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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Stress management for self employed therapists

Many therapists take up their profession to help people and make their lives better, but we also decide to go self-employed for the freedoms we think it will bring. No more nine to five, being our own boss, the flexibility of working from home, setting our own hours to be there for the kids, better work/life balance, avoiding the daily traffic jams and so on.

So now you are self employed, how's that going for you?

As well as working with my clients, I train therapists, and one of the most popular reasons people sign up for my courses are that they want the freedoms I've just listed. And to be fair they are there. But it’s not always as easy as you think it’s going to be to put them in place.

Why can self employment be stressful?

Essentially it boils down to two areas
  • exactly the same reasons as any employment - deadlines, appointments, targets (without any of these it’s likely your business won’t be successful)
  • the specific problems of being self employed - being self-motivated, an income that varies instead of being regular, unfamiliar tasks such as PR and accounts, having responsibility for every aspect of the business from cleaning the floor upwards, and family or friends who may not fully realise that working from home still means working.

What can you do?

  1. Take control of your time and business, and set out a clear work pattern you can follow. If you want to work part time, or take time off for every school holiday, that's fine, but include it in your plan.
  2. Use time management skills, I've written an article on this on my stress management blog.
  3. Once your business is established, delegate
    - tasks where someone else's hourly rate is less than yours (for example if you earn £50 an hour and have to pay cleaners £25, one extra client hour a fortnight will pay to have your cleaning done every week)
    - tasks that you struggle with, or find tedious or unpleasant (often things like website design, accounts etc)
  4. Allocate regular and specific times to see clients and also to complete admin, PR and other business related tasks. Stick to them.
  5. Take time off. Yes, this means you! Take a regular time out, preferably each week, to be with your family or friends, and do things you enjoy. Put it in your diary so you don’t forget and book in clients when you should be doing something for you.
  6. Take the same number of holiday days over the year as you would get if you were working for someone else. Plan these well in advance so you can notify clients and book appointments around them.
  7. Holidays don’t have to be expensive, it’s the break rather than jet setting off around the world which is important for your stress levels. 'Stay-cations' work well, especially if you plan some cost effective activities such as the ones here.
  8. If you do stay at home, don’t be tempted to download work phone calls or emails 'just in case there's anything urgent'. If there is, and sometimes even if there isn't, you will want to deal with it.
  9. Arrange a referral swap when you take a break. Direct your clients or new enquiries to someone else in the area, on condition they do the same for you when they are away. That way anyone making enquiries gets an instant response, and you get a few extra referrals when your 'swap-buddy' is away.
  10. Minimise distractions by having separate phones for work and home. Turn the work one off when you’re at home, and the home one off when you’re working.
  11. Explain tactfully but firmly to family and friends that they should not phone or call by for a casual chat during working hours. Let them know when you are available for socialising so they find it easier to support you this way.
  12. Arrange skills swaps with other therapists - you give them a relaxation session, they give you a massage. Facebook and other social media groups are great for finding suitable local people.
  13. And most important, use the same stress management and relaxation techniques you teach your clients!

Do you sometimes find self employment stressful? What's your best tip to keep the stress levels down? Please post below and let me know.

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Author: is Senior Tutor At Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training, which offers multi accredited hypnotherapy practitioner training in Wakefield and York, along with taster days and foundation levels. Debbie has written a chapter on working with IBS in The Hypnotherapy Handbook, aimed at students and newly qualified hypnotherapists and also offers supervision and continuous professional development (CPD) for those in practice. Please contact Debbie to find out more.

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