Self employment and freelancing is an around-the-clock job. No, you’re not working monster shifts (well, maybe sometimes), but when your home also is your workplace, work is never far away.
This work-home balance is nothing new to entrepreneurs and working parents. When you’re both a small-business owner and a parent, like I am, the challenge becomes even harder. I can’t stop thinking about work. My computer and business planner are always here. I find my reviewing myself to-do list in the evenings, on weekends, even on holidays and on vacation to plan ahead and know what I will be up against the next work day.
When I’m done working for the day, it takes me a while to mentally wind down. I review the day, the tasks I completed, the clients that I spoke to. I think about the contracts about to expire, and I hope new clients will be pleased with my work. Then I stop thinking about work — for a while — until I’m back at my desk reviewing my to-do list.
Clients Think You’re Working, Too
At times, it seems like clients think I’m working around the clock, too.
I have one client who is two time zones away. She will routinely email me at 9 pm or later or on the weekends and tell me I don’t need to respond until the following morning or until Monday. Little does she know I won’t see her message until then anyway.
Her assumption that I’m viewing her messages when she sends them is a sign of our digital age. She’s assuming I have a smartphone because she and many other people do. I don’t have a smartphone and I have no desire to have the Internet follow me wherever I go. My clients know this but they often forget.
I have been self employed since 2011, and I’ve devised a few survival strategies to make the work-life balance easier. Even if I can’t stop thinking about work, at least I’ve cut down my stress.
Here are my top tips:
- Make a to-do list: Yes, I know, it has already been established I am obsessed with mine, but it does serve a vital purpose. It helps freelancers and entrepreneurs keep track of tasks they might otherwise forget and deadlines they can’t miss. When you work in a deadline driven field like I do, missing a deadline makes not only for an upset client, it could also ruin your reputation.
- Have set office hours: These are the days and times you’ll not only be working but also the dates and times you’ll answer emails, take phone calls and meet clients. Establishing set time on and time off helps avoid burnout.
- Take time off: Every once in a while, take time off on a day when you’d normally be working then go out and do something fun. This gives you a change of scenery and like set business hours, helps you avoid burnout. Just be sure to let clients know in advance and add a vacation response on your setting.
- Know you’re not alone: Networking with other freelancers and entrepreneurs as well as making friends gives you a sense that you’re not alone, and gives you a place to seek advice and gain support.
How do you balance work and home?