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How To Reduce Stress as a Freelancer

5 ways to reduce stress as a freelancer

April is Stress Awareness Month so it seemed an apt time to reach out and chat about ways I manage to reduce the stresses I encounter as a freelancer.

I’ve said on many occasions how much I love working freelance and being my own boss: I firmly believe that my decision to leave full time employment to pursue a freelance career was, and still is one of the best decisions I ever made – but that doesn’t mean it is a stress-free option.

Working for yourself brings with it so many positives (freedom, flexibility, control, being your own boss, no commute & loads more!) but it also means absolute responsibility – you are the make or break of your business. It brings with it endless admin, accounts, marketing/PR and social media jobs to be done…instead of holding down just one role, you find yourself suddenly donning many hats, and that of course can be stressful.

Over the years I have found various ways to help reduce these stresses and strains – little ways to lighten the load and keep some semblance of order and sanity to your working life.

This topic has never been more relevant for me as I am currently 33 weeks pregnant and so I have been working on reducing my stress levels recently. My tired pregnant body needs as stress free an existence as possible and of course my priority is keeping myself well and the baby safe, if you too can feel your stress levels mounting then I hope these tips can help.

Here are my top five ways to reduce stress as a freelancer:

  1. USE ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE – There are absolutely loads of different accounting software out there for freelancers: I would recommend Wave or QuickBooks as being especially easy to use, cheap/free and reliable. Using this software has massively reduced my stress and now means my accounting is no longer a headache. I use the software to categorise outgoings, create/send and log invoices, access income statements and record receipts for business related costs. All this means that at the end of the Tax Year I have instant access to organised accounts making my Tax Return much more straightforward. Head to QuickBooks’ accounting software page to find out more.
  2. USE EMAIL FILTERS – This might be an obvious one to most freelancers, but my most used mode of communication in business is via email – which means my inbox is constantly full and attacking it can be a hugely overwhelming task. Since applying filters to my emails they have been so much easier to tackle. I filter sales emails into one folder, bills into another etc – which means I can access and clear different types of email depending on priority/need and what time scale I have for admin each day.
  3. GET A DROPBOX ACCOUNT – Having a Dropbox account has been such a godsend for my freelance life – I pay just a few pounds per month for unlimited storage and it means I can confidently store all my vital images and documents for work without the worry of losing them or needing to constantly back up. It also means I can access them from any computer/device with my login, anywhere in the world, and I can share any of the files with clients, collaborators and employees when necessary.
  4. ASK FOR HELP/OUTSOURCE – This is a big one for me… it took me a long time to bite the bullet and hire an extra pair of hands, but it is so worth it. Whether you’re drowning in admin, or have no idea where to start when it comes to social media – there will be someone perfect out there that you could hire to lend a hand. It needn’t be for very long – it’s amazing what an expert in social media or someone purely focused on your admin can achieve in just a couple of hours per week. Being able to delegate jobs so that I can focus more on the creative/design side of my business has definitely reduced my stress levels dramatically.
  5. SCHEDULE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA – We all know that keeping up with the social media promotion and interaction for your business can be a full time commitment in itself. I know I’m not alone when I say that social media overwhelms me, and I easily get lost in it, wasting valuable working time and reducing productivity. For me, hiring someone to devise a social media strategy and help me to implement it has been fantastic. The biggest change I made was learning to schedule a large proportion of my social media posts. This means I no longer post infrequently just when I remember to, but instead I schedule in a variety of posts, across all platforms at key times of day – which has seen me reach a wider audience much more consistently. Between me and my social media manager we can set aside time each week to schedule in posts, and then I can concentrate on the creative side of my work – designing my prints, and just dip in and out of social media – replying to comments, keeping track of interactions etc. The social media schedulers I would recommend include BUFFER, GRUM and SOCIAL OOMPH – check them out, they will change your social media life!

What methods do you use to reduce the stress of working as a freelancer? I’d love to know!

Bye for now,

Tabitha x

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An Interview with Tabitha Mary…

An Interview with Graphic Designer Tabitha Mary.

How did Tabitha Mary.co.uk start and what was your initial inspiration?

