The freelance work-life balance is quite challenging.
You work at home.
And you play at home.
And you raise kids at home.
And eat all your meals at home.
There’s a whole lot of spending time at home involved, when you work at home.
While a homebody like me loves that about freelance writing, it’s difficult to make the transition from work hours to home time when you work in your home.
When you head straight from work to cooking dinner, you feel like you never left work. And when you wake up in the morning and get to work, it feels like you’re still in “home” mode.
It’s hard for your brain to make that switch when the physical switch isn’t there. In corporate, I had two separate physical home and work spaces and a half hour drive each way to transition.
So, today I want to share some of the ways I turn work life on and home life off and vice versa. That way, you can dedicate your full attention to each in a way they deserve and so work doesn’t infiltrate your time with your family.
4 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a Freelance Writer
- Plan your work schedule
- Create a dedicated workspace
- Come up with a transitional ritual
- Set boundaries on your work time
Plan your work schedule before you even quit your day job
In the weeks leading up to my last day at corporate, I sketched out a rough working schedule for freelance writing. I knew I had to be up by 6 to get my son off to school and my daughter doesn’t get up until 8, so I had some prime work time between 6am and 8am. Then, I work out, eat breakfast and shower from around 8-9:30 or so. Then, my sitter comes over and I work from 10 to 12:30 or so, come out and have lunch with everybody, and go back to work for another few hours. Then, I stop at 5:00 sharp.
On Wednesdays, I try to build some new scenery and social time into my life. We go into town and I drop my daughter off with my mom and sister at a little educational class she loves. I usually work from Starbucks or the library and schedule lunch dates with friends. Some Wednesdays I also teach barre class.
Fridays, I take my daughter to my father-in-law’s and work from the library for several hours. This way, I get to build a change of scenery and adult time into my workweek to counter the isolation while still maintaining a pretty tight work schedule.
This first tactic allows me to separate work and home life by putting strict “office hours” around my work time. Yes, some days I’m unable to follow it, but having the time carved out really helps. Everyone in my house knows my expectations.
Create a dedicated workspace
Separating your physical work space from your home space is a great way to give yourself work-home boundaries. When you work in corporate, your physical spaces are automatically separate. When you work at home, you need to set intentional boundaries around work and home space.
I recommend having a separate workspace and trying not to allow your work and home spaces to overlap much. I have a dedicated workspace in my office/workout room. Everything I need is in that space. Office supplies, pens, agenda, planner, outlets, printer, etc.
Sure, I work from the dining room table and back deck sometimes, and that’s the beauty of working from home, but I still maintain that separate workspace. I still have to physically move from my workspace to my home space, which helps the transition.
If you make a regular habit of working from your bed, don’t be surprised if you start losing sleep. Your work brain will start to kick on in bed as soon as your bed goes from the place you sleep to the place you work. Your bedroom is a sacred space for love and sleep. Don’t ruin that sanctity with shiny screens and emails and rushes of cortisol.
Create a transitional ritual
If I jump up from my computer desk and immediately start making dinner, I’m still thinking about what I was just working on and not completely present in my home time. So, I like to perform a physical transitional ritual to change where I’m at in my headspace.
All I do is lie on my bed for a few minutes and breathe deeply into my belly for 10 full breaths or more. Inside my head, I actually tell myself “It’s okay to play now. It’s time to eat and play with the kids, and have a relaxing evening. It’s okay to put work behind me for the day.”
Maybe that sounds a little cheesy, but I dare you to try it. Because it works! The breathing practice plays a stress-relieving role while the self-talk helps me completely change gears, with intention. It really helps me differentiate home from work. Whenever I jump right in without this ritual, I never feel that transition.
Set boundaries on your work time
For the first few weeks/months of freelance life, I had some trouble with my work boundaries. I allowed a few friends and family to call or hang around and chat during my office hours. A half hour here, an hour there, and I lost so many accumulated hours of valuable work time per week.
Once I noticed what was happening, I took measures to stop it. I stopped answering the phone during work hours. You don’t have to be rude about it either. I just texted them after the ringing stopped “hey, I’ll call when I’m finished with work” and they started to get the point.
This tactic was another necessary way to separate work from play. No, I can’t gab with friends during work hours, and no, I can’t keep working into my family time either. As a freelancer, you have that freedom to design your own schedule, but you can’t sacrifice all your work time to friends and family.
Aside from these strategies, I also get dressed every single day. I can count on one hand (twice) the number of times I worked all day in my pajamas. I usually even put on makeup and earrings, even if I don’t intend to leave the house. These are just psychological triggers that seem to work for me and put me in “work mode.” Sure, I wear leggings many days, but I still get dressed and showered.
Well, I hope this helps you get a sense of how the work-life balance works for freelance writers. I’d love to hear about yours!
How about you?
How do you separate work and home life if you work at home?