When you freelance it’s easy to lose sight of why you started working for yourself in the first place. Chances are, one of the main reasons you got into gigging is you wanted to achieve a better work life balance.
However, once the jobs start coming in, the bills start piling up, and clients start giving you last second amends, it’s easy to let work take over. Before you know it, you’re putting in more late nights than you ever were in your 9 to 5, and weekends are a thing of the past.
If that sounds like you, fear not. Because we held a #SoloMeet with our users on Twitter, and came up with these 10 top tips to help freelancers achieve a better work life balance.
There needs to be a clear distinction between home and work - In my opinion, work everywhere but home. #SoloMeet— Sven Lenaerts (@svenlen)
Don’t blur lines between office and home
The first step to a better balance between your personal time and freelance work is making sure the two don’t merge. Working freelance often means working from home, which sometimes makes it hard to switch off.
You don’t have the luxury of leaving your work at the office, because your office is your home. However, there are few steps you can take to combat this problem.
First of all - if you can - make sure you have a dedicated space for work. Turn the spare room into a home-office where you can do your freelance work from, or if you don’t have a spare room, head to the local library or coffee shop (maybe not the pub).
Occasionally doing your freelance work away from home is actually a really smart move. It not only gets you out of the house (which helps you draw a line between workplace and home), it eliminates a lot of the distractions you find around the house too; like your Xbox and TV. Not only that, if your library closes at 5 or 6pm, it can help you keep regular office hours.
Phones and texting, one of the biggest distractions for me; takes my eyes away from the monitor. #SoloMeet— It's Dom (@symphaticidiot)
Get a second phone
A dedicated land line in your home office or an additional mobile phone which you only use for work, is another quick fix if you’re struggling to maintain a healthy work life balance.
All you have to do is switch it off after you've finished working or leave it at home when you’re out, and you can stop those pesky clients interrupting your social life… That’s assuming you still have one. Most people don’t after deciding to go freelance, which is why we put this blog together.
Working from home problems: stopping work at a reasonable hour and trying to shoo the cat off my tablet. Other than that it's ace #solomeet— Dan Kelby (@dankelby)
Use time tracking software
Now we’re not just telling you this so you sign-up for our time-tracking software. Promise. As well as all the other ways it improves your freelance work, time-tracking software can help you achieve a better work/life balance. All you have to do is time your freelance work and keep an eye on how many hours you’re working.
The standard working week here in the UK is around 37.5 hours. Working freelance it’s usual to do a little more than that every-now-and-then. Sometimes though, we don’t realise just how much extra time that is.
Over the period of a month it can soon add up, and using time-tracking software like Solo will highlight if you’re working too much (and if you’re working for too little).
So be clear on how many hours of freelance work you want to do a week, then use time-tracking software to make sure you stick to it. And if you’re regularly putting in over 40 hours a week, you might want to consider cutting back. It’s well documented that every hour you spend working beyond that number makes you less effective in your job.
Got 99 freelancer problems but working from home ain't one. #solomeet (Just head to nearest café with free WPA2 wifi.)— Mikko Henrik Huotari (@miggohoo)
Build bonds with clients
The chance of screwing up a job is greater with a new client than it is with those you’ve worked with before. That’s one reason freelance work becomes a lot easier if you have a core group of clients.
You’re not constantly trying to prove yourself to them, and with an existing client, you probably already know what they expect, and what they want you to achieve.
The process becomes smoother when you know your client well, and work is more likely to be right first time around, negating the need for last minute amends, which is exactly the sort of thing that eats into your free time.
You’ll also spend less time looking for freelance work if you have a steady stream coming in from a bunch of regulars. You can also approach them when you have nothing on, which saves time. That’s why good working relationships with your clients, along with an understanding of their needs, goes a long way towards helping freelancers achieve a better work life balance.
Be Firm With Friends And Family
When you're working from home there are enough distractions as it is, without the added disturbance of friends dropping round, kids asking you to play, and your mother calling to see if you've eaten properly today.
Too many interuptions and your work life balance will start to suffer, as your creativity is constantly being derailed, and the time you spent chatting to friends has to be made up later on in the day. Or should I say evening?
Of course, if your best bud drops round, catch up if you want - having that choice is what working freelace is all about. Just don't let the random visits and pleas from the kids get out of hand. Make sure everyone respects your working hours, and the fact that when you work freelance, you still have to work hard.
"Problems working from home" The burning desire to check the fridge every 5 min, just incase chocolate has appeared. #solomeet— Josh Exell (@JoshExell)
Pick the right projects
As a general rule of thumb, having a few larger projects to work on is far better than a lot of smaller tasks. If you think having ten $100 projects is the same as having one piece of $1000 freelance work, think again.
Most of the time, those little tasks are going to cause you a lot more aggravation than the big ones. You’ll find you’ll have 10 problems to solve rather than one, followed by 10 invoices to send out and chase up.
There’ll also be a much bigger risk of scope creep, and these are all things that will get in the way of achieveing a good balance.
Learn to leave it
As creatives, one thing we’re probably all a little guilty of is excessively tweaking our work. However, too much tinkering and ideas can become convoluted, logos over designed, and writing too clever for its own good.
You’ll also find yourself working unnecessarily late and that’s definitely going to stop you achieving a better balance.
Tinkering is particularly hard for us to resist because, generally, we enjoy what we do and have a passion for it. We want to create, and we want our creations to be the best they can be.
But knowing when to stop is a really important part of the creative process, which you have to learn to master.
Resisting that urge is a challenge we all face, and as professionals, we must overcome it.
A good work ethic and high work-standards are essential when you’re working freelance, but let’s not kid ourselves here - don’t lose sight of the fact your main object is to earn money. Get your work done and move on to the next job as soon as you can. Or better yet, have a quick break - kick back and chill.
Take back the night
If you’re anything like us here at Thrive, keep a pen and pad by your bed. Because as we explained in our blog post, Unusual Tools For Creative Freelancers, people often get great ideas when lying in bed at night.
It can be a real pain. Just as you’re trying to nod off your mind will start racing with creative ideas or things you have to do when you wake up. And once that happens you’ve had it - you can kiss a good night's sleep good-bye.
That is, unless you jot them down. So keep a pad and pen by the bed.
Doing this gets them out of your head and onto paper - making it easier for you to drop off and stop thinking about work.
Take time off
Our final tip to help freelancers achieve a better work life balance is don’t feel guilty about taking time off. Think of it as an important part of your job, giving you time to recoup and recharge your creative batteries.
Just as car engines need servicing to keep them working well, freelancers need time off to keep running at full potential.
As long as you’ve hit your targets for the week, there really is no need to feel guilty about putting your feet up, moving your freelance work to one side, and doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the week.
If you've got any tips, tricks, or ways that you maintain a healthy balance between your free-time and freelancing, feel free to comment below. We'd love to hear more.
This blog post is brought to you by the creators of Solo; your freelance wingman. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, contact us on hello[at]wearethrive.com.