Harmonizing your work and your private life is what work-life balance is all about. However, in our increasingly interconnected lives, the process of separating the two is becoming more and more difficult, especially for freelancers. In this article, you’ll learn how you, as a freelancer, can achieve work-life balance.
- What is work-life balance?
- How to balance work and private life as a freelancer
The line between work and leisure is becoming increasingly blurred. Your cell phone rings on the weekends, emails are checked after work, client meetings take place after 6 p.m – there is never a break.
And since offices are no longer limited to a permanent location, you can’t leave your work behind. This is the case for 35% of our freelancers from the Freelancer Market Study 2020. They stated that the separation of work and private life is one of the biggest challenges in being independent.
The misconception that self-employed also means “available constantly” persists stubbornly in society. New freelancers in particular have the feeling that they have to work around the clock in order to achieve their goals.
In the long run, this stress is extremely dangerous to health and ensures that the job you once loved is now a nightmare. To prevent this from happening, you need a good work-life balance.
What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance is, as the name suggests, the balance between work and your private life. The aim is to find an appropriate balance between the two in order to be happy both at work and in your private life. This is done in such a way that both your life and your work stand in each other’s way as little as possible and ideally even complement each other.
Work-life balance stands for a healthy lifestyle that targets both mental and physical health. A good work-life balance reduces psychological stress and pressure, which in the worst case can lead to burnout.
Growing importance of work-life balance
The fact that the topic is becoming more and more important shows that more and more people are suffering from great stress and a poor work-life balance.
But it also shows that working people’s priorities are slowly changing. Where career was once the top priority, today it’s also about leading a good life outside of work. Work-life balance is the key to personal satisfaction for freelancers, as well as a higher quality of life and better health. In addition, a good work-life balance also makes you more motivated and efficient.
How to balance work and private life as a freelancer
There is no perfect formula for a good work-life balance for freelancers. Everyone has a different tolerance level for stress and pressure. Take the time to deal with your limits and your capabilities and get to know both of them better. Everyone is in charge of defining their own individual balance themselves.
However, balance does not mean that you have to split your work and private life 50:50. It is much more important that life moments are actively perceived and also enjoyed as quality time. Quality is the keyword here and clearly takes precedence over quantity.
Read our tips below to learn freelancers can create an optimal work-life balance:
Tip # 1: Set working hours
Those who are available around the clock and never switch off cannot concentrate on their tasks. Not only is this inefficient and stressful, it is also unhealthy. Do like the majority of our freelancers in the Freelancer Market Study, and define your working hours and the availability for your customers.
Defined working hours do not necessarily have to mean nine-to-five. Think about how your work best fits into your everyday life, when you are at your best and what other obligations you have to meet. Think about which tasks you have to do regularly, and create a weekly schedule with times for certain tasks.
For example, if you get up early, your work day could start at 6:00 a.m. If your customers can only be reached after 8:30 a.m., schedule administrative work and tasks that do not require external input for the time before. If you are more active at night, plan the tasks that require little interaction in the later hours.
Pay attention to individual needs
Divide your working hours so that they intersect with the times when you can be reached by the client. Nothing is worse for work-life balance for freelancers than having to have a long conversation with a client during your free time. Just as important: let your business partners and clients know when you can be reached (and when not). This allows you to enjoy your free time stress-free, and can help you avoid the need to answer your phone.
With fixed working hours, you can then work when it is easiest for you. The most important thing to remember is this:communicate your working hours and stick to them. This also means that “non-working hours” are consistently used as leisure time and that business then rests. The less you think about your job in your private life, the more enjoyable your work will be. And that is the best prerequisite for being a successful freelancer.
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Tip # 2: Create a work plan
As a freelancer, you are very flexible in dividing your time during your work. Nevertheless, you should attach importance to fixed work planning. By planning, dividing up and documenting your work, you create a better overview. In addition, you always know what is pending and you know the status of the working hours in the project.
If your concentration is better in the morning than it is in the afternoon, then do your most demanding tasks at the beginning of the working day and do not save them until the end. This will also avoid unnecessary procrastinating. The first action at work should be work.
Get in the habit of getting things done before checking your email, the news, or social media. It is best to set regular times for reading and processing emails, so as not to be under time pressure and not to be stressed by “lurking” emails during the rest of the day.
Tip # 3: Take small breaks
In addition to all of the focused work, also think about small breaks in between. If you sit for hours on a task, you will have trouble concentrating. Take a break after strenuous tasks to take a deep breath. Such stress breaks can be very helpful in order to finish a task or situation and to have a clear head for new tasks.
