Managing yourself

Knowing when to say: "no" is a key skill in being able to manage your time and be true to your word.

Managing your time

When you are working for yourself and selling your services you have a finite capacity on what you can deliver. There are only 24 hours in a day and you do need to sleep and eat. You can always turn down a project, no matter your reasons. A simple “I’m fully booked at the moment” can go a long way.

Be careful not to overload yourself with work. It’s better to do a small number of projects with full energy and a clear head, than a large number of projects with not enough attention. You run the risk of losing clients if you don’t do your work to the standards expected.

Make sure you and you client are clear on what you are expected to do, over how long, and for how much before you get started. This should be in writing – ideally on a contract or purchase order, but at the very least on an email. If the client is slow at sending you a brief, they’ll usually appreciate you sending them an email with the outline of what you propose – it can often speed up getting things started too.

Managing your health

Finding time to manage your health and wellbeing can be a challenge when you are a freelancer but it has to be a priority because if you aren’t well enough to work you then won’t be able to earn.

Freelancers often don’t have anyone else to back them up on a big job. This is where building a support network  of like-minded creatives will stand you in good stead. Not only can you look after each other – if you are struggling to deliver a job you’ve got an in-built network of great people who can likely step into the breach also.

Managing your mental health

In an already competitive industry, it can feel difficult to talk to a client about a mental health issue. Work related stress can be a breeding ground for mental health issues. Add in to this the typical work in the screen sector consisting of long hours, often away from home and working with people whom you don’t know well. Importantly they won’t know you well enough to see signs that you may be struggling. Add into that the worry that you’ll be seen as a ‘problem person’ and that clients won’t want to work with you again. It can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety.

Building long term working relationships with colleagues and clients builds trust and understanding and importantly insight on all sides to notice when a colleague is feeling overwhelmed and struggling to cope.

Strategies for managing your health

When you are busy in the thick of a big project it’s easy to lose track of time, or even days. This is a quick route to damaging your health – both mental and physical. Look after yourself by making sure you eat well and get regular exercise and fresh air. While everyone is different, boundaries that keep you focused and maintain your work-life balance are important:

  • Set a work schedule - you can always adjust the times later to suit your own habits
  • Turn off email alerts when you’re not “at work”
  • Manage your time between clients, friends and family - they all value your attention
  • Take some time out for you to do something that relaxes you
  • If possible, separate your workspace and living space to help you focus

What happens if I get sick?

When you’re sick, you may feel it is difficult to take time out to go to the doctor. Every day that you’re not working you’re losing money means it’s all too easy to cancel a dental check-up or doctor’s appointment. However, your health should always take priority. Not only should your clients understand - they face these challenges too - and if they don’t understand you have to ask yourself if they are a client you want to work with for the longer term. As it is most freelancers take less time off than employees.

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the government’s financial offering for those between jobs and out of work, as well as tax credits and benefits that you could be eligible for. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is a valuable resource with trained advisors who can advise you on your specific circumstances.

If you think you need professional help and support there are many organisations you can turn to:

  • talk to your doctor
  • Film and TV charity has a dedicated 24-hour help line offering support to those struggling and can refer to trained counsellors
  • Mind is a national charity who provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem
  • Samaritans has a 24-hour help line for anyone who is struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgment or pressure

Dignity at work

Bectu’s Dignity at Work campaign aims to champion workers’ rights to dignity – from harassment and bullying, to working hours and privacy. All triggers for mental health challenges. Alongside this Bafta and BFI have published a Dignity at Work Policy Template for productions and companies to sign up to

Bullying and harrassment

The screen industries have united in publishing the first set of principles and guidance to tackle bullying and harassment, specifically tailored to the sector. The guidance aims to eradicate bullying and harassment and to support victims more effectively.

It has been developed by the BFI in partnership with BAFTA and in consultation with a range of organisations including ScreenSkills, guilds, unions, industry member bodies and key agencies as well as employees and freelancers across all roles.

If you are concerned that you have been victim of, or witnessed bullying or harassment at work and you are not sure who to talk to a good place to start is the Film and TV charity helpline.

If you want to know how to be effective in addressing bullying and harassment, take ScreenSkills online learning module which is based on the screen industries' core principles. We recommend all people working in the industry take this course. It takes 30 minutes to complete, and it's free-of-charge.

ScreenSkills course: Tackling bullying and harassment at work

Online learning recommended for everyone in the screen industries

Find out more

Back to Freelance toolkit