Finding Work-Life Balance

How to Achieve Optimal Work-Life Balance as a Freelancer?

One of the reasons why many people chose freelancing over full-time jobs is that it should, at least in theory, allow them to better control their time and with that, have more of it  at their disposal. The idea, again in theory at least, is to then use this free time and spend it with your family, friends and yourself. Unfortunately, for many freelancers, especially new ones, this goal remains unattainable. Whether it’s because they have to take on more projects to make meets end or for some other reason, achieving that ideal work-life balance eludes many freelancers.

After working as a freelancer for over six years and being in the situation where I spent much of my time working (and finishing college at the same time) and not having enough time for other things (except sleeping and eating), I believe I know a thing or two about finding your best work-life balance. So, if you’re interested in finding yours, read on.

Have a Home Office

Most freelancers work at home. This does allow you to be closer to your family, but you also have to cope with family members walking in on you while you work and disrupting you. You should be able to fully concentrate on the job at hand, so don’t work from a couch in your living room where your TV is. The last thing you need is to start writing an article when your kids jump on it to watch cartoons or play video games. They’ll do it loudly, trust me.

Instead, take a separate, hopefully isolated, room and convert it into your office. That way, you’ll be out of the way and there will be less chance for someone to distract you. And if that’s still the problem, you can always lock the door while you work.

Establish Your Work Hours

Yes, it sounds contrary to what you heard about freelancing being about working when you want, but having strict work hours, you can more easily separate the time you spend on your business and the time spent on your private life. If you mix these up, you’ll find that finding the work-life balance is very hard.

For example, I like to spend some me-time in the morning with a cup of tea, before taking a breakfast with family and then finally taking off to my office to work on what I have for that day. Then, when I’m taking a break or have finished working, it’s again time for family, friends and myself.

Having work hours will also make you more disciplined and less prone to procrastination. Because procrastination is what normally leads to chasing and missing deadlines and this to less time for your private life, having established work hours will allow you to get a better grip on this problem. In other words, learn to finish your work on time!

Know When to Stop Working and Take Breaks

Take a break

Just because your office is in your home, it doesn’t mean you should work all day or when you don’t have anything else to do. That’s a good recipe to eventually get depressed. For instance, if you already worked in the morning and afternoon, don’t work in the evening as well. If you have any work left, it can probably wait until tomorrow. Use the evening to spend time with your family or go for a drink with friends and have some social life for a change.

You are also entitled to having off days. This can be on weekends or any other day you choose. I never accept work on Saturdays on Sundays, but any other day of the week can work for you. Just be careful to pick a day that’s relatively quiet. Most clients won’t bother you on weekends, but they may send you an email on other days. Since this could be something important, you normally can’t just ignore it and have to respond, thus breaking your little day off that you’ve set for yourself.

Finally, speaking of breaks, don’t forget to take longer ones as well. Freelancers are entitled to having a vacation as well. It’s usually best to do this when everybody else, including your client is going on a holiday (for example for Christmas and New Year), but you can also see during which months you have less work and use those to take a short vacation and travel somewhere.

Allow Your Mind to Wander Off Occassionally

Perhaps a little contrary to all of this and strictly separating your life and your work in order to achieve work-life balance, this article from Harvard Business Review actually suggests that you can better results if you integrate these two together. In other words, bring your work home and your home with you to work. The article was based on a research conducted in the Human Relations journal in 2016. The research covered more than 600 employees who responded to the Sloan Family Study. This study surveys dual-earn, middle-class families in the United States.

The researchers wrote:

In the long-run, it may be better to allow employees’ minds to wander and take occasional phone calls from home rather than set up policies that establish strict and inflexible boundaries, which could discourage the development of functional ways to juggle both,

Of course, the target audience in the research were full-time workers, but some lessons from it could still apply to freelancers working at home.

Did you find your work-life balance? Tell us how in the comments below.

Vladimir Covic
covic.v1ad@gmail.com
11 Comments
  • Kendra
    Posted at 02:57h, 04 October Reply

    Great advice! I think for me, knowing when to take breaks is the most challenging as I get so caught up in my work but it’s definitely good to step away several times a day to clear my mind so I can refocus.

  • Kim
    Posted at 18:57h, 02 October Reply

    Yes to all of this. I have in all of my contracts that I work 8-5, but I find myself working past that sometimes and I really need to stop doing that! Also, taking breaks is so important.

  • Bryan Carey
    Posted at 17:37h, 02 October Reply

    Establishing hours and sticking to them is often difficult. Many of us just want to keep writing well into the night. But it is important to take time for yourself anf family

  • Magly Delgado
    Posted at 00:44h, 01 October Reply

    Hello, Vladimir. I loved your post. I’m trying to implement the taking breaks but find it difficult especially if applying the Pomodoro technique. When I’m inspired, I find it difficult to let go since my creativity is at its highest point. What I’m trying to do is set 5 to 1o minute breaks after an hour of work and balance the type tasks I perform

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 08:21h, 01 October Reply

      Hi Magly. Yeah, I used to swear by the Pomodoro technique (even wrote an article praising it here), but lately I’m starting to doubt it. I’m not sure if the whole premise of “work 25 minutes, rest 5” is wrong from the start, or my productive period increased over time. Just work with what you’re most comfortable. If you can be productive one hour straight, no need to stop in the middle of it.

  • mariam
    Posted at 20:16h, 30 September Reply

    Sometimes I forget to take breaks because I enjoy what I do a lot. I really need to set strict working hours. Thanks for this article.

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 20:35h, 30 September Reply

      You’re welcome. I often can’t stop myself working either 🙂

  • Pedro
    Posted at 17:18h, 30 September Reply

    Hi Vladimir,

    Great post with some practical tips:)
    I think for me having a home office and establishing work hours are key, because they make me feel that I am actually ‘going’ to work!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Best regards,

    Pedro

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 17:35h, 30 September Reply

      Thanks. It’s funny how that works. On one side, we start freelancing just to avoid things like “work hours” and to have more freedom, but we come back to them.

  • John
    Posted at 21:33h, 29 September Reply

    Taking breaks is a great way to get your mind relaxed and get to work easily, otherwise very useful tips.

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 22:20h, 29 September Reply

      Thanks for the comment John. I think it’s important to know when one must back away from working in order to come refreshed for another go at the job in front of him.

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