One of the reasons why many people chose freelancing over full-time jobs is that it should, at least in theory, allow them to better control their time and with that, have more of it at their disposal. The idea, again in theory at least, is to then use this free time and spend it with your family, friends and yourself. Unfortunately, for many freelancers, especially new ones, this goal remains unattainable. Whether it’s because they have to take on more projects to make meets end or for some other reason, achieving that ideal work-life balance eludes many freelancers.
After working as a freelancer for over six years and being in the situation where I spent much of my time working (and finishing college at the same time) and not having enough time for other things (except sleeping and eating), I believe I know a thing or two about finding your best work-life balance. So, if you’re interested in finding yours, read on.
Have a Home Office
Most freelancers work at home. This does allow you to be closer to your family, but you also have to cope with family members walking in on you while you work and disrupting you. You should be able to fully concentrate on the job at hand, so don’t work from a couch in your living room where your TV is. The last thing you need is to start writing an article when your kids jump on it to watch cartoons or play video games. They’ll do it loudly, trust me.
Instead, take a separate, hopefully isolated, room and convert it into your office. That way, you’ll be out of the way and there will be less chance for someone to distract you. And if that’s still the problem, you can always lock the door while you work.
Establish Your Work Hours
Yes, it sounds contrary to what you heard about freelancing being about working when you want, but having strict work hours, you can more easily separate the time you spend on your business and the time spent on your private life. If you mix these up, you’ll find that finding the work-life balance is very hard.
For example, I like to spend some me-time in the morning with a cup of tea, before taking a breakfast with family and then finally taking off to my office to work on what I have for that day. Then, when I’m taking a break or have finished working, it’s again time for family, friends and myself.
Having work hours will also make you more disciplined and less prone to procrastination. Because procrastination is what normally leads to chasing and missing deadlines and this to less time for your private life, having established work hours will allow you to get a better grip on this problem. In other words, learn to finish your work on time!
Know When to Stop Working and Take Breaks
Just because your office is in your home, it doesn’t mean you should work all day or when you don’t have anything else to do. That’s a good recipe to eventually get depressed. For instance, if you already worked in the morning and afternoon, don’t work in the evening as well. If you have any work left, it can probably wait until tomorrow. Use the evening to spend time with your family or go for a drink with friends and have some social life for a change.
You are also entitled to having off days. This can be on weekends or any other day you choose. I never accept work on Saturdays on Sundays, but any other day of the week can work for you. Just be careful to pick a day that’s relatively quiet. Most clients won’t bother you on weekends, but they may send you an email on other days. Since this could be something important, you normally can’t just ignore it and have to respond, thus breaking your little day off that you’ve set for yourself.
Finally, speaking of breaks, don’t forget to take longer ones as well. Freelancers are entitled to having a vacation as well. It’s usually best to do this when everybody else, including your client is going on a holiday (for example for Christmas and New Year), but you can also see during which months you have less work and use those to take a short vacation and travel somewhere.
Allow Your Mind to Wander Off Occassionally
Perhaps a little contrary to all of this and strictly separating your life and your work in order to achieve work-life balance, this article from Harvard Business Review actually suggests that you can better results if you integrate these two together. In other words, bring your work home and your home with you to work. The article was based on a research conducted in the Human Relations journal in 2016. The research covered more than 600 employees who responded to the Sloan Family Study. This study surveys dual-earn, middle-class families in the United States.
The researchers wrote:
In the long-run, it may be better to allow employees’ minds to wander and take occasional phone calls from home rather than set up policies that establish strict and inflexible boundaries, which could discourage the development of functional ways to juggle both,
Of course, the target audience in the research were full-time workers, but some lessons from it could still apply to freelancers working at home.
Did you find your work-life balance? Tell us how in the comments below.