It started with the Shipping Forecast Regions print, I created it for my parents for christmas about 5 years ago! It looks quite different to the version we all know and love now. But the original got so many conversations started with people fascinated with knowing where the actual regions were that it dawned on me that I might be able to sell it as a print. So I reworked it into a more commercial version and gave it a whirl… I had my very first listing on Etsy, I couldn’t believe it when I received my first order! I can still remember exactly where I was: In the car on mini break in Yorkshire.

Original Shipping Forecast Print by Tabitha Mary

You have over 80 prints in your collection, which is your favourite? Or top 3 if you can’ pick one.

Oh tough one, probably Kilimanjaro and Annapurna as they are two prints that I created solely for myself as a memory of my travels and hiking adventures. I also love the Mount Fuji one, just because I love mountains!

What is your proudest work achievement to date?
Just being sat here, right now making a living out of my dream. I never thought I would end up running my own business and being able to survive off of it. Quitting my full time job was so scary, but looking back, the best thing I ever did!

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Stevenage, but when I was 3 just before my sister was born we moved to a tiny village called Buxted in East Sussex near Uckfield where my parents still live. I love going home to Sussex. I’ve lived all over Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire following my career as a graphic designer but no where’s quite felt like home in the way Sussex does.

Do you have a favourite thing to draw?

Definitely coastal locations.

What Radio station do you listen to?

BBC Radio 2

If you had to watch one DVD Box-Set forever more, which would you choose?

EASY! Sex and the City – it’s my guilty pleasure!

What would you choose as your favourite food?

Ok, that’s a lot harder. Can I have a savoury and sweet choice?!

Savoury: Sausages Sweet: Anything pastry (makes me sound so healthy!)

Do you have a particular style when it comes to home/interiors/décor? Can you tell us a little about this…

My husband and I love anything vintage and retro and mix that with my obsession with Orla Kiely and all things graphic makes for probably quite a 60’s vibe, but in a modern and vintage way. My favourite home colours are grey and duck egg, so that pretty much features all over the house with accents of yellow, orange and tons of graphic patterns injected in the form of blinds, cushions and bedding. I believe in having a plain base and then adding the detail with accessories.

What is the best holiday you’ve ever been on? Did it inspire any artwork?

This is really hard! I like different types of holidays and locations for all their own reasons. Summiting Kilimanjaro will always be up there as it was such a personal achievement, but Italy with Paul when he proposed and our Honeymoon in California are also pretty high on the list! I just love to explore and experience new things, so all holidays are great!

Tabitha & Paul’s Engagement
Nepal
Nepal

What is the best and worst thing about being self-employed?

Best thing: The sense of achievement and flexibility of being your own boss. Worst thing: The pressure, I set myself really high standards which means I never switch off, i’m always working and I find it really hard to let go or delegate things.

What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

My Mum and Dad’s carpet in the house I first lived in until I was 3. I vividly remember thinking it was horrible!!! HA HA! Sorry Mum!

What’s your scariest experience?

My best friend making me do Aerial Extreme for my hen do! I used to be okay with heights, apparently as i’ve got older I no longer am! Hated every second! I remember climbing onto the platform and my bum cheeks were shaking I was so scared!! ha ha. Conveniently said best friend was pregnant so couldn’t participate!

What is your favourite piece of artwork and who is it by?

Oh it changes all the time! Currently its a set of 3 prints I recently bought from the super talented Talia Giles.

Tabitha Mary's favourite artwork
Art by Talia Giles

Describe a real-life situation that inspired your work?

Summiting Kilimanjaro lead to me creating a print that can be personalised with your name, route and summit date. It’s one of my best sellers with fellow sumitters wanting a lasting reminder of their achievement.

Kilimanjaro
The fabulous Kilimanjaro

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Oh there’s too many! I can be a bit dizzy!

Do you have a favourite colour?

Probably duck egg, but closely followed by grey, orange and yellow.

What jobs have you done other than being a graphic designer?

Since graduating in 2007 i’ve been lucky enough to work as a graphic designer in a few jobs, designing christmas crackers, kitchenwares, licensed sunglasses, licensed stationery, packaging, cards, wrap, gift bags. The days before uni I did all the usual jobs, macdonalds, tesco, waitressed, worked in staples for a bit! Best job was waitressing at Glyndebourne Opera house during the summer breaks from uni.

