2 Tips on Freelancing with a Mental Illness

Freelancing requires a lot of independence and self-responsibility. You are representing yourself, you are your own customer service, accountant, CFO, and manager. It’s hard on everyone but can seem impossible for anyone with a mental illness.

Stop Trying to “Force it Through”

Executive dysfunction is a major issue for many people with mental illnesses. For freelancers, small business owners, and anyone who is their own boss, doing anything can be daunting. And the most popular advice is often not helpful.

How many times have you felt like everyone else has an on/off switch for their attention or their work ethic? Often they may say “just do the work!” but it’s not that easy for people with ADHD, or any other mental illness that affects executive function.

If you can’t force yourself to work through something, even when you have deadlines, have a conversation with yourself (and if necessary, with your clients). Take the time to think through what’s going on, make sure you are meeting all your bodily needs (are you tired? Hungry? Thirsty?) and see if there’s something your mental illness is saying “you need to do that before you can do this work”, sometimes it’s as simple as moving your computer to another room.

It’s weird, and sometimes solutions don’t make sense, but taking the time to think through, and try out solutions will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Be Efficient and Realistic

This advice goes for anyone, but especially for anyone with a mental illness or a disability. You are a human being with limits. A good leader isn’t a superhuman who knows how to do everything and can single-handedly take care of all the busy work. They are people who find creative solutions to maximize production with what they have.

Overworking yourself will not maximize productivity, in fact, it will slowly kill both your business and yourself. Instead, you want to practice being realistic with what you can do, how many hours you can work, what hours you can work, what kind of networking you can do, and what you can’t. The good news is that today there are options for anyone to increase efficiency.

Working as your own boss has advantages and freedoms. Any physical or mental disability should not keep you from this line of work, and for any neurotypical colleagues, we recommend looking at our own work and making sure we create an environment open to and embracing businesses by and for neurodiverse individuals.