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Go Touch Grass: When is it time to take a break from Twitter?

Illustration by

James Merritt

September 30, 2021

If you’re a freelancer on Twitter, chances are you’ve seen the ‘personal news klaxon’ pop up on your feed. You know the one - the alarm emoji with an aggressive ’personal news!’ or ‘new job alert!’, usually capitalised and accompanied by additional celebration emojis. 

Of course, the personal news is always positive. It’s never ‘I did one article this morning, procrastinated the entire afternoon and now I’m ready for bed!’ Or, ‘I only just made enough money to pay rent this month!’ (Both of these being frequent occurrences for me.) 

If you’re still in the early stage of your freelance career, seeing these frequent wins on Twitter can be difficult. When you’ve just lost a client, are struggling to pay rent, or are seeing one too many pitches rejected, the wave of positive news can be a trigger for feelings of inadequacy and failure.

  

Why are freelancers on Twitter? 

Twitter is arguably one of the most important spaces to be if you’re a freelancer. It acts as a less professional version of LinkedIn, with more casual chat and personality. It’s where you’ll find editors posting callouts for pitches; large project work advertised; and it’s where you can connect with other freelancers.

 The platform is also a valuable place to be for freelance journalists looking for interviewees for articles. With the hashtag #journorequest, it’s easy to find people willing to chat to you for an article, including experts in the subject matter you need.

The freelancer section of Twitter also fosters a sense of community. When you don’t have an office or colleagues, it’s easy to feel isolated. Twitter solves that problem for many people by  offering a space where you can connect with many different freelancers, start conversations, and help others in the community.

 

The perils of Twitter

I joined Twitter earlier this year during a dry period of freelance work—I’ve had a personal account on my site since I was a teenager, but decided to set up a dedicated work account. As a large freelance project came to an end, I thought it would be the ideal place to find new clients and opportunities.

Though I was excited about the prospect of networking with other freelancers—and getting away from the über-professional LinkedIn—it didn’t take long before I was frustrated with it.

I’d followed a lot of established freelancers to gain tips and see what kind of work other people were doing, but the endless string of ‘personal news’ klaxons was becoming hard to take. I was struggling to pay the rent, had lost another huge client, and felt like maybe I wasn’t good enough to be a freelancer. 

Coralle Skye is a full-time freelance writer who also struggles with aspects of freelancer Twitter. “Seeing other people share their personal news and successes can be difficult, especially as I'm not where I want to be in terms of financial stability,” she says.

It’s the same for Fernanda Buriola, an aspiring freelancer. “If I'm already anxious, being on Twitter makes it worse. If I'm fine, it doesn't impact me that much, but I do feel agitated after a few minutes.”

 

What is Twitter doing to our mental health?

The link between social media and mental is already well documented. We know that we should be spending less time on social media, but when it’s important for your job that can be difficult to achieve.

Unfortunately, so much time spent on sites that primarily focus on work - LinkedIn, or freelancer Twitter - can easily trigger feelings of imposter syndrome. We inevitably compare our successes to others, and when we aren’t doing well but others are we can feel even worse about our career. 

Rebecca Lockwood is an expert in neurolinguistic programming and psychology. She blames the culture of instant gratification for “creating this notion that we should have things straight away,” which could explain why seeing others achieve success can have a negative impact on our own mental health. 

“Our brains have created neural networks that create this automatic expectation for everything,” she explains. “We expect instant gratification for almost everything and often when we do not get the same success as others we become disappointed.”

‘Be fluid in your approach to success’

Rebecca’s main tip for combatting your brain’s negative response to other people’s success is to “be fluid in your approach to success” and consistently check in with your mental health. 

“When things are harder than they should be and you are not enjoying yourself any more this can be an indication that it could be time to change your approach to something fresh and new,” Rebecca adds. 

For both Coralle and Fernanda, limiting their time on Twitter is the answer; however, neither of them rejects the site completely. So do you have to be on Twitter as a freelancer?

“I don't think you HAVE to be, but it can be important,” Fernanda suggests. “I feel I'm behind everyone else, but thanks to therapy and a lot of reflexion I'm learning to respect my on time and rhythm. It took me a while but now I understand thatI'm not in a rush like everyone else.”

For Coralle, Twitter is just too valuable to abandon entirely. “It definitely does help in finding more work and new leads,” she points out. "For me, personally, I would be struggling for money if I hadn't been active on Twitter.”

 

Alternatives to Twitter 

As Fernanda points out, freelancing is about finding “what works best for you.” If Twitter is proving too useful to give up, then maybe limiting your time on it would give you some mental health breathing space.

On the other hand, if the constant wins and pressure of the ‘personal news’ klaxon is too much for you to handle, there are other places you can go to find freelance opportunities. Twitter isn’t the be-all-and-end-all for freelancing opportunities, and there are plenty of other online resources that freelancers can use.

While LinkedIn isn’t often considered a valuable tool for freelancers, I’ve found that it is possible to find part-time and freelance writing opportunities on the site. In fact, I managed to get a freelance copywriting gig at a marketing agency through their jobs board. Set up an alert for ‘freelance writer’ or ‘freelance content’ leaving out the location and you’ll find a steady stream of opportunities (some better than others, it must be said.)

Freelance Writing Jobs is a fantastic weekly newsletter run by freelance writer Sian Meades-Williams. Every week she collects the best freelance jobs and packages them up in a neat newsletter, with links and info on who to contact if you’re interested (there are also snazzy GIFs throughout). Granted, some come from Twitter, so if you’re there you’ll probably hear them first, but this certainly isn’t true for all of them. 

Media Beans is a website and newsletter collecting mainly writing and journalism jobs. Some are full-time of part-time positions, but there’s also a huge collection of freelance opportunities.

Finally, I’d recommend Journo Resources for freelance journalists. Not only do they maintain a jobs board for journalists and collect rates for popular newspapers and magazines, but they also publish heaps of advice for journalists and writers.


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