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Jahleen Turnbull-Sousa

Freelance Tips from an Editor with ADHD, Part 2

Illustration of a smiling person standing in front of a clipboard, archery target, magnifying glass, pencil and gears.
Illustration of a smiling person standing in front of a clipboard, archery target, magnifying glass, pencil and gears.
Copyright: liravega258

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how getting to know yourself well, setting up your environment for success and exploring scaffolding strategies are keys to freelance business success for editors with ADHD or other forms of executive dysfunction. In this article, I will share my next two tips:

  • Embrace routines that prioritize self-care
  • Seek help when you need it

Embrace routines and self-care

On days when running a freelance business feels like you’re treading water while juggling pies, a routine can be the buoy that keeps you afloat. Having a consistent daily routine doesn’t have to be stifling or tedious — it can be freeing and empowering. Routines allow you to take control of your time, avoid decision fatigue and ensure that the mundane but necessary details of your day don’t go undone. One of those essential details is daily self-care.

Running a business takes energy — a precious, finite commodity that many of us neurodivergent people have little of. To have the stamina to stay the course and ride out the ebbs and flows of freelance life, our wellness must be a daily priority. This doesn’t just mean food and exercise. It means avoiding things that drain you of energy and add no value to your day. It means building into your day space to breathe and to savour good things, like fresh air, nature, naps, music or silence.

Over time and with the help of my ADHD coach, I built a workday routine customized to my energy and attention patterns that incorporates self-care practices. This set routine forms the structure of my day.

On my ideal workday, I get up around 6:30 am. I feed the cat and head to the gym or meet a friend for a long walk. I work out for an hour and then head home. I habit-stack breakfast and coffee with my daily spiritual practice of prayer, reading and meditation.

Once at my desk, I do about 30 minutes of admin work and then focus on accomplishing my most challenging billable work before noon to maximize my brain’s peak performance. Each time I take a break to make tea or get some water, I practise piano or play with the cat.

At 12:30 pm, I eat a light and healthy lunch to avoid post-meal fatigue and brain fog. In warm weather, I eat outside. I head back to work around 1 pm. I try to schedule any meetings in the mid-afternoon, just as my brain starts to fade. The good (helpful) stress of speaking with a client or colleague at this time of day wakes me up and gives me energy.

I usually finish my workday around 4:45 pm by clearing my inbox and taking a few minutes to plan the next day. I try to be in bed by 10 pm most nights.

That’s my ideal day. Many of my workdays follow this pattern, thanks to the systems I’ve put in place and the strategies I use to keep myself on track. But I also have disruptive days or off days when everything goes sideways. Having a set routine in place makes it easy to get back to taking care of myself and my business.

Get help

Many of us with ADHD are skilled at masking our difficulties and presenting an outward image of organization and calm to camouflage the disorder and chaos we feel within. It can be difficult for us to admit when we are floundering. But everyone needs help at times, and acknowledging when we do is an act of self-compassion.

One of the first sources of help I turned to in my ADHD journey was medication. While it took time to find the right dosage, medication helps me by strengthening my brain’s “brakes,” as it were, better enabling me to initiate tasks, stay focused and resist the lure of distractions and rabbit holes.

When I was launching as a freelance editor, I needed the support and guidance of someone who had been in my place and succeeded. Taking part in Editors Canada’s mentorship program was invaluable.

After a few years of freelancing, I came to realize that doing a year’s worth of bookkeeping in two or three frantic, frenzied days in mid-April was not the best use of my time or cortisol levels. So I hired a bookkeeper to track all of my HST and expenses and prepare year-end statements for my accountant when it’s time to file. What I saved in income tax and HST overpayment that year more than covered what I paid for bookkeeping.

As I approached year six of my business, I began to see that I needed more help. My business was thriving, but I was run off my feet and perpetually stressed. I felt I had gone as far as I could on my own, and I knew I was close to burnout. So I sought out an ADHD coach. Through my coaching sessions, I discovered my core values and how to apply these to my work and personal time management. With my coach’s help, I was able to put a self-care and output routine in place, avoid burnout, find more balance in my daily life and refocus on the types of work I find most fulfilling. The result was one of the most fulfilling and transformative years of my career.

Freelancing is a wild, wonderful ride. As challenging as it can be combined with ADHD, I can’t see myself doing anything else. As I now head into my seventh year, I am full of excitement for what’s to come.

Whether you are neurodivergent or neurotypical, I hope that you found these articles helpful. And I hope you can see that you are in good company. The editing field is a welcoming, inclusive place where we help each other and find joy in seeing each other succeed. And succeed you can!

Do you have any other tips for freelance business success? Please share in the comments below.


Previous post from Jahleen Turnbull-Sousa: Freelance Business Tips from an Editor with ADHD, Part 1

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