Key tax dates and deadlines for 2018/19
It is an inevitable reality that, for anyone earning a livin...
By Jonathan London on 30th September 2015
It’s well understood that life as a freelancer can be uniquely fulfilling, but there are also considerable challenges involved in getting your work-life balance to work in a way that keeps you both happy and productive.
Being your own boss can be a dream come true in many respects, but the ability to set your own schedule and control your workflows also means you need to be responsible for making sure your working life and home life don’t infringe upon each other. Without proper balance, you could end an exhausted workaholic with no time for personal pursuits, or conversely develop a reputation for being flakey and unprofessional if you let your home life dominate.
Clearly, a happy medium needs to be found, but this can be a difficult challenge, especially for those just starting out in freelancing after years of being accustomed to nine-to-five office work. Fortunately, there are a number of useful tips that self-employed people can follow to help them hit that sweet spot and service both their own needs and those of their clients.
It’s no exaggeration to say that good timekeeping can be considered a non-negotiable prerequisite of a successful freelance career. Being able to set a well-planned but flexible schedule is going to be essential to meeting deadlines and delivering the kind of high-quality, timely services that clients expect.
However, scheduling is also vital in establishing a good work-life balance. As a self-employed person, you’ll have a wide range of professional and personal responsibilities vying for your time on a daily basis, and without proper planning you’re unlikely to be able to get everything done.
By taking time planning seriously and making use of the wide range of scheduling tools and aids available, you’ll find it much easier to keep on top of all of your projects, while also keeping time aside for your home and family life.
The freelance lifestyle is sometime (mis)characterised as the ability to work from your bed in your pyjamas, but while this is technically possible, it’s not a particularly great idea where work-life balance is concerned.
Creating a proper separation between your working and relaxation space is a vital psychological tactic, as a failure to do so can make it difficult to focus on your work when you’re supposed to be on the clock, and equally hard to switch off and wind down afterwards.
Since you don’t have an actual office to go to, it can be a good idea to create a dedicated professional space in your own home, which can be set aside for working hours and left alone at other times. Working remotely from a local library or coffee shop with Wi-Fi access can also help achieve the separation you require.
In the 21st century, people are more connected than ever, which can be both a blessing and a curse for freelancers. On the plus side, it’s never been easier to stay in contact with clients and social contacts, but the downside is that it’s very difficult to get away from them when you need to.
Setting up separate email addresses and phone numbers for your work and social lives can help with this problem. It may require you to shell out extra on a second mobile handset, but doing so will allow you to filter your contacts at appropriate times simply by switching one of them off when the time calls for it.
When you’re starting out, it’s harder to pick and choose your clients and projects, since you’ll be focused primarily on getting your name out there and establishing your brand. However, you’ll quickly realise that being at least a little bit picky is an essential virtue.
Establishing a relationship with a trusted client can help your work-life balance by taking some of the pressure and urgency out of your dealings with them, allowing you to develop a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s time, as well as a functional and reliable pattern of working.
Similarly, you’ll quickly learn to recognise which type of projects suit you best, and which are likely to take up more of your time than they’re worth. Taking lots of small projects, for example, can be an administrative nightmare, so it may suit your time management better to focus on larger projects with single clients if this is proving a problem.
One of the real pitfalls of freelance working is the risk of your work and social lives bleeding into each other. It can be tempting to take a social call during the middle of the day when there’s no boss watching over your shoulder, or to check your work emails in bed, but do this too much and you risk becoming unproductive, inefficient and stressed out.
That’s why it’s important to stick to your allocated work and leisure hours as far as possible. A certain degree of flexibility is no bad thing, but by and large you need to be firm about avoiding distractions during your designated work hours, then be equally disciplined about signing off and winding down when it’s time to finish up.
Self-employed people often have a difficult relationship with holidays. After all, there’s no real concept of paid leave in the freelance world, meaning many are reluctant to put their income on hold long enough to have a proper break.
However, it’s vital to remember that holidays are essential for your wellbeing, and that going for too long without one will make you a less effective worker – not to mention an unhappier person. As such, you should make sure to include some time for holidays in your long-term planning, even if it means doing a bit extra at other points in order to save up. Holidays aren’t something to feel guilty about – if planned correctly, they can have a positive impact on your personal and professional life, so don’t be afraid to put your feet up once in a while.
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