Is the artistic/creative life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

Being self employed can be lonely, luckily I’m a pretty motivated person and good in my own company. But to stop myself going stir crazy I go to regiment fitness two mornings during the week, which ensures I actually talk to other human beings other than Paul (my husband!) and we always have pretty busy and social weekends either seeing family or friends or working an event.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

I get really overwhelmed when people write me lovely feedback, especially when they’re talking about a gift they’ve bought for someone else. I’m pretty shy when it comes to receiving positive feedback, it drives my husband mad!

Have you visited all of your print locations? And what research do you do for your prints?

Gosh I wish! Sadly not, in the early days I did as that’s how I chose my locations, but now so many of my prints are commissioned by a shop or customer I use photography and online interactive maps to explore the areas and get a feel for the place.

Can you describe a typical working day for you?

There is no real typical, but i’d say I start about 8.30am, I action any sales that have come in and do any admin that needs doing. I then start on whatever print is next on my ‘to do’ list. I try my hardest to break for lunch, this didn’t always used to happen, but now that I’m pregnant I make sure I take an hour time out every lunch time. The afternoon is normally designing or if a wholesale order has come in then printing and packaging that. I tend to finish work about 7pm when my husband gets home from work.

You’re currently heavily pregnant with your first child – what aspect of having children are you most excited about?

Everything! I find thinking about the fact i’m growing a little person a bit mind blowing! I just cannot wait to have a mini Paul and I and for us to have something so special between us to look after and watch grow. At the moment I’m mostly focused on the birth and I cannot wait to see Paul hold our baby for the first time, I get a bit teary just thinking about it!

Where do you envisage your business to be in 5 years time?

My main goal is to keep it growing at an achievable and realistic rate given that things are going to change as I approach motherhood. I just hope that I’m still sat here in 5 years working for myself. I feel lucky everyday that I have the opportunity to be living my dream job, but don’t take it for granted and worry all the time that it might end one day. I just have to hope and pray it doesn’t. But main goals are to continue focusing on my wholesale and licensing growth which has already grown significantly over the past year.

What hobbies do you pursue outside of your artistic work life?

I used to be a massive hiker, hiking most weekends all over the UK and taking trips abroad to partake in hiking holidays. That’s dwindled a little since settling down with Paul as our hobbies are more focused on home improvements, and very often working weekends! (sorry paul!) But I hope that country walks will be something we will enjoy once again as a family when our baby arrives!!

Is there anything else about Tabitha Mary you’d like to know? Perhaps we can do a second interview if we get enough questions…

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Behind the scenes….

Today we’re taking a little sneak peek behind the scenes at Tabitha Mary…

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As well as designing my own prints and doing the day-to-day jobs behind running a business I freelance. This sometimes comes under the Tabitha Mary umbrella and may be a commission, collaboration with a cafe or a companies branding work in my Tabitha Mary style. And other times its completely disconnected. The most unconnected contract I have at the moment is with a company based in France that produce Insulation Boards! I work on all their branding and marketing material. I have to admit, my french is awful and hasn’t improved since working with them!! Apart from I now know the french for all measurements and a bunch of technical terms!!

The newest print under development is of Burgh Island, someone at the Handmade & Vintage market in Milton Keynes mentioned this location to me as a possible print… and that’s that! I listened!

I recently attended the Creative Bedfordshire Conference and had an amazing and wonderfully inspiring day. Whilst there I met Emma Garrett, owner of The Pavilion in the park, Bedford & Kiosk at the park, Russell Park, Bedford. I’m very excited with a new project we are working on together to design a print of each location, a limited edition version may be available of each and we’re hoping for a launch party to coincide with their 1st anniversary! EXCITING STUFF! I’ll keep you posted here on updates….

Some jobs I can’t talk about as they’re secrets! sssshhhhh….! or for companies that are not yet officially launched and want to keep it all under wraps until the big day.

And some jobs get interrupted by this little madam….

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She is a pickle!

On top of all of this! I’ve just been hired by ‘Love Arts and Crafts’ as their new after school Art club teacher!! I can’t wait to start teaching after the Easter Break!

So there’s a little sneak peek into the very busy world of Tabitha Mary. They’ll be more to come. I’ve got SO many plans for the next year and I’ll be blogging about it all regularly… until then!

TM x