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SELF-EMPLOYMENT: key points on managing your mental health

 By Tracey Mullins

For over ninety years The Film & Television Charity has been the leading charity for the Film and Television industries. As such, we are only too aware of the challenges that people face as self-employed operators, who may experience frequent periods of being ‘in between’ projects, and the stresses and strains of the work involved. It is important to protect yourself from the pressures you may face and look after your mental health.

Areas that may trigger stress

Managing your time – Being able to say ‘no’ helps you manage your workload. If you never know where your next job is coming from, you may feel under pressure to accept all the work that comes your way. Bear in mind that it is important not to become overwhelmed by too many projects. You may have to turn some work down in order to manage your time.

Uncertainty – When you first become self-employed you need to be prepared to cope with things being more uncertain. There may be more work at certain times of the year and less at others. It may be that you are offered work and then for some reason it doesn’t go ahead.

Financial pressure –  It’s all down to you to earn the money. If work isn’t coming in, then stress levels can rise if there’s a problem with paying the bills. You also need to keep on top of your accounting if you don’t have an accountant.

Potential Burnout – There is so much to do when you first start a business you may find that you overwork and become susceptible to ‘burnout’. Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It may occur when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and are unable to meet constant demands.

How to deal with stress when you’re self-employed

Learn how to manage your time – Using to-do lists and planning your day the night before can help you manage your workload. Using time management software/apps which allocates a certain amount of time daily to each project can also be useful. Try and plan your week. Don’t forget to find time to relax. Take breaks when you can and make sure you have a slot available for lunch.

Work/life balance, prioritise self-care – You may feel at first that you have to work all  hours to make your business a success. Make sure you build in time to look after yourself by spending time away from your business doing things you enjoy: exercise, meditation, pursuing a hobby and spending time with family. If you become physically and mentally exhausted, you will not be so effective at managing your business.

Get outside – During those periods when you have less work or a gap between projects or assignments – make sure you get out of the house, even if it means taking your laptop with you and sitting with it in a coffee shop. Build some exercise into your day. Go for a walk. Being at home alone for long periods of time can make you look inwards and your worries may get out of perspective.

Get on top of your accounts – Ideally hire an accountant to do your tax return. When you first become self-employed you may not have the money to do this, so make sure that you keep all your receipts for your expenses (travel, supplies etc) and also keep on top of printing out your invoices. Keep a spreadsheet and make sure you record your income and expenses each month instead of leaving it all until the end of the year, which may cause you more stress.

Delegate – When you’re self-employed you’re the Jack or Jill of all trades: marketing, accounts, HR (if you have employees), IT, branding etc. You may not be good at everything, so try and outsource tasks you don’t enjoy or aren’t particularly good at. Hire a social media manager to help you build your social media presence at the beginning and learn how to do it effectively yourself. Don’t waste a lot of time creating a website if it’s not your area of expertise. Having a website designed for you needn’t break the bank.


Your mental health is as important as your physical health. If you think you are experiencing a mental health problem, make 2018 the year you seek help.  


The Film & Television Charity can be contacted via:

The Film & TV Support Line: Freephone, 24/7 – 0800 05 00 00