The Business of Freelancing
Freelancers (writing, accountants, graphic designers, personal shoppers, counselors, organizers) give themselves a big opportunity when they decide to start working for themselves. Freelancers also take a huge risk, financially. If they do not have employment outside the home, the responsibility is 100 percent upon them for success –– or failure. Most self-employed people realize this and put many hours into their businesses every week, sometimes more than the usual 40 they would work if they were to be working for someone else.
Setting Up a Workable Work Schedule
Focusing on an individual freelancer –– while it is good to be focused on making her business grow, her efforts will be useless if she does not pay attention to her mental health. She could push herself to the point that she can’t work and bring money in. What should she do to meet two seemingly opposite goals?
First, she should map out a reasonable work schedule that allows her to focus on working during the day. This schedule should allow her to take care of errands that she can’t complete outside working hours, such as paying a bill in person.
Second, she needs to give herself enough time every week to take care of household activities, such as cooking or cleaning. If she can, she should arrange her workday so that the cleaning or cooking are all taken care of in the same time block so that, when she is working, she will not be distracted.
Third, she needs breaks during her work day. Regardless of her self-employment status, she needs those breaks so she can rest her mind and eyes. If she keeps her television on for sound, she can take advantage of this and watch a portion of a program during her breaks and lunch.
The Consequences of Overworking as a Freelancer
Is she at risk of burnout if she doesn’t allow herself to relax? Isn’t that just a bunch of fancy talk that allows her to be lazy at home?
Yes, she is risking burnout which can put her business at risk. No, it isn’t just an excuse to be lazy. Here’s an imaginary scenario:
Our freelancer (let’s call her Vicky) is highly motivated to make her business a success. With this goal in mind, she sets up an ambitious work schedule. Thing is, she overlooks giving herself enough time to take care of business outside her home; she forgets to factor in time for laundry, cleaning or cooking. She forgets about her need to recharge herself.
At first, things are going great. She’s putting in 12-hour days and she’s seeing results. She’s gaining new clients every month and they are becoming repeat clients. She gets excited and redoubles her earning efforts. She begins working on Saturdays.
Her house is beginning to show signs of neglect: laundry is piling up and it’s been a few weeks since the bathroom was cleaned. When she remembers to eat, it’s an apple here, a bowl of cold cereal there or crackers and cheese. She’s had to throw out more than one carton of spoiled milk and moldy or spoiled food.
One morning she wakes up –– or she tries to wake up. Her eyes just won’t open and she is so exhausted. She feels like she got slammed by a freight train. Thinking she’s coming down with the flu, she stays in bed and sleeps until 3 p.m. The next few days are a repeat. She’s getting calls from clients looking for the jobs they gave her. They want to see what progress she has made and all they’re getting is her voice mail. Eventually, she’s able to get up and she checks her voice mails only to find out that some of her best clients are ready to jump ship and look for another freelancer. Even worse, when she opens her email account, her best client has already done so.
She’s alarmed and, despite the fact that she’s still very tired, she resumes her work schedule. She finishes the jobs she’s contracted for and sends them to her clients. She gets calls and emails from them, letting her know that they found several errors in her work. They’re sorry, but they’re going to terminate their contract with her and send her their final payment.
If Vicky had set up a realistic work schedule, this would never have happened — or, at the very least, the chances of this happening would have been greatly reduced.
Find a Hobby and Respect Your Mind and Body
Where does the relaxing activity or hobby come in? Just as with the reasonable working schedule and work, it comes out at the top. As a self-employed person, Vicky is responsible for it all. She is her own boss and employee. She has to pay self-employment taxes every quarter. She has to pay for all her office supplies AND all of her personal bills. She cannot do so if she is driving herself so hard she makes herself physically ill.
For this reason, it is very important for her to leave herself enough time at the end of the day to relax with something recreational. It should, of course, be something she enjoys learning and doing. Perhaps it’s gourmet cooking or baking; woodworking; making or writing music; a needle craft or creative writing. Just as if she were traditionally employed by an employer, she needs to give herself time at the end of her workday to recharge her batteries (physical, mental and emotional).