How NOT to Become a Overworked Freelance Hermit

July 2, 2024
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It's 3 AM. You're still at your desk, empty cups scattered around you like some bizarre crop circle. You can't remember the last time you saw the sun, let alone another human being. Sound familiar? That’s definitely a sign of an overworked individual.

Welcome to the wild world of freelancing, where the line between work and life is about as clear as your vision after staring at a screen for 12 hours straight.

But fear not, my fellow freelance warriors! It doesn't have to be this way. Let's talk about how to create a healthy life balance without sacrificing your sanity (or your wifi connection). I say life balance instead of work/life balance because for us our work is part of our lives. It's what makes our lives possible.

The Myth of the 24/7 Hustle

First things first, let's bust this myth wide open. You know the one I'm talking about. The idea that to be a successful freelancer, you need to be “always on,” answering emails at midnight and working weekends like they're going out of style.

Newsflash! Burnout is not a badge of honor. It's a one-way ticket to Exhaustion Town, population: you.

I’ve talked to multiple freelancers who prided themselves on their “always available” status at some point. They answer client emails at 2 AM and take on rush jobs on weekends. It’s not sustainable. After six months or so, they are overworked, cranky, caffeine-fueled zombies who couldn't remember the last time they’ve seen their friends. Not exactly the freelance dream, right?

Setting Boundaries: Your New Superpower

Here's the secret to having a balanced life that nobody tells you: You have to create it. It won't magically appear just because you work for yourself. Here are some boundaries to consider.

Set Office Hours (And Stick to Them)

Decide on your work hours and communicate them to clients. Then go a step further and use an auto-responder outside these hours. Something like: “Thanks for your email! I'm currently out of the office and will respond during business hours: Monday-Friday, 9 AM-5 PM.”

Create a Dedicated Workspace

Even if it's just a corner of your living room, have a space that's just for work. When you're done for the day, physically leave that space. It's like clocking out, but without the soul-crushing fluorescent lights.

Learn to Say No (Without Feeling Guilty)

You don't have to take on every project that comes your way. You shouldn’t take on every project that comes your way. Saying no to work that doesn't align with your goals or schedule frees you up to say yes to better opportunities (and, you know, having a life).

Pro Tip: Practice saying no in the mirror. Seriously. It gets easier with repetition and it's the key to not being overworked.

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The Great Outdoors are Not Just for Bear Grylls

Remember the sun? That big, bright thing in the sky? It misses you. And your body misses it too.

Make it a point to get outside every day. Even if it's just for a 15-minute walk around the block. It's amazing what some fresh air and vitamin D can do for your mood and productivity.

One freelance content writer I know started taking his dog for a walk every morning before sitting down to work. Not only did his step count go up, but he also found that his creative juices flowed better after some morning movement.

Humans Need Humans (Even Introverts)

Working for yourself doesn't mean you have to become a hermit. In fact, it's crucial that you don't. Here are some alternatives to always working alone.

Join a Coworking Space (Even Part-Time)

Being around other humans can do wonders for your mental health and creativity. Plus, you never know who you might meet. Your next collaboration could be just a shared coffee machine away.

Schedule Regular Meet-Ups

Set up weekly or monthly coffee dates with other freelancers or friends. Good conversation, good friends, and tasty beverages? It’s a win-win-win! You might also consider joining professional groups or attend networking events in your field.

Use Technology to Stay Connected

Have you ever considered joining online communities in your niche? You should! If that’s not something that appeals, set up virtual coworking sessions with fellow freelancers (or join one of mine). Work together via video chat, even if you're working on different projects.

I’ve often felt isolated working by myself for days on end. I started hosting regular coworking sessions for my content strategy group. We come together to work, chat (during breaks), and share tips. It’s become one of the highlights of of my work time.

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The Art of Unplugging

In a world of 24/7 connectivity, unplugging can feel like cutting off a limb. But trust me, it's more like cutting off a ball and chain.

Yes, It's Scary. Do It Anyway.

  1. Set Technology-Free Times
    • Designate certain hours (or even full days) as no-tech zones.
    • Use this time to read, pursue hobbies, or gasp interact with people face-to-face.
  2. Create a Bedtime Routine
    • Set a “digital sunset” time when you stop looking at screens.
    • Develop a relaxing pre-bed routine that doesn't involve work or technology.
  3. Take Real Vacations
    • When you take time off, really take time off. No checking emails “just in case.”
    • Set up an out-of-office message and stick to it. The world won't end if you're unreachable for a week.

If the thought of being unreachable gives you hives, designate an “emergency contact” for true urgencies. But be clear about what constitutes an emergency (Hint: “I can't find the attachment” is not an emergency).

Less Can Be More

Here's a mind-bender for you. Did you know working fewer hours can make you more productive? I know, it sounds like freelance heresy. But hear me out.

When you limit your work hours, you:

  1. Focus better during the time you do work
  2. Make more efficient use of your time
  3. Have more energy and creativity because you're well-rested

The Self-Care Non-Negotiables

Self-care isn't just bubble baths and face masks (though if that's your jam, go for it). It's about taking care of your physical and mental health so you can show up as your best self for your work and your life. Set goals to regularly practice at least three of these activities each week:

  • Prioritize Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours a night. Your brain will thank you.
  • Move Your Body: Find a form of exercise you enjoy and make it a regular part of your routine.
  • Eat Real Food: It's tempting to survive on coffee and takeout. Resist. Your body needs actual nutrients.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Whether it's meditation, journaling, or just taking a few deep breaths, find ways to stay present and manage stress.

You are your most important client. Invest in yourself accordingly.

Your Personal Life Balance Barometer

Regular check-ins with yourself are crucial. Set a recurring calendar reminder (monthly or quarterly) to assess your work-life balance. No, seriously. Pull up your calendar now and set a monthly meeting with yourself.

During that meeting, Ask yourself:

  • Am I enjoying my work?
  • Do I have time for the people and activities I love?
  • How's my stress level?
  • Am I taking care of my health?

If the answers aren't what you'd like them to be, it's time to make some adjustments.

The Bottom Line: You're Playing the Long Game

Creating a healthy life balance as a freelancer isn't a one-time task. It's an ongoing process of adjustment and refinement.

Remember, the goal of freelancing isn't just to make a living—it's to create a life you love. One where work is a part of your life, not your entire life.

So, step away from the computer and stop staring at your phone. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Read a book. Take a nap. Do something, anything, that isn't work.

Your freelance career will thank you. Your mental health will thank you. And your future self, the one who's living a balanced, fulfilling life while still rocking their freelance career? They'll definitely thank you.

Author

  • Treasa Edmond

    With 30 years in the workforce, 15 of those running her own freelance writer and content strategy business, Treasa has worked with all kinds of clients. It took her years to break out of an employee mindset so she could become the boss of her business. Now she's sharing her proven client management strategy and communication process so you can become the boss of your business today!


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