I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as making a 'life.'
Working from home has many perks, but it's also tough to create boundaries between work and home. There's no perfect balance, and what works is different for each of us. Some of us work better early in the morning, while others work better at night. Sometimes we're lucky enough to be able to work fairly normal hours during the day.
I've done both over the years. When my kids were little, I tried to save money by not doing daycare, so I worked around little ones until they were old enough for preschool. My daughter was always good at entertaining herself. My son was not. He needed constant attention, and I barely worked his first year. As they've gotten older and in school, it's been much easier to build up more clients and take on more work.
When you first get started freelancing, especially if you're making the transition from full-time work or adding it in to a full-time schedule, it's easy to feel overwhelmed or devote too much time to work.
Try these tips to get started
- Find your power hour.
What time do you have available to devote to completing freelance work, finding jobs or marketing yourself? An hour before you head to your full-time job? An hour when the kids are napping? An hour at night after dinner? Choose one hour of the day to dedicate to some aspect of your freelance job.
2. Decide how many hours per day or week you can freelance.
Overpromising and not delivering will kill your business immediately. So decide from the start how many hours you can devote to your freelance work each week. Then you'll have an idea of how much work you can accept.
3. Set boundaries with family and friends.
"Do you work?" "Yes, I'm a freelance writer." "Oh." Working from home is becoming more and more accepted every year. About 10 years ago when I started, freelancing was almost synonymous with unemployed. Set clear boundaries with friends and family who may not understand that you do actually work from home, and you may not be able to pick them up from the airport or feed their dog anytime of day. Tell your kids they have to have quiet time so that you can work for an hour.
4. Put your phone away.
I'm always checking my email throughout the day, and my kids hate it. They expect my undivided attention when I they get home from school. And, to be fair, they are the main reason I work from home. But I feel like I need to check email up until 5pm, because my clients are working business hours. I make a point to keep my phone out of the room and will not answer it during dinner. We eat at the table and talk without electronics. Choose certain times of the day that you will not check email or answer calls. Maybe it's during your favorite show or while you drink coffee in the morning.
5. Take vacations.
When you work for yourself, it's hard to give yourself time off. But you deserve to take vacations, whether it's a day, a long weekend or a full week. Just be sure to notify your clients in advance. They're usually understanding.
What are some of your struggles with finding a work-life balance? How do you set boundaries between your life and your business?
This year, I took a real vacation where I told all my clients I would not be working for an entire week. (OK, I did check and respond to email a few times, but that's it.)