Breanna Musgrove is the designer behind Scout & Catalogue, a Vancouver-based handcrafted handbag and accessories line brings the beachy bohemian vibes of Mexico to modern simplicity of a more urban minimalism. Her work and her Instagram is the stuff of dreams, but she'd be the first to tell you: the hustle is very real. Here, she gives us her ultimate guide to managing your emotional health while being a freelance artist. Check out more of her stuff, here.
As much as social media wants us to believe differently, running a small business can be isolating. Over the last six years, for better or for worse, Scout & Catalogue has mostly been a one-person show. When it is going well there is nothing more exhilarating, but when it is stalled out it can feel like the loneliest workplace in the world. Today I want to talk briefly about my struggle to maintain emotional health while running a solo project. So many of us work as freelancers, from home, or on self directed projects and I think there is a real need to talk about ways to help keep our inner worlds healthy so we can perform our jobs to the best of our ability. Below is a list of things I've implemented (or am trying to implement!) as a person running a passion project on their own.
1. Find a shared workspace. Working on a solo-project is far less isolating if you are sitting next to twenty other entrepreneurs who are also facing the same challenges you are. Chat it out. Collab it out. Get your network hustle on. Shared workspaces change lives, or at least have changed mine.
2. Feel the feels. We spend a lot of energy avoiding feeling negative emotion. Sometimes simply stopping and acknowledging that you feel crappy gives you a sense of relief and possibly even renewed energy to tackle the day. No one feels happy all the time and striving to do so is an impossible goal. Instead, remember to enjoy the good times and be kind to yourself during the (inevitable) rougher times.
3. Stop fighting the ebb and flow of life. We KNOW we will have good days and bad days. Stockpile social media posts, new products to launch, collabs to announce for when you are not inspired. It is easy to generate content when you are feeling it, but so difficult when all you are doing is hating everything and fantasizing about moving to Bali to live a simpler life. Guess what? You will feel just as much happiness and pain in Bali as you do right now. Why not give yourself a rainy-day media pile to pull from whenever you just CAN NOT anymore? I managed to do this for a brief moment this past February and March and the relief of being able to pull from a cache of creative when I was feeling anti-Scout & Catalogue was such a gift.
4. Exercise. For years people were telling me about the power of endorphins and I would look at them cynically from the vantage point of my couch. Now I am going to tell you about the power of endorphins. A couple of years ago I started exercising on a regular schedule and my base level of happiness is consistently higher. It's an extra bonus that my body looks and feels better, but the change to my inner world is what really caught my attention. Added bonus, when I eat healthier I feel better. Making and eating food that is good for you is an act of self-care. But also, sometimes self-care is eating a pint of artisan ice cream in one sitting. No judgement!
5. Business groups. Find a group of people that are running similar types of projects as you and get a support group going. Remember that everyone feels alone, everyone faces the similar challenges, and everyone feels better after chatting it out and making connections.
6. Working intentionally. This was a big one for me. It is very hard to stop working when you are running a small business. There is constantly something that needs to be attended to and for years I felt like every day I did some sort of business task whether it was my "day off" or not. It got to a place where burnout was almost a daily occurrence for me. Earlier this year I started what I call "working intentionally". I bought a big calendar and I now assign work to each workday. When I finish the task for that day then my workday is over. It has lowered my burn out rate and made a massive difference to my emotional well being. It gives me incentive to finish my work in a timely manner and it makes the time I have away from my business feel actually relaxing and guilt-free.
7. Treat Yo Self. Sometimes you can have every intention to get through the task at hand, but you just can not seem to make it happen. Listen to yourself and cut yourself some slack. I am HORRIBLE at this and constantly sit at my desk getting nothing done but feeling obligated because I penciled it into my big calendar. But again, we are human and not machines. Be good to yourself and allow for unexpected time away from the daily grind. Almost always you will return refreshed and with the energy to do the task at hand way faster thanks to the break you gave yourself.
8. Find and cultivate hobbies outside of your job. It will feel like you don't have the time for this but you do. Do it.
9. Reach out. If you are feeling down and it is day three of doing work from home in your sweatpants without a shower and it just feels like life is a mundane and tasteless struggle, call someone. Or leave the house and strike up a conversation with your local postal worker, barista, uber driver etc. Life is better outside! Even if it's just a thirty minute break, one dinner out with a friend a week, anything to remind you that even the greyest days have a silver lining post-shower and dressed in a cute outfit.
10. And lastly, cut yourself some slack. If after building in all of this feel-good-for-living-your-best- life-while-self-employed stuff you book a massive client/order and you throw all your balanced living intentions out the window in a fit of getting shit done and you end up feeling crappy and then you spend extra time berating yourself for treating yourself poorly when you know better and how could you find yourself AGAIN in total burnout?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Just chill. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that self care, as with everything in life, is just about baby steps in the right direction. And sometimes you have to take a few steps back on your journey forwards.
I'm curious what you guys do to help create supportive structure in this increasingly structure-less work world? Comment below with your tips! I am always interested in what helps make the daily grind a little more lovely.
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