Matthew Knight - Mental Health, Freelancing and Leapers
Man Up / Man DownDecember 01, 2022x
46:1242.31 MB

Matthew Knight - Mental Health, Freelancing and Leapers

Our first guest, Matthew Knight, joined us on this episode to talk about his journey as a freelancer, his mental health challenges and the Leapers network, which he created. Leapers is a community for freelancers to support each other and Volker has been a member for many years.

The support is for anything from mental health to tax questions, IR35 and technology. A community that understands the challenges all freelancers have, they ‘just get it’. It’s sometimes a bit like a virtual water cooler where you can meet and discuss almost anything.

With the pandemic, at least in Volker’s mind, the community grew closer together, and the peer support got even stronger. 

One topic we discussed was about coworking space and the new way of working. Freelancers are often working from home and don’t have the community of the office. Hence finding like minded people to work together can be a huge benefit to your mental health or might just get you out to bounce ideas off someone.

Volker enjoys the daily chats and being able to support with advice but also gaining advice from other like minded people. His most enjoyable interactions are the ones on days when no one else is working, like a Sunday morning. There is always someone who offers you a virtual cuppa.

Leapers was founded prior to the pandemic, when flexible working and working from home became commonplace. Matthew is a thought leader, challenging the traditional models of working and presenting our work to companies. The Leapers community (hosted on a slack channel), now has many thousands members. This allows members to openly share their vulnerability and be open about the common challenges they face - whether that's needing emotional support, a pep talk or the opportunity to vent about clients not paying on time. In short, it’s a safe place.

Matthew had two reasons to focus on mental health support. The first was that there were no support groups for freelancers, and there was a hussle culture around entrepreneurship, about working 80 hours a week. The second reason was that he had been struggling with mental health himself.

Research shows two thirds of freelancers don’t know where to find support when struggling with bad mental health. To be honest, we believe even ‘companies’ don’t have the right support yet, and we would argue Leapers offers a better, free of charge, support for freelancers than many companies do for their employees. Now imagine how things were like 5 or even 10 years ago. 

Deloitte’s report on mental health at work highlights the impact mental health has on work, including stats for ROI and money lost to businesses. We cover that in a later episode in greater detail. Isn’t it sad that only when we put a money value on something that corporations pay attention to it. Is that how life should be? Isn’t that one of the reasons why so many people quit their jobs and go freelance?

One of the challenges of freelancing is that you never really get any downtime. You constantly worry about taking time off, as you need to earn money, or you look for your next project. There are a few habits you need to unlearn when coming out of full time employment. 

Matthew used the example of comparing a freelancer to a laptop: If you don’t recharge your laptop overnight, don’t upgrade the software and look after the machine, you aren’t able to work the next day. There are no sick days, or if there are, they aren’t paid. And with freelancers looking after themselves better, looking after their mental health in particular, you could argue they are more self-aware and more resilient. 

We also touch on whether older, middle aged, freelancers should seek paid employment again for security and support. On average self-employed people are about 10-15% happier (net-happiness), e.g. the wins are all yours and the failures are all yours too. Correlation and causation is a tricky one when we look at self-employed and mental health; there are a lot of people going into self-employment because of mental health issues. 

As you get older, particularly as a man, it gets harder. Men have more issues with being open and vulnerable, and isolation increases. Their sense of identity can dwindle a little bit, and their support network might decrease too. Suicide rates for men at a certain age are higher than for any other age group. One reason we started the podcast, to openly talk about the vulnerability of men and how we can counteract it by building a support network.

Matthew believes that the way we are working in the future will be more fluid, e.g. we fluidly go from self-employed to employed to part time. As work becomes more flexible Mtthew believes the focus will not be on the employment status but on the work we can deliver, coming back to us all being treated as humans rather than merely “workers”.

You can find Matthew on Linkedin or on Think Play Make you find his latest projects and articles he wrote. As a freelancer or self-employed, feel free to join Leapers.


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