Being a freelancer is one of the most liberating things you can do. You can work wherever you want, whenever you want and with whomever you want.
But, some hidden challenges to being self-employed don't come up when you have a permanent job with an employer. One such challenge is managing your health as a female freelancer.
The reality of being a freelancer
If you're considering freelancing, it's essential to know what you're getting yourself into. As a female freelancer, the reality of being self-employed can be tough to manage. You'll have no sick days or holiday pay and instead need to take care of your health and finances. In addition, there are no HR managers or accountants in charge of ensuring your business runs smoothly every day – it's all on you.
However, as with most things in life (especially when they're new), if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Freelance work does have its upsides:
- Flexible hours
- More free time for creative pursuits
- Working from home (or wherever else feels right)
- Having a sense of autonomy from corporate bureaucracy
- Feeling like an expert in your field because nobody else knows what it's like better than you do.
Self-managing your health and well-being
If you’re a freelancer, self-management is key. This means you must ensure that your health and well-being are taken care of to stay productive.
You should take time out for yourself every day. If you don’t, it could result in burnout or stress, the two most common causes of illness among freelancers. To maintain good mental health, do things such as exercising or meditating regularly – the more these practices become part of your everyday life, the better they will be at helping you cope with stressful situations.
For physical health, make sure that your diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and try not to eat too many processed foods (such as ready meals). Try going outside for walks whenever possible so that the fresh air can help clear your mind from negative thoughts that may cause anxiety if left unchecked for too long!
Protecting your health as a freelance worker
As a freelancer, you're your own boss. This means it's up to you to manage your health and well-being at every stage. For working parents, there are many benefits to working on your own. You can plan projects around family life, and have greater flexibility juggling all your different home and work-life responsibilities. However, protecting your health is especially important with so much on your plate. Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression and anxiety due to low pay or other factors associated with being self-employed.
It is, therefore, essential for expectant mothers, pregnant or breastfeeding women to prioritize self-care, especially as women’s bodies can be more sensitive during these milestone moments. This might include dealing with unplanned healthcare checks, scheduled and routine appointments, as well as unexpected health issues, such as having sensitive teeth during pregnancy, making it to important dental appointments, and routine eye-care checks. The good news is that there are many ways in which you can protect yourself from the above issues by taking care of yourself and being proactive about what matters most: your body!
US and UK pregnancy and maternity rights
Pregnancy and maternity rights are a worry for freelancers in the UK and the US, but they don't need to be. In the US, there can be obstacles to overcome when taking time off for pregnancy and maternity leave. As a freelancer, any company you’re working for is not obliged to pay for you to take maternity leave. Although the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that US employers (of more than 50 people) should allow mothers and fathers to take unpaid time off of up to 12 weeks, this does not apply to freelance staff. However, US states do have pregnancy insurance health programs (or Disability Benefits Law (DBL)) that you can opt into (and doing so as soon as possible is the recommendation!) if you are a freelance worker.
In addition, health insurance companies and businesses opting in to insurance schemes can provide freelancers with a standalone Approved Paid Family Leave policy or a ‘PFL’. A PFL can be issued to an employer who self-insures its DBL benefits or to an employer who provides voluntary PFL benefits pursuant to Sections 212-a and 212-b of the Workers’ Compensation Law. With a wealth of well-documented evidence to highlight the gains and economic benefits awarded to US companies who do support and value pregnant women, the support system for freelancers looks good.
Meanwhile, in the UK, where statutory maternity healthcare is available to contracted employees, self-employed and freelance staff are eligible for a Maternity Allowance. Within a company, you must have been self-employed for at least 26 weeks in 66 weeks before your baby's due date. You must earn £30 per week or more in at least 13 weeks – these weeks do not need to be consecutive. However, your company may choose to provide Maternity Allowance instead of statutory maternity pay. And, if you're self-employed with your own limited company, there are some additional considerations for making sure you're covered.
It is also important to note that you can't get statutory maternity pay if you're a sole trader – but you might be able to claim Maternity Allowance instead. You might be able to get statutory maternity pay if you're self-employed with your own limited company. Your company could pay your statutory maternity pay and reclaim it from the UK Government’s HMRC.
How to prepare for parental leave
Having a plan for your business is essential if you're going to be away for an extended period. This will help avoid any unnecessary stress during what is already a stressful time.
Remember that taking leave from work is not the same as taking sick leave or vacation days; it's more like taking an unpaid sabbatical. Make sure you've saved up enough money in savings so that if your income stops, you can still cover expenses like rent/mortgage, utilities, and food.
It's also worth considering how much money needs to come into the household each month – and whether some of those expenses can be reduced while you're away.
Plan ahead so that there are no unexpected financial surprises on either side of the equation when it comes time for parental leave.
Returning to work as a freelancer after maternity leave
When you return to work after maternity leave, you'll want to make sure that you're prepared and ready.
Plan ahead. Don't dive back in without thinking about how your work will affect other aspects of your life. If possible, try to find a way to get some kind of structure into your day so that things don't fall apart while you're gone.
For example, if there's a task that needs doing regularly (like sending out invoices), consider setting aside time in advance, so it doesn't pile up when you come back from leave. That way, all the hard work has already been done!
Be realistic about how much time it will take for everyone involved – both at home and at work – to adjust once again after such an important break in their routine.
It might be tempting for them to expect everything else besides themselves to go on as usual without much thought about whether this is realistic given what's happened within their world over the past few months (or even years) but if things start falling apart quickly then maybe look at rethinking some aspects of what goes on around them instead!
Health insurance for freelancers
Health insurance and dental insurance are a must for freelancers, but finding the right policy can be tricky. As you look for health insurance that meets your needs, here are some things to consider:
- Do I need coverage for maternity leave?
- How will this plan impact my business?
- How much does this plan cost me as an individual?
- Do I need both medical and dental insurance?
Making sure you have both medical and dental insurance is important because if anything goes wrong with your health or teeth, it can be tough to work while you sit on an NHS waiting list.
Mental health for freelancers
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, can be caused by your job or external factors. It’s important to understand what to look for when it comes to your mental well-being so you can get help if needed.
If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, look for sites/services that offer tailored mental health support for freelancers and self-employed workers and:
- Talk with someone close to you about how you feel.
- Speak to a professional about how your mental well-being is affecting day-to-day life
Make sure you make a habit of looking after yourself and treating yourself. Use self-care as a preventative measure rather than waiting until you burn out. Self-care can include making hair appointments, getting your nails done, or getting your teeth whitened (just make sure you look after sensitive teeth after whitening!
Self-care can also be as simple as taking time for yourself and reading a book, having a bubble bath, or taking your dog for a stroll outside in nature.
As a female freelancer, it's important to know your rights and look after your health. Various issues can affect the health of a female freelancer, from understanding your maternity rights to looking after your mental well-being.
For example, knowing when you're entitled to parental leave is vital. You can also take steps to prepare for taking time off in the future.
We hope this article has helped you to understand the health issues that freelance women face and how they can be overcome. Freelancing is an exciting career choice, but it also comes with its own set of challenges.