For everyone who is working during summer, national holidays and weekends, because of deadlines, this article is for you. You are not alone 😊
Being a freelancer is a dream job for many: flexible hours, the ability to work from remote locations, getting up whenever you want and working in your pjs.
The real life however, of a freelancer, is somehow different. Yes, in theory you can do all that and more (take a working vacation to an island, take a day-off whenever you feel like it, go for a coffee/shopping/nap break, see your kids, surprise your husband etc). But in reality, working in remote locations, from cafes and restaurants or even at the beach is a task I personally find very daunting (and I suspect many freelancers will agree). After indulging for some time in this social-media-perfect (but highly unproductive) working style, I find that having set hours and a space dedicated for work is extremely important for the quality of my work and my overall productivity.
I still like working at coffee shops for an hour max, and for projects that don’t require a high level of concentration but I avoid leaving the office for tasks that need dedication and maximum attention to detail. I enjoy the odd day working from home but I very often end up doing laundry, preparing elaborate meals and cakes and generally doing everything BUT work.
Therefore I prefer working fixed hours at the office (which I set myself) and then leaving my schedule open for truly free time. I still work from my phone when I am on the go and I am forever grateful for scheduling apps and calendar reminders 😊 which make freelancing a lot easier.
This is the only way I can combat the [sic] “freelancer’s guilt” – the difficulty we freelancers have justifying the time away from our desks. As running a solo business can be a never-ending process, taking some time off might be unheard of -and even frowned upon- by many. But as you can read in this article about Burnout and how to deal with it, you cannot pour from an empty bottle and Taking some time off usually is the best solution for your creative block.
So what is the golden rule to enjoy the freedom that being a small business owner gives you and how can you keep the balance between working all the time and keeping your clients happy?
Well, it’s different for everyone who is freelancing. But I will give you some hard-gained tips below.
Have set work hours – when you don’t have set hours, it means you are ALWAYS available for work and this leaves you no free time. You might not have a boss but if you are always available you have to report to your clients all the time. If you are clear with yourself about your working hours, you can then add them in your e-mail signature, your fb page or just inform your clients accordingly (“Thank you Mr X, I will answer all your queries as soon as I get in the office, I’ll be there 9-5 tomorrow” etc.).
Have a separate office space – it is a great stress relief if you can close the door behind you at the end of the working day, Even if your “office” is a space in the living room, it will still help you concentrate better if you know that whenever you sit there you are working and not checking your socials or chatting on the phone. Try to be consistent and train your brain to separate your work space from your home.
Take a day off each week in August or during Christmas holidays (most people & clients are on holiday, too). You won’t be totally cut off from work but you will still get to feel this “holiday spirit”, like other humans.
Arrange some meetings outdoors – To some it might sound unprofessional but you can easily arrange to meet the clients you are more informal with for a lunch break or a drink at the end of your day schedule. Just make sure to meet in a quiet, business friendly place (I wouldn’t recommend your local pub during happy hour).
What do you think? Are there any tips that help you enjoy the free side of freelancing without sacrificing your productivity? For me it is very important to have a balanced life and I try to avoid the trap of working all the time . I need some time for myself and my family, for marketing my business and for making future plans, and even some time to just… relax without feeling guilty.
After all we became freelancers in order to give ourselves this choice: when to work, where, how and for whom. And we have to allow ourselves this freedom.