How To Create a Work-Life Balance as a Freelance Writer
Creating a work-life balance is difficult for anyone, regardless of job type or industry. For some, the situation is dire, such as that of “Where’s Stu?” in this Salon article about the average work-life balance of a “salaryman.” But for freelance writers, creating that balance is made more difficult by the fact that you set your own schedule. This means that you don’t have the comfort of a “9-5” office hours schedule, but you do have the freedom to be flexible.
Here’s a secret: creating a work-life balance as a freelance writer may not be as difficult as you’ve been led to believe.
Start With Your Physical Space
While adopting a mindset of “work hours” and “play hours” can be beneficial, you’ll need to start your work-life balance in physical space. Many freelance writers work from home and, as a result, can blur the lines of what activities take place where. For instance, if you like to laze in bed with your pajama pants on while you work, that’s awesome! For some writers, however, this can make relaxing in bed at night more difficult since your brain was crunching information and typing brilliant copy all day. The best plan is to have a dedicated space for work and a dedicated space for play. When you have these physical delineations, your brain can more easily enter “relax” mode when you hop into bed.
Next, Set Boundaries
Setting work hours as a freelance writer can seem like a daunting task. Your clients often expect you to always be available because you are a freelancer. It is important to establish work hours as boundaries to avoid possible miscommunications with clients and to protect your free time. Many freelance writers adopt business hours such as 10 AM – 6 PM Monday – Friday. Be wary of phrases like “I always check my email” or “I always have my phone on me.” Instead, say things like, “I am available between these hours for any questions or requests.” The important thing is to establish a schedule to which you can stick and with which you are comfortable.
Another important boundary to set: professional vs. personal.
Many freelancers know the struggle: you’re pounding away, crafting genius SEO-friendly copy when that familiar text, Gchat, or Facebook chat sound disrupts your flow. Boundaries matter for your clients and for yourself, but also for friends and family. Be firm about what your working hours are and, as tempting as it is, don’t get distracted by the wide world of friends and internet articles. Chatting while on your lunch break is perfectly fine and so is contacting a friend who is also a freelancer for a project. What matters is that you inform any would-be distractors that from the hours of X to X, you are working. As any freelance writer knows, this is for your sake just as much as it is for theirs.
Plan for Free Time
The life of a freelance writer is full of unpredictable variables. Sometimes, it helps to plan for free time. Carving out time every weeknight or weekend to see a movie with friends or take an at-home spa day for yourself is necessary for any freelancer. Freelance writers who are also parents have the added challenges of planning around events like little league practice or dance recitals. Of course, having added structure can actually help you plan your free time.
Hint: there’s no shame in just lying in bed for an hour after a full work day, occasionally checking Instagram, either. Stress relieving coloring books are another great way to reduce stress or calm a frenzied mind. After a long day of plugging away at the keyboard, sitting down with some Crayolas and your favorite classic rock album might be just what you need.
The biggest piece of advice to remember as a freelance writer: sometimes you need to be okay with a lack of balance. That old adage “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars” exists for a reason. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. Achieving 75% of your goals most of the time is just as good as achieving 100% only sometimes.
Perhaps the best part about being a freelance writer is that every week is a new adventure and a new opportunity to do better than before.
One last tip: unplugging in your free time can help you even more than just plain relaxing.
We’re curious. How do you create a work-life balance as a freelance writer?