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Everyone has a boss, even freelancers. In fact, when you work for several clients, you effectively have several bosses, each with unique demands and expectations. Now, while you do have the option to accept or refuse certain projects, and can work whichever hours you please, having bills to pay means having to meet their demands or even exceed their expectations. Unlike an employer, even the most loyal clients can end the working relationship without notice.
That kind of pressure, or the desire to earn more money, can turn you into your very own taskmaster. It can also lead to burn-out and mental health issues. According to Harvard Business Review, the psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees cost the US economy $125 billion to $190 billion per year. If mental health issues can be costly to employers, they can be costly for you and your freelance career as well.
So, how do you juggle multiple expectations and demands? And where do you find that sense of freedom and flexibility that you wanted when you first began your freelance business?
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, boundaries create freedom. Consider competitive sports, games and driving. Even “successful” criminal gangs follow certain structures and codes of conduct, hence the term organised crime. That’s because without structure and boundaries, work would be chaotic and ineffective. And without drawing comparisons with the Mafia, the same applies to your freelance work.
So, as you start out on your freelance journey, or if you’re already on it and want to achieve a better work-life balance, it may be helpful to ask yourself a series of questions. What hours do you want to work? How much holiday do you want to take? Where will you be working? How will you separate your workspace from your relaxation space?
By clarifying and documenting the answers to these kinds of questions, you’ll increase efficiency, improve the bottom line and enrich your personal life. Here are just five pointers that will help you set the right kind of boundaries:
1. Start and finish work at the same time every day: even if you work from home, knowing when work begins and ends helps you to focus during work hours, and relax after hours, reducing stress. If you have to work overtime, record the number of additional hours worked and take time off in lieu. Putting your out-of-office when you’re not working will help resist the temptation to reply to emails when you’re, well, out of the office.
2. Separate your workplace from your living space: Having a separate location for work is ideal, although for some this might be a luxury. If you need to work at the kitchen table, try walking around the block before and after work, or take yourself to a coffee shop instead. Co-working spaces offer the ideal solution to this problem, and are becoming more and more affordable. I easily earn back what I spend on my desk thanks to the increased productivity.
3. Prioritise work tasks: it can be difficult to plan your day before you begin, and I’m often tempted to just crack on with an ongoing project. But if you set specific times for checking your email or engaging on social media, you’ll be more productive in the long run. Naturally, you may have to respond to urgent requests from time to time, but having set times for set tasks will make you more efficient and remove distractions.
4. Sub-contract where possible: most translators and copywriters are translators and copywriters because that’s what they’re good at (with a few exceptions). So, focus on what you do well and delegate other tasks, like bookkeeping or marketing, to people who are good at what they do. Not only will you free up time to focus on your own work, you’ll also free up valuable thinking space.
5. Know and minimise your distractions: according to a survey by Poly, 99% of us get distracted at work, which is not surprising. While some say distractions are not a big deal, a study by the University of California, Irvine, suggests that our perceived ability to re-focus is unfounded. The cost is more speed and stress (which can harm the quality of our work). To limit distractions, take a break every 90 minutes to check your emails or grab a tea or coffee. You could also try putting your phone in a draw or getting a smart watch. For me, this has removed the temptation to check my mobile every few minutes. I can quickly glance at my wrist to find out whether the message is urgent or not.
Keytext works with expert copywriters and translators to help businesses communicate effectively with their target audience, anywhere in the world. Unlike other agencies, we offer our clients the option to work via email with their choice of copywriter, translator or editor to improv efficiency, communication and quality.