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Web3 offers some of the most rewarding employment opportunities in the world. It can also be an incredibly stressful working environment. Similarly, freelancing can be tough. Here’s how to protect yourself as a freelancer in the blockchain space.
The Web3 world is non-stop. As decentralised technologies, crypto platforms are global, and operate 24/7. There’s always something happening, good or bad. The markets are always open. And social media means everything is reported in real-time. That can make for an exciting experience as a community member or Web3 employee, but the always-on backdrop can be stressful and exhausting.
Similarly, freelancing can be exhilarating: being your own boss, relying on no one but yourself, setting your own hours and terms. But it can also be daunting, especially if you’re starting out, since you’ll need to work extra hard to establish yourself and build a reputation.
Put the two together and it can be a recipe for an amazing working life. Conversely, though, freelancing in Web3 can be unbelievably tough, with burnout a real danger if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
Working for yourself in the blockchain space combines the best and worst of two extreme worlds. Both freelancing and Web3 can be high-octane environments, full of challenges and opportunities – but also pitfalls and anxieties. Many of the positive aspects of being a Web3 freelancer can also be negatives, depending on the circumstances and how you approach situations. For example:
Due to these and a host of other pressures, from time to time freelancing in the Web3 sector can take its toll on your mental and physical health. It can also be easy to get into bad habits. You might assume that’s the price of doing business if you want to make it as a Web3 freelancer, or that it’s only temporary – only to find out weeks, months, or even years later that they’re embedded in your life and are difficult to change.
Given the risks and rewards of freelancing in the crypto world, it’s worth knowing what some of the pitfalls and warning signs are, so you can address them ahead of time – before you hit burnout - to ensure long term success!
Before looking at some of the specific warning signs to suggest that things might be going wrong, it’s useful to understand a little about the relationship between stress and anxiety, and how the human mind tends to react to these, particularly when working in Web3.
As a working definition, stress is the body's response to a challenging or demanding situation, whether that means a physical threat or an emotional one, such as a work deadline. Stress is a natural human response, even if it can also be unpleasant, since it prepares the body and mind to perform under pressure.
Anxiety, meanwhile, is the feeling of fear or unease about a worrying situation. It often feels like stress (including physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating and trembling), but it itself is typically just a response to the impending stress.
The issue arises when anxiety becomes a chronic condition that is not connected to a stressful situation. This can happen after a prolonged period of stress, where the physical and mental responses of stress become habitual. In short, if you are under too much stress for too long, you may end up feeling anxious much of the time – whether or not there is an immediate trigger. This can be debilitating and damaging to your health and relationships.
Some stress is unavoidable. One priority as a freelancer working in the Web3 sector should be ensuring that you don’t let stress become so embedded in your life that it becomes a problem. Stress, anxiety and depression all tend to go hand in hand. Anyone who has worked in Web3 for long enough will know people who burned out and disappeared, or had to step down from their jobs, either temporarily or permanently.
Stress affects everyone differently, and your circumstances as a freelancer in Web3 will be unique. Still, there are several themes and common problems that you’re likely to encounter, or that should tip you off that you might be heading down an unhealthy path. These may include:
If you’ve worked as a freelancer in Web3 for any amount of time, there’s a good chance you’ll have experienced some of these symptoms. If left unchecked these symptoms can progress down the road of burnout or full-fledged crypto addiction (now a recognised psychological condition, which includes obsessive checking of prices and content feeds, as well as trading habits similar to a gambling addiction).
Fortunately, there are some simple strategies you can use to maintain a sustainable work/life balance, and draw some healthy boundaries. There will always be sources of stress in life - let alone when freelancing in a fast-paced environment such as the blockchain space. The aim is simply to control what you can, and accept what you can’t. Here are ten ways to look after yourself in the Web3 space:
1. Set boundaries with your boss/yourself
As a freelancer for companies that might be located all around the world, you may feel the expectation to be online and on duty at all times. Such pressure may be coming from your employer, or it might be something you’ve imposed on yourself. Either way, have a polite but firm conversation with the person in question to make it clear that there are times you simply won’t be available!
2. Interact with real people
If your job is solitary by nature (for example, if you’re a developer), particularly if you live alone, then it’s possible to go for long periods of time without any meaningful human interaction. Of course you’ll likely be chatting online via different messaging apps, but that’s about the extent of the interaction. Remember to make time regularly to seek out friends and family, enjoy their company, and have conversations that aren't based around work.
3. Take regular breaks
Staring at a screen for hours at a time isn’t good for your physical or emotional health. Take regular breaks – ideally every hour or two. Get up, stretch, move around, grab a coffee, and get some fresh air and sunshine if you can. Your body will thank you. At the very least, make sure you give your eyes regular breaks, or you’ll end up with eyestrain and headaches.
4. Learn to say "no"
"No" is one of the hardest words to learn as a freelancer. But if you’re successful, there will inevitably come a time when you cannot possibly do all the work that people are offering you. Long before that point, you’ll find work may take up more time than you want it to. Try saying “no” to new offers from time to time – just to remind yourself that you're in control. The world won’t end, and it almost certainly won’t be the end of your career, either.
5. Have a change of scenery
From time to time it can be good to get out and work somewhere else – in a coffee shop, a local library, in a co-working space, or even in the garden if the weather permits. It’s also a good way to meet new people and work at a different pace than usual.
6. See people from your work, if you can
Freelancing in Web3 can be lonely, and it’s easy to feel disconnected from your team-mates (assuming you have any). If you ever get the chance to meet up, take the opportunity to build those relationships. Otherwise, why not set aside a little time here and there to attend blockchain meetups or conferences? The best people to relate to are the ones on the same journey you are.
7. Put time aside for loved ones
Family life can often be a casualty of freelancing, which can demand long and sometimes irregular hours – especially if you’re working with people in different timezones. Ring fence time with your children every day, if you have them, and set aside date nights with your partner so your relationships don’t end up being collateral damage.
8. Stay fit
Try to get some form of exercise every day. On some days, that might just be a walk, but aim to work in something more active at least three days a week if you possibly can – otherwise it’s easy to get to the evening and find you’ve barely moved all day. Breathing exercises can also help with anxiety if that’s something you're personally struggling with.
9. Eat well
A good diet can be one of the first things to go when you’re busy, and when work stacks up you can find yourself existing on takeout, fast food and unhealthy snacks. Make the effort to cook healthy meals, and don’t rely on junk food for snacks. There are plenty of healthier and tastier options, it simply requires a shift in mindset and little prioritisation.
Sleep is a one of the biggest casualties of stress and overall busyness. Even if you don’t work late into the night, after a busy day you may still find yourself going to bed late after staying up to relax and wind down watching Netflix. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep a night to function at their best, and a sleep deficit can build up fast. Practising good ‘sleep hygiene’ is critical. Aim to establish good sleep habits. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even if you don’t necessarily feel tired. Get off the computer and avoid screens in the time immediately before bed. Put the phone aside, and if you wake in the night, don’t be tempted to check your notifications. Proximity is power, so charge it in a different room if you have to.
Do you have other tips and strategies to share for staying healthy and getting the most out of a freelance career in Web3? Let us know by sharing them with us on Twitter, Telegram or Discord.
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