7 Top Freelancing Secrets to Help You Balance Your Freelancing Work and Your Life

We freelancers seem to crave work/life balance.

In fact, the hope for a better work/life balance is one of the main reasons many of us become freelancers.

Achieving a better work/life balance may even be the reason that you became a freelancer. It’s a common goal for many freelancers. And, of course, a good work/life balance can be a difficult goal to reach.

One thing is well known. The lack of a healthy work/life balance can lead to a whole laundry list of ugly problems that no one really wants–problems such as:

  • Stress
  • Poor Health
  • Mistakes
  • Loneliness
  • Relationship problems

So, it’s no wonder that Scott Shane recently published an article on Entrepreneur discussing entrepreneurial freedom. Life balance is something a lot of us (entrepreneurs or not) are looking for.

If you’re a freelancer, you probably already know that a lot of things can go wrong on the way to finding a better work/life balance. In this post, I’ll share some secrets that will help.

How to Achieve a Better Work/Life Balance

Do you want to achieve a better work/life balance? Try these tips:

  1. A few larger jobs are better than a myriad of smaller jobs. It may seem like a single thousand-dollar project is worth the same as ten hundred dollar projects, but most of the time the ten hundred-dollar projects will cause more aggravation. Also, the more projects you have, the more likely you are to have scope creep. Have a minimum project fee and don’t accept projects that pay less than that amount.
  2. Set appointments, don’t be on call. One of the biggest destroyers of work/life balance is your phone. This is especially true since most of us keep our smart phones on us at all times. Reclaim your off hours. Rather than give out your phone number to every client, make phone appointments through email. Arrange to call your clients back at a time that is right for you.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. You may feel like you are getting a lot done, but in all likelihood you are probably just spinning your wheels when you multi-task. Multi-tasking can lead to mistakes and carelessness. It also adds unnecessary stress to your work. Instead of multi-tasking, pick one task to tackle first and complete that task before moving on to the next task on your list.
  4. Don’t believe in “once in a lifetime” opportunities. We freelancers put a lot of pressure on ourselves by believing that a project or product is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. We knock ourselves out to get that opportunity, believing that this is our only chance. Most of the time, these unique opportunities are not really so unique. In reality, most legitimate opportunities repeat themselves over time.
  5. Maintain core work hours. Although no one is forcing you to work certain hours, it’s a good idea to have set times when your freelancing business is “open” and when it is “closed.” You can even publish your core hours on your website. If you don’t establish and maintain core working hours, the danger is that you will find yourself working all the time. And of course, your work/life balance will be affected.
  6. Shut the door. Although not every work-at-home freelancer is able to designate an entire room for their freelancing business, it really helps if you can set the business apart from the rest of your home. If you have a door to your home office, that can be as simple as closing it when you are done with work for the day. Otherwise, “shutting the door” may simply mean turning off your computer or letting your phone go to voicemail.
  7. Maintain good client relationships. It’s much easier to continue working with an existing client than to constantly be proving yourself to new a new client. With an existing client, you probably already know what they expect and want. With a new client, the risk of failure is much higher. Staying on good terms with your existing clients, especially those with high quality work, can definitely help your work/life balance.

As you can see, a healthy work/life balance is attainable with a little planning and discipline on your part.

Your Turn

As a freelancer, do you struggle to maintain a healthy work/life balance? How do you do it?

Share your best tips to maintaining work/life balance in the comments.

Image by Kate Ter Haar

Comments

  1. says

    HI Laura,

    These are all great tips and I think they are especially important for new freelancers who might feel that they have to constantly be working or be available to clients.

    For me, setting work hours and not being available at the drop of a hat really made the difference. I used to answer my phone at 8:00 PM and then end up completely stressed the rest of the night. I was afriad that if i wasn’t available the instant a client needed me, that I’d lose out on future jobs. Now, I try to make it clear that I’m “off the clock” at 6:00. There are always some exceptions, but I’ve found that most clients understand this and are respectful of it. I don’t say, “don’t expect to reach me after 6:00″ but I do publish my office hours. If someone calls after 6, I let the call go to voice mail, but I always listen to the message. Unless it’s an emergency, I’ll wait to call them back until the morning. I have yet to receive any complaints about this, and it definitely reduced my stress level – and the stress level of my family.

  2. says

    Caroline Beavon,

    Thanks for sharing your link Caroline. I think a lot of us struggle with this. :)

    Prudence Shank–Thanks for sharing your tips. You’ve got some really good ideas.

  3. says

    Hi Laura,
    First of all i want to thank you for writing such an important article.
    I think one should follow these tips as per the financial position of that person as a free lancer.

  4. says

    Set working hours is one of the hardest things when freelancing. If you have a deadline I don’t stop until that deadline is met.

  5. says

    First of all thank you for writing such an awesome and informative post.
    Agreed with all the points you raised above.I think that by dividing time for your freelancing and for your family,one can easily balance his life. It is important to give equal timings to both of them.

  6. says

    Hi Laura

    Some good points here, I do disagree with the first one though.

    My business model is based on 10-15 new low cost websites per month rather than a few higher paid sites.

    I have deliberately priced myself at the lower end so that I attract the type of customer that wants something quick and simple as this hardly takes any time and they are always happy with the end result which means a nice easy life for me.

    Higher paying clients would expect more and in some instances be harder to work with so I would enjoy what I do a lot less.

  7. says

    I’d agree with all seven points save number 5: Maintain core work hours.

    I write php code for a living. But the thing is, I have a tendency to work during times when, well, when it suits me. Don’t get me wrong. I like coding enough that I end up working up to 10 or 12 hours a day typically. I also work on weekends when I feel like it. So given certain Friday mornings when I look at my time tally and I discover that I’ve accumulated more than 40 hours of work, I might just simply decide to forego work for the rest of the day and begin an early weekend.

    I also tell all my clients that I don’t mind that they contact me at any time that’s convenient for them. As long as I can pick up the phone to answer and take the call, they have me for that call. Of course, the caveat is that any part of my time that I spend that has to do with that client’s project, I bill. The effect, I’ve discovered, is that my clients learn to understand that not every bug is a cause for panic. And that giving me enough space to play around my work helps a lot as well.

    Maybe it’s because of the fact that the culture around programming work is pretty different from that of, say, writing work. Or maybe it all depends on the consultant in question and how he or she would execute his contract and get the client to support his working method and philosophy. I guess it all depends.

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