Finding Work/Life Balance as a Freelancer
As a freelancer or business owner, setting boundaries between your work life and your home/personal life can be difficult – especially if freelancing isn’t your full-time gig. When you work a full or part-time job, then come home to freelance in the evenings and on weekends, maintaining balance can be quite hard. I’m no pro by any means, but there are some helpful tips I’ve learned and taught myself along the way.
Know and Establish Your Boundaries
The number one key to having a separation between work and play is to decide for yourself what your boundaries are going to be. You determine your boundaries and you are responsible for maintaining them. When will you make yourself available to clients for meetings, phone calls, responding to emails, the work itself…? When do you need to commit to spending time for yourself or with others? Determine those boundaries for yourself now, then be sure and stick to them.
Make sure your clients understand and respect your boundaries. If you respond to emails and phone calls in the evenings and on weekends, you set a precedent for clients and are letting them know that you’re available to contact during those times.
One commitment I’ve made to myself as a freelancer is not to communicate with clients outside of business hours. That isn’t to say I don’t do client work outside of business hours – I definitely do! If I have free evenings and weekends, more often than not, that time is devoted to working on freelance projects. However, I set a cutoff time for communication with clients and I don’t contact them in the evenings or on weekends. You don’t have to have the same boundaries as I do, but make sure you’re clear about communicating to your clients (verbally and non-verbally) and being firm with boundaries you set for yourself.
***A super helpful communication tool for me is the Spark mail app. I receive emails from clients throughout the day. If an email needs my attention quickly, I can flag it so when I get off work, it’s at the top of my inbox (I forget things easily – and if you’re a business owner, you probably do too – so I definitely need this). Additionally, I can set a timer on emails so that they disappear and magically reappear as unread at a time that I specify. (This feature is especially helpful to me because I am OCD about unread emails.) But using this feature, I can specify a time when I’ll be free that the email will reappear in my inbox. Another feature I love is scheduled emails. I can type up an email on a weekend and schedule it so it doesn’t send until the following Monday morning. So my boundary remains clear with clients – I’m not available during my off hours. And, on an unrelated note, Spark mail also lets you do custom HTML email signatures quickly and easily with formatting that isn’t available with Apple Mail. So moral of the story is, you need the app.
Manage Your Time Well
Managing your time can be really difficult. After all, you don’t have an employer waiting for you to arrive at 8 in the morning. When you waste “work” time on other stuff, that takes away from “you” time and fun time. Being intentional with your schedule, whether you’re on or off your work clock, means having more time to do things you love that aren’t work-related. (That means having a life that doesn’t completely revolve around your work – novel idea!)
I’ll write more about time management at a later date, but for a it’s suffice to say, keep yourself motivated and keep yourself accountable, both in staying on task when you’re working on something and in taking time you need for yourself, family and friends.
Don’t Overcommit Yourself
This looks different for everyone. Sometimes, regardless of how hard you try to not overcommit, you’ll be completely swamped and will miss out on valuable sleep. It’s inevitable. Don’t make this the norm. If you find this is you every week, try backing off a bit. Fire the clients who are the most annoying. Or don’t agree to the next freelance job that comes your way. In the long run, it probably won’t make a big deal financially, but it will be a huge deal for your overall wellbeing, both physically and mentally!
Make Time for Yourself
As a freelancer with a busy schedule, it is super helpful to schedule in time for yourself. If you have to write it into the schedule to make it happen, do it. Find a good fiction book to read, get a manicure or pedicure – or both, lay out by the pool, hit up a bar or coffee shop with friends, get outside and be active… Do things that bring you joy and refuel your tank. They can help you destress so you can dive back into your work with fresh vigor. These things can also serve as inspiration – a good healthy break from work can be great for the thinker!