I turn off notifications at night. That means no emails, no texts, and no possible way for me to accidentally turn my work brain back on by looking at my phone. During busy weeks I might break that rule a bit, but I always try to go back to it after the fires are put out.
The definitive guide to going Freelance.
Living the freelance lifestyle
When people think of the word freelance, they have one or two thoughts. They either think that you’ll sell your services for close to free or they think that you’re living life to the fullest because you’re exactly that, free. Free from the chaos of the rat race. Free from the bureaucracy of a 9 to 5 and free from the limitations of managers and bosses.
The freelance lifestyle is built on the idea of having more time to do what you love. Most freelancers express that the reason they do what they do is because of the freedom. The freedom to work from home, be their own boss or to have the flexibility to travel when they want. Yet for most, freelancing pushes them into a world where they are frantically looking for more work and a full calendar. It’s this that results in many freelancers being met with burn out and killing their own business and personal relationships along the way.
At the core of all of this, is the idea of having work life balance. Freelancers have almost complete control over managing their own reality as it relates to work-life balance. Freelancers don’t have to build their life around a corporate work schedule imposed by the higher ups. Freelancers can create a work life reality that fits their own expectations and unique circumstances.
When thinking about your lifestyle, ask yourself what it is you really want. Think about what you would consider a day in the life as a freelancer. What would give you the perfect day? Is it the ability to pick up and drop off your kids at school? Is it the ability to go out with friends on a work night? Think about what your ideal day looks like and as you take on more projects, keep this in mind to determine if you’re getting away from what you really want.
Control Your Clients & Projects
Want to work on fun projects? Only accept fun projects. Want to work with entrepreneurs? Only accept work with entrepreneurs. Want to work in healthcare? Only work with healthcare clients. Want to only build websites? Say no to projects for posters. Want to only write press releases? Say no to website content.
You’re in control!
As a freelancer, you truly are in control of what work you do. You have complete control over the type of projects you go after and have complete control over the clients you serve. It might not seem like it as you’ve been accepting every potential project that comes across your desk but that’s not the best approach. You need to be willing to say no.
Control Your Income
We already talked about the importance of understanding your price strategy and structure. You need to spend time thinking about your rates and use this to determine your rates. If you charge by the hour, you’ll hit a ceiling and have to be comfortable with that. If you charge by the project, you set a fixed expectation and need to be comfortable with that as well. It’s in your hands.
Control Your Lifestyle
I hope this is a wake up call that you already knew. You’re in complete control of your life as a freelancer. You control how much time you’re going to work and how much time you’re going to spend doing leisure activities. Does travelling the world matter to you? If so, the freelance life gives you the flexibility to do that. Does spending time with your kids matter most? If so, the freelance life gives you the chance to do that too. Recognize that you’re in control and don’t be afraid to say no to opportunities that make your lifestyle less enjoyable.
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you are open 24 hours a day. Be careful about just how quickly you get back to that client every time she emails – you’ll accidentally set up unreasonable expectations that maybe you can’t live up to all the time.
Some freelancers try to emulate the 9-5 routine as much as possible. They get up and have breakfast, get their kids off to school and then settle down to work for 9 am, take a lunch break at noon and shut their laptop down at 5 pm. If you can make that work for you, great. Not everyone can. Some people prefer the flexibility of freelance, where they can truly work and control their own hours.
Did you know this is how The Beatles created many of their classics?
I suppose in some respects they were freelancers. For most of their recording career the fab four went into Abbey Road Studios in the evening and stayed up all night writing and recording some of the greatest songs of all time. By around 6 or 7 am they left the studio and went home to sleep, repeating the process night after night until the album was finished. In fact, when they recorded the Let It Be sessions in front of a film crew, the nature of shooting a documentary required that they alter their schedule and record in the mornings, something they were not used to. The sessions were later described by Harrison as “the low of all-time” and by Lennon as “hell ... the most miserable sessions on earth.”
