Archive for January, 2011

Setting Healthy Freelancing Limits

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Whether you’re a veteran freelancer or a new writer just breaking into the business, it can be a challenge for even the most disciplined wordsmiths to set good boundaries about when, where, and how much to work. When the “office” is just a few steps from the dining room (or kitchen, or bedroom…), it’s all too easy to find yourself answering emails late into the night or sending your family off to the movies without you while you work over the weekend.

If you love writing – and why would you be freelancing if you didn’t? – it can be tough to draw boundaries between work time and personal time. No matter how much you enjoy your work, you’ll ultimately realize that time off shouldn’t be regarded as a bonus, but as an absolute necessity for a sane, balanced, and productive life.

Here are a few tips for setting healthy limits and giving yourself the free time you need. (I’m the first to admit that I have yet to master many of these myself.)

  • Avoid weekend deadlines: Just because you CAN work on weekends doesn’t mean you HAVE to! Reduce weekend stress by refraining from setting deadlines that fall on a Saturday or Sunday.
  • Minimize email on weekends: Although there will be times when it’s necessary to answer a hot-button email from a client on a Saturday night, try to avoid it whenever possible. I still check my email periodically over the weekend to make sure there aren’t urgent matters that need quick attention, but I’ve found that a majority of messages can wait until Monday. Most clients will follow the example you lead – if you don’t initiate email conversations on the weekend, they won’t, either.
  • Set appointments for calls: I have clients all over the globe, and taking calls in the wee hours to accommodate clashing time zones quickly leads to midnight madness! On the same token, it’s impossible for me to chat about web content strategies when I’ve got a house full of screeching preschoolers. I ask clients to make an appointment with me before they call.
  • Make plans that take you out of the house: Remove yourself from the realm of temptation by going out with friends, seeing a movie, or simply taking your kids or dog to the park. A scheduled break clears my head and helps me focus better during work times.
  • Schedule free time: Last but not least, make sure to schedule at least a few hours each week of “free time” at home that’s just for you. Read a book, write a few pages of that novel, or break out Candyland with the kids – no work allowed!

You can rack up all the clients and money as humanly possible, but true happiness and fulfillment as a freelancer depends on setting limits and boundaries between freelance work and the rest of your life. It’s wonderful to get paid for doing what you love, but—like anything else—excess can lead to stress.