As much as people may bemoan the 9-to-5, one benefit of this work schedule (providing your work does end at 5 and doesn’t continue with after-work emails) is that you know when ‘life’ starts again, as it were.
When you leave the office, you’re free for the rest of the evening. Assuming that you’re earning a living wage from that job, there isn’t more work you have to do. And when the weekend rolls around, it’s a relief since you know you’ve got Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday to do whatever you want.
On the other hand, being a full-time employee at a company doesn’t mean that your work schedule affords you work-life balance. Many people feel their life is consumed too much by their work and not enough by their other interests and priorities. This leads some people to pursue freelancing. As a freelancer, you have the freedom (more or less) to choose when you work, how you work, what work you do, etc.
At face value, it may seem that this is the surest way to achieve work-life balance. However, one of the pitfalls of freelancing is that it can become quite easy to neglect the rest of your life - especially when you’re just starting out.
Here are some tips to help you find that crucial balance between your freelance work and everything else that matters in your life. Struggling as a freelancer doesn’t mean you have to give up.
Set a schedule
Without a schedule, it becomes more challenging to get your work done. You may be able to remember all of your current tasks, projects, and deadlines, but why risk forgetting something? If you miss out on one crucial deadline, this could negatively impact your working relationship with this client; and could even mean you lose that client.
Knowing when the workday starts and ends – and what needs to be done – adds the structure that is necessary to keep your various tasks in order. Without this structure, one’s work-related responsibilities can appear overwhelming when in fact they don’t have to be. And without a clear dividing line between work and life, we can fail to commit our full, untethered attention to either.
Thinking about work when we’re out with friends means we’re not being present in the situation, and this only serves to devalue the experience. Conversely, being distracted by other concerns when we’re working – such as by constantly checking social media – means our productivity will suffer.
But, if you have a schedule as a freelancer, then why bother leaving a full-time role in the first place? Well, the point is that you can set your own schedule. You could work 9-to-5 one day, work a couple hours another day, not work at all on Friday, so forth and so on.
Studies show that giving employees more control over their jobs increases their well-being. This is why the autonomy that freelancing offers is highly valuable.
Don’t be afraid to say no to work
When you’re freelancing, it can be tempting to say yes to all work that is offered to you. Since you don’t necessarily know how much you’re going to make every month, it can be hard to say no to work, especially when you’re not earning as much as you’d like to.
However, you may soon find out that the downside of overworking – and the stress and neglect of your life that comes with it – outweighs the pitfall of earning less and the uncertainty that comes with it.
The goal should be to secure reliable, long-term, high-paying, high-quality clients. Ask yourself whether the projects you’re taking on move you towards this goal or if they, in fact, are just weighing you down and overwhelm you. It may be better to struggle by working fewer hours than struggling by working as much as you possibly can.
There are ways to get to grips with the financial worries of the former, such as focusing on gaining and maintaining relationships with high-quality clients, becoming adept at budgeting and generally adopting a calm and mindful perspective.
But when it comes to the latter, if you’re isolating yourself from friends, family and your partner – and you start saying no to your hobbies, passions, interests and positive lifestyle habits – then the impact on your quality of life can be quite dramatic.
It’s a learning experience
In a nutshell, you can find healthy work-life balance as a freelancer when you prioritise work and the rest of your life in such a way that maximizes your well-being. Running out of money or getting burnt out isn’t going to achieve this.
It really is a continual learning experience for freelancers to figure out how best to work. In addition, it’s likely to be more of a struggle at the beginning, when you’re trying to gain clients, than it is later on, when you may have the security of long-term clients.
The challenge of finding work-life balance won’t necessarily disappear as you become more experienced and proficient in your work – the obstacles will just change as your life also alters in its course. It’s crucial to remember, however, that there is always a viable solution to whatever problems arise.
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