Many freelancers live a feast-or-famine lifestyle, meaning it’s hard to turn away projects even when we’re already booked up, especially in tough economic times. This often negatively impacts our relationships with family and friends since it always seems like we’re working.
One thing that’s really helped me strike a better balance between my work hours and personal time is learning to treat my non-work activities as if they are also client projects. When I do this consistently, I am much better at deflecting the all-work-all-the-time nature of freelancing.
You’d think I’d naturally always put myself and my family first, but it’s hard when client demands and deadlines are looming. Forcing myself to give equal weight to my off-hours responsibilities gives me a solid tool to manage both better.
Know Why You Are Freelancing
How do you do this? Take some time to reflect on why you chose a freelance career over a traditional 9-5 job and write it down. For me, I wanted to be home with my daughter after school and easily available if she’s ever sick during the school day. So for example, if clients ask for a meeting that conflicts with a scheduled doctor appointment, I simply tell them I already have a meeting at that time. So far it has never been a problem. Meetings are meetings.
Keep A Solid Schedule
Besides being flexible for my family, I want to make time for personal projects, socializing and daily exercise. This may sound counter-intuitive, but being flexible as a freelancer takes careful planning. One thing that helps me stay on track is keeping a solid schedule.
I use my computer calendar to book several 1-hour appointments to work on client assignments, personal projects, exercise and even after school activities. During these scheduled sessions I turn off my phone, email, internet, and any other distractions so I can focus on the moment. By actually paying attention to my schedule, things actually get done. Of course there are times I need to move things around, but those are the exception rather than the rule.
Make Room For The Unexpected
A critical aspect of keeping a solid schedule is not scheduling yourself with back-to-back appointments throughout the whole day. You have to have open slots in your calendar to deal with the unexpected. That’s why I rarely book work sessions for more than one hour at a time. Make room for the unexpected and it won’t take you by surprise as often.
Learn To Say No
Achieving a healthy freelance lifestyle is really about valuing yourself and your time. And that means learning to say no on occasion. When an unexpected client demand or social event pops up, you have to really ask yourself if it is worth adding to your already full plate. You only have so many hours in a day, and learning to say no politely with confidence will help you guard your precious time.
Embrace Responsibility and Accept Your Freedom
When you’re a freelancer, you’re responsible for everything. No boss is going to tell you what to do. Many people in the corporate world picture freelancers working in their PJ’s and watching TV. While many of us do that on occasion (I certainly have!), believe me it’s not the norm. Wasted time is wasted opportunity. To really accept your freedom you need to embrace and accept your personal responsibility for everything related to your freelance business.
Relax, This Is Your Life
So how can you relax with all this responsibility? It’s easy. By adopting these strategies you’ll be naturally more relaxed. You won’t have as many conflicts with work/family issues, you’ll be able to live more in the moment, and best of all, you’ll enjoy the success you’ve worked so hard to achieve.