How to Set Personal Boundaries When You Work From Home

Do you crave a balance between your work and your personal life?

Most freelancers do, but the challenges of working from home can sometimes make life/work balance seem unattainable. You may feel like you are constantly being pulled towards both family and work commitments–a bit like being in the middle of a tug-of-war.

One answer that can help you achieve better balance between your work and personal life is boundaries. In this post, I’ll explain how boundaries help freelancers. I’ll also list some of the areas where you should consider establishing boundaries in your own freelancing business.

Why Boundaries Help

All of us have many personal and professional responsibilities. While sometimes the two can be handled simultaneously, often they cannot.

For most freelancers, boundaries can help maintain a semblance of order in their lives. When you set up a boundary, you are creating a separation between your work and personal life. Or, you are limiting the scope of your professional life so that it doesn’t affect your personal life. While some freelancers may not wish for such a division, most find it helpful.

Setting boundaries also helps protect freelancers from burnout. Without boundaries and with an office in your home, it can be just too tempting to work all of the time. But, overwork is a sure path to stress and ultimate burnout.

7 Areas Where Boundaries Can Help

Where should you set your boundaries? Every freelancer will have a different answer. Some may wish for a quiet environment, while others can happily work in the midst of a commotion. You will have to decide which boundaries will help you the most.

Here are some common boundaries that many freelancers set. You may find that one or more of these also works for you:

  1. Space boundaries. Many freelancers benefit from having a specific space dedicated to work in their home. This can be an actual home office with a door (think: spare bedroom) or an unused corner of a much larger room. Designating a particular space for work tells others in your home that the space is off-limits for other uses. Be sure to enforce your boundaries. If another family member wants to use your space, tell them that it is not available.
  2. Privacy boundaries. Often freelancers seek to keep personal information (such as their home phone number or the names of family members) separate from professional information. This can be accomplished with a dedicated business line. This keeps clients (and others) from calling you on your home phone at all hours of the night and day. Many freelancers also dedicate one social media platform (often Facebook) to sharing with friends and family only.
  3. Limiting interruptions. Interruptions can really throw a freelancer off. That’s why many freelancers develop a boundary that helps limit those interruptions. For physical interruptions, an office with a door helps. For telephone interruptions, requiring an appointment for calls (and otherwise using voice mail) can keep interruptions to a minimum. Some freelancers designate certain hours during the day as the “office hours” and only answer calls during those times.
  4. Managing expectations. It’s important to have happy clients. Surprisingly, one of the best ways get happy clients is by not promising too much initially and then exceeding expectations. If you fail to set a boundary of reasonable expectations with your client and promise too much, your clients will expect you to live up to your promises. Worse yet, they will have unreasonable expectations in future dealings with you as well.
  5. Limiting distractions. Distractions are everywhere. If they’re not managed carefully, distractions can really cut into a freelancer’s time. Who hasn’t lost track of time while surfing the Web? Fortunately, there are now many online tools to help you eliminate distractions. A good schedule can also help. If you plan how you are going to spend your day, you are less likely to fritter time away.
  6. Protecting your daily schedule. Limiting distractions and interruptions is just one way of protecting your time, but it is important to have boundaries in place to make sure that you get the most out of your day. Unfortunately, freelancers who work from home are often perceived as being “available.” Friends and family members come out of the woodwork to ask for favors. Make it clear that you work too. Refuse time-consuming tasks by stating unapologetically, “I’m sorry, I have to work.”
  7. Protecting personal time. As a freelancer, I’ve been tempted to work right through weekends and holidays, haven’t you? However, it’s important to take time off if you’re in freelancing for the long haul. That means you have to set aside personal time. When a client asks you to work on a day that you already have scheduled as a day off, try negotiating with that client. Usually they will understand.

Your Turn

How do you set boundaries in your freelancing business? Share some of the specific boundaries you’ve set and explain why you set them in the comments.

Image by sludgeulper