[tweetmeme]One of the main reasons I became a full-time freelancer was the freedom I thought it would give me in creating my own hours and working at home. It’s the dream, right? Sleep late, work in your pajamas, shave far less often, and decide when you are or are not going to be busy.
Anyone who has taken on this “dream” quickly realizes that it’s not that simple. Client meetings and deadlines, the seemingly eternal pursuit of a steady income and the “other sides” of the business are a few of the elements of working at home that, if not managed correctly, can quickly eat away at your desired freedom and potentially destroy the rest of your life.
In this post, I will share some ways I have learned to keep everything in its proper priority and maintain balance, enabling both the growth and success of my freelance business along with the expansion and enjoyment of the freedoms this brings to the most important elements of my life.
Is Money REALLY Your Measure of Success?
If you answered “yes” to this question you may want to stop reading this post right here. I am a firm believer that money does not buy happiness, although it does tend to ease our minds knowing our bills are paid and we can provide for our needs (and possibly our wants, as well.) Keeping the pursuit of the almighty dollar in its rightful place should be a constant checkpoint for every freelancer who wants to keep working at home from taking over the rest of their life.
As a husband of one and father of three, money plays a significant role in how I run my freelance business. I learned a long time ago that it is actually detrimental to those I am trying to provide for if I never have any time or energy to give them. They appreciate the money I spend on them, but they appreciate the time, love, attention and just plain fun I share with them so much more.
Think about it. Did you get into freelancing so you could work more than you did at your corporate job? Probably not. For me, I had dreams of being present when my kids get up in the morning, get home from school, and throughout each day, so that I could be there with them. If I lock myself up in an office at home, what have I gained? More importantly, what am I communicating to those I love?
If your main reason for freelancing is to get rich, I wish you the best of luck. But, if your incentive is to have more time to spend with your loved ones doing the things you enjoy most, then put the money motivation in the back seat –- not to be ignored, but to sit in its rightful place. Then go ahead and invite the people and passions that mean the most to you to ride shotgun.
Live in the Moment
I have read quite a few articles suggesting that people who work from home should have rigid schedules in order to maintain the proper balance. The idea is that by sticking to a strict schedule you will keep your priorities balanced and always have time available in each day for the rest of your life. This is probably a great solution for certain types of personalities, but I would suggest an alternative approach.
I didn’t quit working a nine to five corporate job so I could be my own boss and have a rigid schedule of my own. Instead, I work a fluid schedule that fits each day as it comes. In other words, I try to live in the moment. I start each day with an understanding of what needs to get accomplished and plan the day accordingly. I may have a rush assignment that will take up the entire day to complete, or I may have a month-long project that I am spending a certain amount of hours each day on.
Rather than trying to fit everything into a tidy box, only to be frustrated by the unexpected or the random interjection, try setting your priorities on a daily basis and allowing extra time just in case something comes up. I live by a to-do list that changes daily, and I avoid setting times for things unless it is absolutely necessary, such as client meetings or conference calls. This flowing approach allows for a more relaxed reaction when something doesn’t necessarily work out the way I thought. More importantly, it enables me to drop everything for a moment whenever I want or need to without being concerned that I am messing up my “schedule”.
Don’t Let Others Become Your Boss
Almost anything that I end up having a scheduled time for involves another person. Client meetings, conference calls, emails, Skype conversations – all of these involve a need to set a time to communicate with someone else. Because most of these people are current or potential clients, I do my best to accommodate their schedules. It could become very easy for their schedules to dictate my own.
As a strong proponent of extreme quality and personal customer service, this part can get a bit tricky. You should do always do your best to adjust to your clients’ schedules, but never to the point that they take over your lives.
One of my best and biggest clients brings me a pretty steady flow of work, but sometimes this leads to a misconception that he deserves 24/7 access to me. I have to regularly remind him of my days off, the priority of my family, the fact that I never answer phone calls during dinner, and all the other precedents he sometimes seems to forget. The differences in priorities have become a bit of a running joke between us, since he is a younger single man and I am a husband and father. But, I have found ways to balance his needs with my methodology in a way that works well for both of us. And, although he doesn’t have the 24/7 access to me that he desires, he continues to be my biggest client.
Find your balance between accommodating adjustments and allowing your schedule to be dictated. Determine your boundaries early on and stick to them, keeping your clients aware along the way. Everyone involved will be happier and your life will reap the benefits.
Drop Everything for What Matters Most
A couple of years ago I was attending my grandfather’s funeral and heard a story that changed my life. My uncle told of his experience growing up and how he remembered walking into his dad’s office each day after school. No matter what his dad was doing, he would stop, slide around to the front of the desk and spend a few minutes talking with his son. As a father himself now, my uncle was floored that his dad had communicated so simply and clearly that no matter what he was doing, his son was the most important person in his life at that moment. When I heard this story, I resolved that this was the message I would strive to communicate to my own wife and children from that point forward. I still have a ways to go on doing this right, but what an amazing legacy to leave with my loved ones!
Is everything else that you’re doing so drastically important that you can’t stop for a few minutes at any given point and give undivided attention to the people and things that matter most in your life? I would suggest that if your answer is “yes,” it is time to reevaluate your priorities and make the necessary changes in order to communicate the most valuable of messages to those around you. In the end, isn’t that why we’re freelancing anyway?
What Changes Can You Make?
These are just a few of the ways I am learning to make my freelance business an enhancement and encouragement to the rest of my life as opposed to the destruction of it.
Are there any adjustments you can make to your own daily approach that will keep freelancing from destroying your life? Are there other suggestions you can share that have contributed to your own success?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below so we can all learn together how to keep the freedom of freelancing in its proper place of priority.