Editor’s note: I’m busy with a personal writing project, so I am reposting this article from 2019. I think the information is as pertinent now as it was then. Also, remember to check out the weekly writing prompt on my website!
When you work as a freelancer or independent contractor, you are your own boss. You can set your own schedule, goals and priorities. You can take time off when you want to. You have more freedom.
Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
But the fantasy rarely lives up to reality. More often than not, that self-imposed schedule and responsibility can get out of hand if you’re not careful. While it doesn’t happen often, freelance work can result in forty-hour plus workweeks — or longer. For many freelancers, the opposite is true. There isn’t enough work and they’re scrambling to find new clients. Constant fear and worry can nag at you about making ends meet or getting clients to pay on a timely basis.
When you work for yourself, it’s easy to focus more on your clients than your own family. Even more than your own well-being. It’s easy to lose track of your schedule. It’s easy to forget that you have a social life.
But take heart. There is hope for all freelancers. According to the 2018 freelancer survey by Upwork, 77 percent of full-time freelancers reported having a better work-life balance since becoming self-employed. It is possible to achieve that balance. But like everything else, you have to work at it. Most important, you have to plan for it.
Having work-life balance is critical for your well-being for several reasons. It helps prevent burnout so you won’t feel overwhelmed by all your responsibilities. It helps you feel more energized and refreshed so you can face each new challenge. It removes needless stress from your life so you can think more clearly.
Once you decide to begin working for yourself, it’s important to establish work-life balance early on in your freelance career. When you shift from a full-time job with a fairly set schedule to not having a set schedule at all, it can be easy to lose your sense of balance. As your own boss, it’s up to you set create that balance. Make it a part of your business planning. But how do you do it?
Here are a few ideas to help you create more work-life balance in your freelance career:
1. Set a regular work schedule. Establish consistent work hours and stick to them. If you worked a nine-to-five job previously, establish a similar type of schedule when you first start out. Make sure you give yourself two days off each week. Setting up a regular schedule with two off days keeps you in a routine that you can sustain.
2. Stay connected with family and friends. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you are alone. That’s not true. No matter how busy you are setting up your business and pursuing new clients, don’t forget about your family and friends. They are your support system, and they can give you proper perspective when business gets too hectic or if things don’t go as smoothly as you planned.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no. No to assignments that would be a waste of your talents, no to outside obligations until you meet your deadline, no to clients who don’t pay on time or change their requirements. Know your limits. Know when you have too much on your plate. It’ okay to pass on the assignment or refer it to another professional. Or hire a subcontractor to help you meet the deadline.
4. Keep your calendar organized. Keep all appointments in one place, both personal and professional so you don’t accidentally overbook yourself. Also set clear goals and priorities and list them in your calendar as a quick reminder of your obligations.
5. Detach and disconnect from devices. Information comes at us 24/7 via our devices, social media, computers and TV screens. It can be difficult to shut it out. It’s up to you to do that. Set aside a day or a weekend to do a digital detox. It might be helpful to put those detox dates in your calendar too as a reminder to stay balanced.
6. Set up a “fun” account. Small Business Trends, an online publication about small business practices, suggests setting up a separate bank account to be used solely for fun activities. As you get paid from clients, set aside a small amount into this fun account so you have money to splurge on that weekend spa getaway or ski trip you’ve had your eye on.
7. Practice self-care. To be your best for clients, you need to live healthily, suggests experts at FilterGrade.com. Eat properly, get proper sleep, practice meditation and yoga, or take long walks. Do anything you can to clear your mind and center yourself.
8. Keep up with personal interests. Maintain your hobbies, whether that’s playing tennis, reading the latest best-seller or attending concerts. Volunteer with your favorite cause. Sometimes when you spend time with those less fortunate, it puts your own troubles into perspective.
Whether you’ve been freelancing for for some time or are just starting on your journey, setting aside time for yourself is as critical to your success as helping your clients. When you work for yourself, it’s up to you to make work-life balance a priority.
7 Strategies for a Better Work-Life Balance in the Freelance Economy, Forbes
Here’s Why the Freelance Economy is On The Rise, Fast Company