to see where this will lead me. Since I created my business, I started to learn how to take care of myself, how to put me first, and when I think about it, it makes me so emotional. I finally found something that works for me, when I thought it would never happen. Step by step, I no longer think about dying.
This is my journey through improving my mental health by working as a freelancer. Could some of you relate ? Feel free to let me know your own freelancer story in the comments, I’d be happy to read them.
I hope you all have a lovely day. See you next Wednesday ! 🙂