As they say, you choose your battles in life. What we do for a living and how we do it is no different.
Most people are willing to put up with working long hours and a stressful morning commute if it means a good salary, stability and the ability to support their family and lifestyle.
Others prefer to brave the ups and downs of an unstable income for the flexibility that comes with being able to set your own hours and choose your own assignments.
If that sounds like you, you’re probably a freelancer, and I bet you get asked a lot whey you chose to become one. Because, truth be told, the life of a freelancer comes with its perks, but is not without its own brand of stress.
Here are four survival tips that can help you to deal with the not-so-nice aspects of the freelance life.
Maintain a proper website and have nice business cards printed
Beginning freelancers often fall into the trap of feeling like they’re not working a “real” job.
One way to alleviate that somewhat is to get all your marketing infrastructure in place. Set aside a few weeks and maybe a bit of money to work hard on creating a proper website (not some half-hearted Wix template), and make sure it’s updated with the best pieces in your portfolio.
You’ll also want to design and print some nice-looking business cards linking to your website and contact details, to hand out whenever you meet someone new. You can get 100 cards printed for just $3.20 at EasiTech.
It takes a bit of effort to create them, but once they’re finished they go a long way towards legitimising your personal brand. Not everybody has the time to maintain a blog or a social media account, but a website and business card don’t require any effort after you’ve produced them. Even private tutors, piano teachers, tour guides and so on should have these two things.
Separate work from your personal life
You thought becoming a freelancer would be the key to better work-life balance. But now you find that with no specific knock-off time and no physical office to separate your work from your life, the two are unfortunately starting to become one and the same.
As every freelancer soon learns after a few years on the job, making a conscious and systematic effort to separate your work from your personal life is necessary for the preservation of sanity.
That could mean physically separating your work space from your living space. You could leave home to work at a cafe, library or co-working space. If you prefer to work at home, use a proper work desk and perhaps set up a screen to separate your work area from the rest of the home.
What’s even more critical is to have a set knock-off time every day. For those who don’t work too well when schedules are imposed on them, it doesn’t mean having to work from 9 to 5 every day.
But it does mean that before you start work every day, you decide in advance how long you are going to work and what time you will stop. When it comes time to stop, commit to not doing anything work-related—no answering of emails or fumbling with admin work, for instance. Your brain needs time to decompress.
Maximise the perks of setting your own schedule
The ability to work flexible hours is one of the biggest perks of freelancing. No matter how much you might complain about your clients, income or working conditions, there is something undeniably awesome about being able to go for a mojito at 3pm on a Thursday.
But if we are really honest, sometimes we just don’t really appreciate or take advantage of these perks.
Instead of seizing the opportunity to fly to neighbouring countries on weekdays, when flights are cheaper, we refuse to let go of our work and insist we don’t have the time to travel. Instead of enjoying the flexibility of being able to exercise in the morning or afternoon, we flood ourselves with busy-work or finish our tasks so inefficiently that we end up having even less free time than salaried employees.
That’s because maximising the perks of flexibility requires discipline. You might be able to go for a swim at 10am when your friends are all at the office, but if you are too unmotivated to even get out of bed till it’s time to start work, you’ll never do it.
Take advantage of scheduling tools like Google Calendar to give your life a bit of structure so you can make the most of the fact you don’t have to work from 9 to 6.
Create little rituals to give your schedule structure
As much as you might hate the idea of commuting to the office in the morning, the 9 to 6 grind does come with its advantages, not least its ability to give your life structure. When employees get up for work and rush out the door in the morning, the rest of the day is pretty much on autopilot.
For freelancers, on the other hand, every day can be a battle of wills. You struggle daily with the fact that you “don’t feel like” working right now, and this can lead to a whole lot of procrastination you’ll later regret.
One way you can create a bit of structure in your day is to create little rituals that you perform out of habit.
For instance, starting your day with a freshly brewed cup of green tea is preferable to lying in bed for an hour surfing Facebook on your phone. Take timed and scheduled breaks throughout the day. For instance, take an hour out of each day to have lunch, rather than eat cup noodles in front of your computer.
These little rituals will help to put you into auto-pilot mode so you’re not forced to make decisions about your schedule every second of the day.
How do you make the most of your life as a freelancer? Share your tips in the comments!