Generally, freelancers enjoy the benefit of living a more flexible life than employees do. They can decide when and where they work, making their work experience more pleasant.
The caveat, however, is that your work-life balance often falls out of kilter. You end up losing count of the number of hours you put in at work, not realizing that you have very little time left to spend with your family, recreation, social circles, and hobbies.
To keep your work-life balance in order, here are a few tried-and-tested strategies that I’ve found to be especially effective.
1. Maintain a Defined Yet Flexible Schedule
Without defining your work hours, you run the risk of overworking. Go with the times of day when you are most productive and focused. It can be the usual 9-to-5, from sunset into the wee hours of the night, or whatever works best for you.
Then structure your working hours into blocks. For the most part, it’s best to put the “deep work” tasks that you find most demanding of focus at the top of your list, rather than putting it on the latter part. Remember that your attention and willpower are exhaustible resources. By working on your most difficult tasks first, you budget the energy and mental alertness to work on them.
But as your own boss, you’re also able to make exceptions to these time blocks. You can rearrange your schedule on the fly, as needed, to accommodate emergencies, special events, and client availability, among others. Also, be sure to communicate your days on and off to your clients, so they know when to expect to hear from you.
2. Minimize Context Switches
How many different devices and apps do you use for your freelance work? How many push notifications do you get on each device per day? How many different clients and projects are you juggling at once? Do you find yourself multitasking too much, hopping from one to-do to the next, without completing any of them? What other distractions keep you from delving into deep work and actually getting things done?
Context switching is a bona fide productivity killer. The thinner you spread yourself, the less you’ll get done.
Handling several apps for different tasks will make you feel inefficient and all over the place. You have to remember where to go next, migrate information from silo to silo, log in and out of accounts, and switch interfaces. This makes it impossible to maintain a consolidated view of your projects, issues, and to-dos. Simplify your workflow by using business platforms with all-inclusive functionalities.
One especially powerful platform in this sense is vcita, an app lets you take care of everything relating to client marketing, collaboration correspondence, documents, appointments, and billing in one place. Your contacts can also schedule appointments with you or perform any other action through a user-friendly self-service portal.
Using business management “suites” like vcita, you can take care of business with fewer distractions, allowing you to be more organized and get more done, which, in turn, frees up more of your time for personal matters.
3. Preserve Your Time for Purposeful Activities
When your work hours start creeping into your personal time, your relationships and other interests are often the first to suffer. Make time for your hobbies, health and wellness, and other recreational or non-work endeavors to achieve work-life balance. Prioritize your relationships with your family, peers, and other important people in your life.
Use your daily breaks doing things you’re passionate about instead of idly browsing your social media feed and doing other unproductive things. Reenergize yourself by doing something active. And if you think it’s time to take a vacation, go ahead.
Doing these things allows you to manage your mental health as a freelancer, recalibrate your lifestyle, and preserve other valuable aspects of your life.
4. Optimize Your Office Space
Even though you can work from the comfort of your couch, it doesn’t mean that you should. To set boundaries between your work and personal lives, separate them both mentally and physically.
Set up your working area at home. If you’re clueless as to how to decorate your home office, use tools such as Homestyler.
Homestyler lets you build your floor plan in 2D, decorate it in 3D with virtual furniture, and view your finished design and layout in a semi-realistic panorama or interactive walkthrough.
If arranging your home office isn’t feasible, go to your favorite coffee shop or co-working space nearby. This can be a more practical option for meeting with clients and networking with other freelancers in any case. Working in places located outside your home, even occasionally, provides a different yet conducive environment that boosts your drive, energy, and productivity at work.
Directories like Coworker show you great workspaces in the vicinity. To find the best option, enter your location in the search box. As an example, I pointed the map to Brooklyn, New York, and the tool yielded these results.
Coworker displayed workspace options, including those it has “verified,” and buttons for booking appointments, buying day passes, etc. It lets you specify your search according to the amenities you want to be present, the kind of membership you’re after, or what type of space you want. With resources such as Homestyler and Coworker, you designate a suitable working area and detach your personal life from your professional endeavors.
5. Avoid Overcommitting
When freelancing, you likely sometimes feel the urge to keep accepting projects — even though you already have a lot on your plate. After all, the more clients and projects you bag, the better your income and financial stability are, right? Overcommitting yourself, however, results in burnout, second-rate outputs, and missed deadlines.
That’s why you must determine how much work you can manage at specific periods and learn to say “no” when needed. Not only will your clients understand, but they will also appreciate how excellent your work is (because you’re in-demand) and how wisely you handle your commitments.
Then, inform your clients when you can take on their projects or request them for longer lead time on future engagements.
The Bottom Line
Freelancing is enjoyable because of its flexibility and other perks, but without maintaining balance, your professional and private lives can spin out of control.
These tips can help you keep things in check, stay sane, and enjoy the rewards of your labor to the fullest.