An Honest Talk About Mental Health and Freelance Photography

One of my favorite up-and-coming Youtubers is Mik Milman, and last week, he released a video interviewing clinical psychologist Dr. Ali about the hardships of being a freelancer and how it can affect your mental health as a creative.

Mental health is important; that goes without saying. But taking care of yourself is something that takes constant work, and it's difficult to know where to start, especially as a photographer, where we can spend weeks in a dark room editing photos or reading photography blogs under the guise of "research" (or in my case, writing them). Dr. Ali, host of YouTube's PsychShow, and Mik have a fantastic and unedited conversation about burnout, mental health, and how to take care of oneself as a freelancer. What is especially nice about this video is that it is less "interviewer and interviewee," but more so a conversation between friends, which is always appreciated.  

Some of the key points in this video in my opinion are a few things like the importance of a schedule, say going to the gym at a specific time each week, and social interaction. Humans are social creatures, so it makes sense for us to have a need to see each other. Mik also brings up the idea that us photographers shouldn't look at each other as competition, but rather brothers and sisters in arms, which I wholeheartedly agree with. In the words of "High School Musical:" "we're all in this together." 

What do you think of mental health as a freelancer? Is it something you struggle with now or have in the past? Let's start a discussion.

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Rob Davis's picture

Definitely if you struggle with depression and/or anxiety freelancing is not an ideal fit. There’s nothing wrong with day job and benefits. Most freelancers don’t spend every day doing what they want. The predictability of a day job, checks that arrive on time (and always clear), and health benefits might be better for your health than living hand-to-mouth, daily rejection, and dealing with cheapskates.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

I don't think this is universal. Freelancing gives me freedom. If I'm having a bad day or a bad week: I don't have to ask my boss for a day off. I'll just take the day off. And I live in a country where I don't have to worry about a job providing "health benefits." Freelancing has given me the ability to manage my health.

JetCity Ninja's picture

exactly. i have the freedom to deal with my internal issues and construct a flexible schedule that works for me where a normal 9 to 5 would get me fired for constantly being out of the office.

plus, when you have anxiety, just because you have a consistent paycheck rolling in in no way helps reduce the neuroses that can cause anxiety. it's less about external triggers than it is internal. in my case, it's enclosed spaces with lots of people and few escape routes, which is most offices.

it's difficult for someone who's never experienced it consistently to understand or relate, especially when i can look back on my 20 year-old self and see how callous i was towards mental illness then grow to become a victim of it.

but of course that's just my own personal experience.

Mik Milman's picture

I think you and Mark bring up excellent points. I'd like to make a follow up video to the one posted with specific tips on how to deal with mental health as a freelancer. Maybe you would be interested in contributing a video clip with a tip or two?

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

Nope. I'm not in a position to give either advice or "specific tips" about dealing with mental health as a freelancer. That's a dangerous thing to be asking a stranger on the internet to do IMHO.

Jim Cutler's picture

I loved watching this. I heard a psychologist speak about creatives, that how interesting it is that the very people who suffer form depression and anxiety are attracted to our biz. They have to deal with a good deal of stress being a freelancer or working for themselves in their own company. He found it interesting that the personality type is drawn to a career where they will have to be stressed and anxious.

Mik Milman's picture

Thank you for sharing, David. I think this is an important topic to discuss and I'm glad to see Fstoppers pick it up.

Justin Peter's picture

Great post! I am very glad to know this good discussion about the mental health and freelance photography! It’s very much interesting things, isn’t it? You can earn money from the internet by you through the photography of the hobby. In the present world much people working on the internet for built up their carrier. Now photography is one of the best ways to explore yourself on the virtual platform This site is so much helpful for those photographers who want to professionally try to do something on the internet marketplace.

Mickle Minigan's picture

I have long been planning a special day off after a big photo shoot. After all, usually after such a working day, the whole body hurts, the brain is boiling, wedding photographers will understand me for sure. I usually never think about how physically active at the time of the shooting, but looking back the next day I begin to understand how much I squatted, bent, jumped, leaned, twisted and performed other complex movements.Look here