Downtime as a freelance health and medical writer

Rachel | Freelance medical and healthcare copywriter |

Being a freelancer can be full on. I’m here to tell you that you really do need some downtime.

Anyone who has expectations of three-hour working weeks and instant six figures is in for a shock. The reality is you are running a business. That means there is always room to grow and evolve. It’s exciting, it’s stimulating, but it can be overwhelming, too.

I returned to work two months ago after maternity leave and have worked pretty hard since then, not finding much time for myself outside my business. If you’re anything like me, thoughts about your business never stop swimming around your brain. There’s always client work to plan and execute, content to consider, and admin to get done.

Taking stock over the last week, I needed to return to the fundamentals. Why am I doing this? For flexibility, for freedom, for the ability to say yes AND no. To make time for things other than working. 

It’s so important to know when to switch off. It could be an hour, an afternoon, a day, or even a week. I’ve by no means cracked it yet, but over time, I’ve learnt to listen to my body. Knowing when to shut down the laptop, put away my phone and just be. 

Downtime is something that looks different for everybody. So, here are my favourite ways to switch off, quite literally, from work and recharge my brain. I promise I’m going to start doing some of these, right now. 

Downtime tip 1: A fresh perspective

Do me one favour. Start the morning without your phone. No emails. No social media. 

Then, get outside as soon as you can for a breath of fresh air. I know this isn’t always easy. But that’s ok. Make sure you factor it in at some point during your working day. 

Lunchtime* would be the perfect opportunity to get away from the desk for a while, even if it’s just twenty minutes. Whether you’re just walking or listening to a podcast or audiobook, your brain will thank you for giving it a little rest.

*If you read that and felt a sudden rush of guilt because sometimes whole days pass and you haven’t eaten properly, we need a chat!

Downtime tip 2: Commit to it

If you struggle with the above, I suggest you commit to one thing that will get you away from your desk this week. Signing up for a group or activity that forces you to leave the house and take your mind off your workload may be what is required. 

I just signed up for a beginner’s running group. By committing to it, I feel a sense of responsibility to attend. It gives me a ready-made community too. 

It’s worth adding at this point that I am so much better at taking control of time with family. I try to avoid work on evenings and weekends, if I can help it. This is time to spend with my loved ones and I try to ensure I give them my full attention at these times.

Down tip 3: Read to recharge

I love to read. Always have. Always will (I hope!)

Reading is one of my favourite forms of escapism. I love to have a mixture of fiction and non-fiction to hand. I can quite easily move from a trashy thriller to something a bit more high-brow, and truly believe that you can’t beat a good book to free up your focus. And please, make it a real, paper book.

Like anyone, of course, I get sucked into a dreaded ‘doom scroll’ now and again, but my preference is a hardback in hand. 

Downtime tip 4: Networking the old-fashioned way

I’ve written a lot about the benefits of networking as a freelancer. Networking, if managed correctly, can be amazing for you and your business. It probably feels a bit awkward, but I promise it’s worth it. 

As well as growing your contacts list, the exchanging of ideas, current projects and ambitions is such a positive thing. It’s rare to come away from a call feeling anything but empowered.

But, here’s a twist on the old freelance classic. Alongside continuing my efforts to network online, I’ve made it my mission to try to fit in at least one in-person coffee or lunch per week. It could be a client, a fellow writer or anyone who wants a chat, really. 

I realise this is ambitious and know that every week may not quite pan out. But by adding somebody else into the mix, it holds us both accountable to close our laptops, leave the house and talk (usually with a coffee in hand). 

Try it. Choose a day and time that suits. Make it mid-week and break the working week up with some downtime. Or drop me a line – let’s make it happen! 


As always, thank you for reading. I’d love to hear more about your preferences when finding a little time for yourself. We all need to remember that it’s ok to escape from work, even if just for a while. 

  • If you’re interested in other blogs about work/life balance, why not have a read of my piece on ‘Freelancing and Mental health.’
  • Drop me a line if you’re interested in one-to-one mentoring from a health writer with a decade of experience.
  • Reach out if you want to connect on a health or medical writing project.
  • Or, if you like what you read, take a look at my previous blogs to learn a little bit more about my story and some of the areas I’ve written about.
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