It’s also important to remember to take lunch breaks away from the office. Take your dog for a walk, do some shopping, cook or work out in the gym.
At least one day off a week
Not only does your working day need breaks, but also your working week, regardless of whether it is Sunday or a day you specify. If possible, keep one day a week as completely free. Of course, you are allowed to check your emails from time to time, if that allows you to start the next day more relaxed. However, try not to let yourself be pressured when a request comes in.
If you have decided on a fixed off day other than Sunday, inform your clients of this, especially when it comes to particularly time-critical projects.
Tip # 4: Set up an office
Lack of separation of work and living space will make you feel obliged to briefly take care of urgent tasks in the evening. You will also not be able to get a clear focus and concentrate on work when the distraction of your TV, or piles of laundry waiting to be washed are lurking everywhere.
Anyone who mainly works from home should therefore set up a real home office or at least a work corner. Because: if you drag your work through your own four walls, sooner or later you will connect every corner of your home with your job.
An office area serves several purposes. It is the place of work, houses all your work materials and documents and helps you put yourself in the right mindset in the morning. If there is a place reserved only for work, there is a certain commitment when you are in the office. When you’re done, you can then close the door after work and come “home” to the rest of the apartment.
Tip # 5: Define your availability
Being available anytime and anywhere is one of the greatest stress factors of modern times. As a freelancer, in particular, you will be well aware of clients who assume that you can be called around the clock as a service provider. In situations like this, it is advisable to have separate private and business numbers.
The first step to more undisturbed free time and a better work-life balance for freelancers is to buy a work cell phone. Clients then only receive their business number.
The second step is to define your business hours during which you can be reached on your new cell phone. You communicate this on your website, your social media channels and ideally, also on your business card.
The third step is to turn off the phone when business hours are up. You can set up a friendly voicemail message for anyone calling outside of business hours and can ask to leave a number so that you may call them back.
Tip # 6: Don’t neglect your own interests
The following applies to the “life” aspect of work-life balance: make appointments with yourself and enjoy your “me-time”. Do what you enjoy doing. Read a book, meet up for a squash match, cook extensively, go hiking or biking. Follow up on your interests and make specific plans for the end of the day. This makes it easier for you to call it a day.
You should also plan your next vacation or weekend trip in a fixed manner and not cancel them because of “too much work”.
Small rewards at the end of the week or on any day should also be included. Go to the cinema, to eat or to the city library. No matter what the reward is, it has to be fun and an experience that you fondly remember, even while you work.
Tip # 7: Maintain private contacts
Make sure you meet regularly with your private social contacts. A nice evening with friends or a meal with your partner can work wonders for your work-life balance. You can clear your head from work and switch off, giving your friends the satisfaction of having your undivided attention.
If you like to be out and about and find it difficult to remember private appointments, you can always save these in your appointment calendar. However, you should also pay attention to balance here – if the free time is too “planned” this can lead to stress.
Tip # 8: Maintain business contacts
Working as a freelancer does not mean that you are on your own. Create a network. Consult with other freelancers or specialists who also have experience in your field. A good relationship with a client, team members or other freelancers can help increase your own job satisfaction.
Do you already have regular customers who are satisfied with your service? Inquire there whether there are new projects in order not to stress yourself with the project search.
A professional network can also be advantageous in the event of personal failures. Build a trusting relationship with colleagues. In this way you can ensure that someone will take care of you should you be absent for personal or health reasons.
Tip # 9: Prioritize your own health
Personal health is an essential part, if not the quintessence, of work-life balance for freelancers. In order to stay healthy, it is essential that you deal with yourself and recognize possible risks. Be it too much stress or a bad posture at work – both have a negative effect on your health and thus on your performance. Therefore, it is essential to take care of your health before it is too late. Only a healthy freelancer is a successful freelancer in the long run.
Different paths lead to the same goal. On one hand, you can take care of yourself by adapting the work area to your needs and observing your posture and sitting position at your workplace. On the other hand, sports is a good way to compensate for a long day at work. Exercise can counteract and reduce stress. Whatever you decide to do, it is important that you consciously take time for yourself and your health.
It is more important than ever to consciously take the time out for yourself and switch off from work. This is the only way to stay productive. Every freelancer must find their individual balance and define for themselves how switching off works best.
What steps do you take to maintain a healthy work-life balance? We’d love to know!