Work-Life Balance for Freelancers: How to Set Boundaries and Avoid Burnout

Written by Josh Hoffman on February 15, 2018

As amazing as it is to create your own schedule, work wherever you want and travel the world as a digital nomad (if adventure’s your thing), it’s easy to overdo it and feel burned out. Of course, it can be hard to find the right work-life balance for freelancers, but if you’re constantly striving to hit the next deadline — and not making the time to see your friends and family members — you’re doing it wrong.

At one point in my freelance career, after I figured out how to market myself and build a strong personal brand, I had so many clients that I became blinded by all the money they were throwing my way. In the short-term, it was great: I was making a ton of money (even though I had to work 50–70 hours per week for it). In the long-run, I crashed and burned — hard. I lost all but one of my clients and 70 percent of my income, while falling into the kind of depression where you can barely get out of bed.

That’s why it’s imperative to establish (and follow) rules that will protect your sanity by promoting a healthy pace of growth for your business. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Develop Criteria for Accepting New Clients

Saying “no” is one of the most difficult habits to develop, because it can be incredibly easy to say “yes” when someone wants to put money in your pocket. But there’s only so much time in the day, and since services take time to provide, your time is your biggest asset. Treat it wisely by developing self-imposed criteria for why you say “yes” to certain clients and “no” to others.

My criteria is as follows: I say “yes” to new clients who are willing to pay my hourly rate (at least $125 an hour) and allow me the creative freedom to focus on my greatest strengths: developing a high-level digital marketing strategy and consulting.

Remember That Less Can Sometimes Be More

Lately, more and more freelancers have been starting side projects. That’s definitely a perk of the indy life: You have more free time and a more flexible schedule to explore new ventures.

But embarking on one too many endeavors at once can stretch you too thin and cause unwanted anxiety. When I saw that happening to myself, I created this rule: I can only work on a maximum of three ventures at any given time (currently I’m focusing on consulting, Epic Freelancing and coaching basketball).

Develop Rules for Yourself

Since most of us are connected virtually at all hours, checking email day and night or being on-call during most (if not all) waking hours seems to be the new norm. To limit the “always on, always available” work climate, I’ve created a few rules and systems.

First, I don’t work past midnight, and I don’t check my phone first thing when I wake up. In fact, I put my phone on airplane mode overnight so I don’t wake up to who-knows-how-many notifications. And then I don’t switch it off until after I’ve completed my morning routine: wash up, do a full-body stretch and prepare breakfast. Note: The phone alarm still works on airplane mode.

Additionally, I use Acuity Scheduling to schedule meetings and phone calls with clients, which allows me to limit my availability to a five-hour window each workday.

At the end of the day, it’s important to establish boundaries that work for you and your indy life. When you discover a better work-life balance for freelancers, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll establish effective boundaries — and actually stick to them.

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