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Feel the Feels: A Guide to Feeling Less Alone as a Freelance Artist

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.

Feel the Feels: A Guide to Feeling Less Alone as a Freelance Artist

Feel the Feels: A Guide to Feeling Less Alone as a Freelance Artist

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.

Feel the Feels: A Guide to Feeling Less Alone as a Freelance Artist

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.

Feel the Feels: A Guide to Feeling Less Alone as a Freelance Artist

Feel the Feels: A Guide to Feeling Less Alone as a Freelance Artist

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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Cheyenne N. Turner commented on Monday, August 8, 2016 4:09pm
This is very inspiring, thank you!
Danielle Arnold commented on Monday, August 8, 2016 4:24pm
Collection di Mareabella commented on Monday, August 8, 2016 6:55pm
I am to the point of "artist block" .. I put down everything. I just don't feel it and I have to accept it. Like you mentioned, It is a very lonely world when you have poured your heart and soul out as an artist for years and nothing is catching. /thanks for pointing out that we all feel this way at one point or another. "This too will pass". :)
Esfir Brod commented on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 6:21am
Thank you for the article :-) Worked alone for several projects for 1,5 years, it used to be a real challenge, in addition to the fact that I moved to a new country. Reading other freelancers' blogs really helped. My major job was designing, so what also really helped was watercolor painting. Even now that I don't work alone anymore, I continue painting with watercolors a lot. Good luck to all freelancers :-)
TheGiwi commented on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 6:25am
very informative and helpful thanks
jessorr commented on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 7:29am
Thank you. You have pretty much said what I think and feel. :)
Danielle Gensler commented on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 9:10am
Very thoughtful article. Working from home can get boring and lonely. I will definitely try your tips!
Swen Swensøn commented on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 11:45am
great ♥
Ben Renschen commented on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 12:48pm
Each of these should be a poster on a wall somewhere. Seriously awesome tips.
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anna hammer commented on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 11:17am
Amen! Thank you for that! It's so refreshing knowing that I'm not alone in this struggle. I think I will go see the movie:)
Lojik Psykotik commented on Thursday, August 11, 2016 6:54pm
Nice read, great tips, thanks! :D
KBcreativeLab commented on Friday, August 12, 2016 8:03am
This post is exactly what I needed, it's full of valuable information and somehow it makes me feel better to know other freelancers are struggling with isolation like I am. My studio is also based in Vancouver, I'd love to meet you for coffee...
Studio Natur commented on Friday, August 12, 2016 9:16am
Oh thank you! I find myself in your words, especially this August the Weather is so rainy and I miss the sun for inspiration.
I am a freelancer in photography, art and writing. For me is also helpful to have an online dairy where I note what to do today or what to notive for later or important links etc., for me its easier than a handwriting calender.
Also I like to sleep in the afternoon a bit, it helps me through my whole biology study and the Phd. While sleeping we learn a lot and sometimes we have new creative ideas in dreams.
But the most important is to be in nature. Bath in light, breathing and just heal.
andy_panda_ commented on Friday, August 12, 2016 9:46am
I feel the loneliness of my mini independent project as well. It gets better when I find facebook groups where we promote each other's work and open discussions. Hope we create more spaces to share info and thoughts!
Free Delilah commented on Friday, August 12, 2016 7:23pm
Great read!
Eritaj commented on Saturday, August 13, 2016 7:34am
Thanks for the sharing.
It helps a lot to know that I am not the only one feeling lonely in my freelance world, and more, that it is perfectly normal.
LuckyMagpies commented on Sunday, August 14, 2016 2:40am
I really appreciated this read right now, thank you for sharing. Think I am going to stop making excuses and try the co-working thing!
Raishphoenix commented on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 5:44pm
Very insightful and inspiring, thank you for this!!
Sharon Mau commented on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 4:31am
SisterHipster commented on Sunday, August 21, 2016 11:01am

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