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3 Freelancers on How They Combat the Winter Blues (Pt. 1)

by Nathalie Peña

A bit selfishly, I chose this topic with these specific freelance writers in mind because I personally am consistently inspired by them. Freelancing can be a beast to begin with, and the colder, darker winter season doesn’t necessarily make it any easier (for me anyway). Who better to ask for advice on cranking out great content despite the weather than the seasoned writers whose work I love? Whether you’re a freelance graphic designer, photographer, or writer, you may have experienced a lack of motivation (season related or not), so let’s see what the likes of Tembe Denton-Hurst, Rachel Charlene Lewis, and Kelsey Mulvey have to say about what helps them get sh*t done.

Tembe Denton-Hurst

Tembe Denton-Hurst (known on the internets as @tembae) is a book-obsessed beauty editor and writer living in Queens with her partner and their two cats Stella and Dakota.

How does the winter season affect your motivation to work on content? I think I’m pretty even keel throughout the year. If anything I just want to lay in my bed during the winter. If it’s snowing or raining I’m thinking, “oh this is the perfect day to watch Law & Order.” It doesn’t totally impact my motivation, but I’m less likely to want to get up and go do something because it’s not nice outside.

Is there any inner dialogue you repeat to yourself to get out of a funk and into the work mindset? I tell myself that I probably should get up. I will say that the internal voice in my head is definitely my girlfriend being like, “you need to get out of the house twice a week, you need to be working, and you need to be working outside of the house”. Being in the house is so familiar that it’s kind of hard to separate work and home at times. Especially if I’m working on a work project more so than a personal/creative project. It’s really easy for the two to blend and I think it’s really important to keep that separation. Going outside really changes things.

Does your work routine change when transitioning into the winter season? How so? I’ve been freelancing for a few months so I don’t really have experience with all of the seasons of freelancing. But right now my routine usually is I’ll wake up, then I’ll read for like an hour, and of course I’m going to scroll on Instagram for like half an hour. And then I get up and I change clothes. I try not to stay in the same clothes all day because if I wear the clothes I was sleeping in that definitely makes it harder for me to get up and do anything at all.

Does the winter season make it harder for you to think outside the box when brainstorming writing content? How do you combat that? My biggest ideas are usually generated randomly. I think what being outside does for me is it gives me the discipline to actually get something done. Because I got up and left the house, I need to do something to make it all worth it. I think it gives me structure.

What are some tips you have for others that are tackling their freelance gigs during a time when many face seasonal depression? Switching up your routine is always a good idea. The best advice I got when I was going freelance was, “Don’t be afraid to try anything.” The woman who told me this was like, “If you like a podcast, try to see if your favorite podcast would let you volunteer for them one day a week.” Or if you like whatever, try to get involved with that and that will really help you to do different things. The best thing about freelance is that the opportunities are endless and your potential is essentially limitless and it’s really up to you to figure out what it is that you want. Because of all that freedom, obviously you need discipline, but I think that being able to switch up my routine and feeling empowered in the fact that I can change my circumstances at any time makes me feel better.

Do you have a self-care ritual before or after a writing session during the winter? I play The Sims, read, talk to my friends. I’ve spent so much time talking to people in the past couple of months. My mom will call me in the middle of the day so I’ll talk to her for an hour, I’ll talk to my sister, and the rest of my family. It’s a nice way to decompress. They think that me freelancing equals not having a job, so they’ll call me all day, but it’s nice.

Is there anything else other freelance writers should know about the solopreneur life during the winter season? It’s hard. You’re by yourself all the time and that can get really lonely. And by being in your house all the time, it’s easy to get depressed no matter the season. I think personally when I’m between my same four walls too often, I tend to get anxious about being in the outside world because there’s all this stimulation that I’m not experiencing all the time. I’m not an introvert by nature and I’m fine with going outside but when it stops being part of my routine, it requires more energy for me to do it.

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Rachel Charlene Lewis

Rachel Charlene Lewis, 27, is a freelance writer & editor based in NC.

How does the winter season affect your motivation to work on writing content? I love winter, honestly – summer makes me feel hot and suffocated. I do much better in winter because I can bounce from coffee shop to coffee shop and wear lots of sweaters and cozy clothes and be head-down while I bang out my pitches/assignments.

Is there any inner dialogue you repeat to yourself to get out of a funk like the winter blues and into the work mindset? “Get the fu*k up.” One of my 2020 goals is to flip to the other side of self-care and push and motivate myself to do the things I need to do so that I can’t spiral into an anxiety hole – it sounds strange, but it’s really working. I have a tendency to sink into bed and do nothing, but I try to snap myself out of it by being the bold, pushy, bossy version of myself I need.

Does your work routine change when transitioning into the winter season? How so? I get tired at like, 4 p.m., since it’s so dark out. As a result, I try to be as productive as I can in the morning. I typically wake up earlier in the winter than in the summer and try to get as much done as I can before the sun goes down. I also burn a lot more candles.

