It’s happened to all of us. You get into the office, fire up the computer, and everything starts to go wrong. One client has filled your inbox with a million different issues. Another client has informed you that he will be cutting back your hours. And, to top things off, you realize that your website has gone down for some unexplained reason. How do you react? How will you handle the freelance stress?

In this article, I’d like to take a closer look at freelance stress and how it impacts the decisions we make.

Why Stress?

If I’m being honest, there are few days that go by when I don’t feel stressed.Virtual Worker Stress You might think working from a home office would be a walk in the park. In my experience, it’s just like working a “normal” job when it comes to stressors. In fact, there might be more stressors. Home-based workers have all the responsibilities of a normal job (deadlines, proposals, technological issues, personality conflicts, etc.) plus other potential distractors (TV, neighbors, that leaky faucet, babies crying, etc.). Most of my stress is caused by traditional stressors that any business professional experiences. However, I can understand how some virtual workers are lured by the distractors of working from home.

The Relativity of Stress:  My Stress vs. Your Stress

I find the relativity of stress especially fascinating. What’s stressful to me may not be stressful to you (and vice versa). In fact, the The American Institute of Stress points out, “If you were to ask a dozen people to define stress, or explain what causes stress for them, or how stress affects them, you would likely get 12 different answers to each of these requests. The reason for this is that there is no definition of stress that everyone agrees on, what is stressful for one person may be pleasurable or have little effect on others.”

Let’s pause to consider the previous quote. How can it be that some people find certain activities stressful, while others do not?  I’ve actually experienced this same phenomenon throughout my life. For example, I had the privilege of playing baseball at the collegiate level for the University of Southern Indiana. Nothing stressed me out more than an upcoming double header. Even though I knew I would probably play pretty well, I still got nervous. What’s interesting about this story is that I never really got nervous about any tests or schoolwork. It was as if all my nervous energy was focused on baseball, which allowed me to stay somewhat relaxed with regard to my educational pursuits. (Actually, seeing my fellow classmates feverishly cramming for a test stressed me out more than anything else in the classroom!)

My Two Cents

My theory is that most human beings have an intrinsic inclination to seek out stressful situations (however, some may not admit it). Although some jobs are more stressful than others, human beings tend to think that they are experiencing more stress than their peers.

I’m amazed by people who are able to gracefully deal with the impacts of stress. (Keeping with the baseball theme, I always thought that Jim Edmonds made stressful situations look easy, but that might just be the baseball fan in me.) Personally, I have a long way to go. It’s especially important that Executives in Sweatpants are cognizant of how stress impacts them. The days of “leaving work at the office” are certainly behind us.

How do you handle freelance stress? Comment below and share your tips!

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and


  1. I continue to find your regular blog postings both fascinating and helpful, and I have one of those “regular” jobs!

  2. Great article. Your theory that we intrinsically seek out stressful situations is likely a biological trait from being hunter-gatherers way back when. Nowadays, we do all the hunting and gathering virtually via computers and desks with little exercise in the gathering part of it. Constant stress and elevated levels of cortisol and other biochemicals in the fight-or-flight system leads people to many health problems like heart disease and weight gain. Exercise and other relaxation techniques are vital to managing the modern lives we live and to keep us all healthier and less stressed out.

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