So take that as a lesson to go with the flow, and listen to your body. If you come up with your best work at 10 pm but can’t think straight at 10 am, then why force yourself to work at a time when you aren’t productive? Do what makes the most sense for you and if that’s 10 at night? That’s fine, just let it be.
Why Delegation Might Be Necessary
If you’re already busy and are having a hard time juggling life and work, it might be time to give up the little things. It might be time to outsource projects to people in your network whom you can still make profit from hiring or consider bringing in employees as a whole. If you’re a writer and have more work than you can handle, look for another writer in your network to help carry the load. If you can help guide their voice, thinking and approach – you can ensure that your clients are still receiving value for your services.
The idea of delegation doesn’t limit to your workload either – you can start delegating chores around the house as well. This can be hard to get your head around but if you’re looking at building your business, sometimes you need to spend a couple dollars to focus on that.
Two years ago, I stopped worrying about my laundry entirely and left that chore to the dry cleaner down the street. At first it was a tough decision but I quickly realized that it only made sense after considering the amount of time I was spending on the floor folding, cleaning, sorting and drying. Every year it would be more than 100 hours solely spent doing the laundry. That’s 100 hours that could have been spent growing my business, going to the gym or doing something I actually cared about.
Don’t be afraid to pay someone to do things you hate doing.
Don’t be afraid to pay someone to do things that you can train him or her to do.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you could also rely on virtual talent. As in, talent that you don’t actually hire to work with you day in and day out in your office but instead they act as a resource who you can communicate with online and give tasks to. I’m talking about virtual assistants. In a world where many of our relationships are virtual, you shouldn’t be afraid to leverage a virtual assistant to help with some of the tasks that you could trust someone else to tackle for you.
Some of the tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant or a service like Fancy Hands include:
- Screen your e-mail and respond on your behalf
- Schedule and confirm your appointments
- Research & book your travel arrangements
- Perform miscellaneous research on projects & prospects
- Fill out expense reports and track reimbursements
- Create invoices and post payments
Again, it’s important to focus on the things that matter and outsource the things that don’t. It’s the act of implementing this strategy that will help you focus on delivering quality service and spend time building your business.
Remember - Your Work Is Not Your Life
The worst clients are those who don’t respect your time. It’s the clients who call you four times on a Sunday afternoon with a request to resend a file you already sent them. Now, I know that it’s challenging to juggle this aspect of your business as they’re giving you cash, but don’t bend over backwards just because they’re paying you for your services. It’s an exchange. Value for value.
One way to ensure that clients respect your time is to only send emails during business hours. If a client sends you an email on the weekend, don’t respond until Monday. Freelancers who respond to their clients at all hours of the day and night are going to break down walls of their own sanity. As a result of building this habit, your clients will think nothing of calling you on Friday with a project timeline they want finished by Monday. Don’t let it happen to you.
If you do find yourself working on the weekend, don’t be afraid to cheat perception. You can use apps like Boomerang to schedule your emails to go out bright and early on Monday. As a result, you’re able to keep your clients under the expectation that you’ll deliver only during the workweek. It’s a simple task but it’s one that can make the world of difference for balance.
The most important thing to consider when living the freelance lifestyle is to know that work is not your life. Freelancers who are married or live with a partner are going to be tasked with a lot of challenges that will impact both them and their partners. I don’t have all the answers for this one but those of you in this situation need to admit to not just me, but your partner that you don’t have the answers either. You need to look them in the eye and tell them that you need their support and that their help is not only needed but greatly appreciated.
Show your family you care. Show your loved ones they matter. Block time off in your calendar for date nights. Turn off your phone when it’s your kids’ school concert.
Be present. Be engaged. Be free.
People will say "its all about balance" - obviously. If it was super easy, we'd all do it.
- You’re in control of everything from the clients you work with to the number of hours you put in a week. As a freelancer, you need to accept the reality that all responsibilities fall on you and no one else. If a client is emailing you on a weekend, it’s your choice to respond.
- Don’t be afraid to delegate your work or your chores to other people. Whether it’s helping out on a project or doing your laundry – delegating will save you time.
- Don’t forget your loved ones. Rinse. Repeat.
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