Does the winter season make it harder for you to think outside the box when brainstorming writing content? How do you combat that? I work on my balcony a lot in the warmer months, but haven’t been out there since, what, October? I try to find alternative strategies, like reading books I need to review for work in the bath, or heading to a brewery to do some brainstorming or take notes. Getting out of the house, even if it’s not quite outside, does help a lot.

What are some tips you have for others that are tackling their freelance gigs during a time when many face seasonal depression?Be easy on yourself, and find at least one other writer you can work alongside, even if it’s remotely. Just talking to some of my friends who are writers on Twitter or having a random phone call during the day can really help me stay motivated. Also, therapy – I go twice a month, and it helps me stay on top of my goals instead of sinking. If possible, if you know you’re going to have a slump in winter, I’d recommend splitting your work up in a way that works best for you. Theoretically, that’s the best part of freelancing anyway, right? If you can make, like, 60% of your income during warm months and then know you don’t have to do quite as much when you’re struggling, it’ll feel less stressful in winter. Of course, that depends on your ability to plan ahead and rely on anchor clients, etc.

Do you have a self-care ritual before and/or after a writing session during the winter? Lots of tea, lots of kombucha, lots of water, and so many candles. I also embrace cozy clothes and wear giant, fuzzy socks and oversized, soft fabrics. It makes me feel like a writer in Maine in a film and I like that.

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Kelsey Mulvey

Kelsey Mulvey is a freelance lifestyle journalist based in San Francisco.

How does the winter season affect your motivation to work on writing content? Sometimes during the winter and especially during the beginning of the year, it can begin to be an inspiring time. But also with the holidays and making resolutions a reality it can be a distracting time to get work done. Being inundated with work and figuring out how to get it done and the loneliness factor that comes with not being at an office with coworkers can be difficult too. I think feeling motivated and having to create content is something that affects freelancers year-round.

Is there any inner dialogue you repeat to yourself to get out of a funk like the winter blues and into the work mindset? Very Tim Gunn of me to say is to, “Make it work.” The hustle is so real, especially when you’re a freelancer. What I try to do is ground myself for those times I don’t feel on my game. Taking a step back to have a gratitude-filled moment and think about how lucky I am. This is what I wanted to do ever since I could remember. How lucky am I to get the things I’ve always wanted to do? How lucky am I to have all these clients? Because of moments like that I’m able to say, “you’re doing ok, you’re doing a good job.”

Does your work routine change when transitioning into the winter season? How so? Yes and no. I am often times working throughout the day, take a break to work out, and in the evenings I usually make plans to go out. I do find that setting a morning routine and sticking with it, especially during the winter is so important. I get myself a cup of coffee, take a shower, wash my hair, and am ready to work early at a coworking space. I am such a snoozer because it’s so dark during the winter, but making that concerted effort to go to bed early to wake up on the right foot is really helpful to make a really productive day.

Does the winter season make it harder for you to think outside the box when brainstorming writing content? How do you combat that? I do think whether I’m walking outside or running errands I’ve found the right lede or angle for my story. I can see where that can be a big hurdle for freelancers in the winter. I do make sure I’m doing something for myself during the day since it’s hard to sit on your laptop from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. I feel like taking myself off of my computer and really giving my body the attention and love it deserves can really reset my motivation and help me come back with stronger ideas.

What are some tips you have for others that are tackling their freelance gigs during a time when many face seasonal depression?Sticking to a schedule and trying your best to do so is important. And getting out of your apartment! The great thing about freelancing is that you don’t have to go to an office and go through a commute, but it can also be lonely. Have a jam session with a freelancer friend at their place, go to a cafe, or coworking space to get out of your home bubble. Also, it’s important to foster a community of freelancers and ban together to trade tips. And not just freelance writers; I have a friend who is a freelance digital strategist who I can bounce ideas off with. Also, in a city like NYC I feel like many people are Vitamin D deficient so taking vitamin D supplements and eating as cleanly as you can by going to a local bodega to get vegetables will make your day a little easier.

Do you have a self-care ritual before or after a writing session during the winter? I do try to work out on a regular basis to take an hour or 30 minutes just to do something that is totally for me. After a writing session, I prioritize doing a good skin-care routine – I love a face mask and my serums. Being a freelance writer that did not drink enough water, I would get terrible headaches. So what I found helpful is wearing blue light glasses and at the end of the day when I’m done with work I put on ice eye masks or talk to my boyfriend to chill out and relax.

Is there anything else other freelance writers should know about the solopreneur life during the winter season?Mental health and self-care are underrated and are not talked about as much as they should be. Freelancing is rewarding but is different from friends with 9-5 jobs. People think freelancing is a euphemism for being unemployed but it’s far from that. If you don’t create, you won’t get paid. The pressure is on, so we owe it to ourselves and our clients to take care of ourselves. Because then where is the content?

Feature Image via Tembe, Rachel, and Kelsey

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