Consultants often work from home and operate as sole proprietors. And, while working at home has its perks, running a home business can sometimes be challenging. Many consultants report feeling isolated and depressed.
Take the case of Marthe, a translation consultant who has a disability related to her mood (expired Government of Canada link). Marthe has supported herself as a self-employed translator for 25 years. Over the years, she has learned to deal better with the stress from depression, but she still has very challenging times. For the most part, she struggles with the uncertainty of self-employment and sometimes cannot work or can work only for short periods
Self-employed people, especially lawyers, often report depression and mental health issues. As the article in the previous link notes, law — like other consulting jobs — may entail long hours, a focus on billable work, workaholism, perfectionism, competition, and other stressful factors. Working alone — or as part of a high-stress team — can be difficult for a consultant to manage.
Sometimes, working at home can leave consultants in a rut. Whereas office workers often work in teams, have face-to-face contact with clients and can feel they’re part of a larger organization, consultants can sometimes feel isolated. But consulting is hardly tantamount to isolation and depression. Successful consultants recognize that all occupations have their drawbacks and they treat isolation as an obstacle to be managed.
So how can consultants stay motivated and maintain good mental health?
- Ask for help. If you think you even might have a few of the symptoms of depression, see a doctor, counsellor, psychologist or other qualified help.
- Network. Avoid feeling isolated by meeting other consultants, colleagues, clients or past co-workers during the week. A few lunch dates and business events during the week can help you feel connected to the outside world — while providing an opportunity to build your business.
- Connect with other consultants. Through networking and referrals, build relationships with other consultants and self-employed people. By working with other consultants, you can achieve a feeling of comradery, celebrate mutual accomplishments, and at least go out for lunch!
- Brag a little. Write articles (guest blog for Consultant Journal!), make comments on websites, send emails to contacts, call up people you know – tell them what you’ve been up to. As long as you don’t go over the top, most people will be pleased to hear about your recent successes.
- Celebrate successes. Take yourself to lunch. Buy a CD. Eat some cake. Pin a thank you card to the wall. Save kudo emails. Do something to reward yourself for your successes – even the small ones.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. Starting up a consulting business involves many challenges. Cut yourself a little slack and recognize that many people dream of becoming consultants but never actually find the courage to do it.
And, remember, being a consultant doesn’t mean you have to be depressed. Many consultants are thrilled with their situations. So, if you find yourself in a rut, get help and you’ll soon find things are looking up. As I mentioned recently, consulting often involves feast or famine work cycles.
Staying motivated; fighting depression