Rebecca reached out to me via email one day, offering to share her views about work-life balance and burnout prevention as a freelancer. I immediately said yes - burnout is an issue that needs more exposure, and everyone, whether freelancer of full-timer, needs to know how to work in such a way that is sustainable and healthy. On to you, Rebecca.
Everybody dreams about having the freedom of a freelancer, but not all people know how to manage what comes with it. As in all cases, working from home has its positive aspects, but also a few negative ones that should be considered and well-managed to achieve a work-life balance.
Working alone, without having to stress about going to the office, attending meetings, and socialising with everybody around might seem like the best way to be productive. And it is. But things are not always that simple. Working from home might also bring loneliness, depression and anxiety, insane working hours, and the impossibility to detach from the job or say “no” to new projects even when you lack time.
Continue reading this article and find out how to enjoy being a freelancer while keeping burnout at bay.
Create a Designated Work Space
To make sure you are productive and don’t let any distractions in your way, you need a designated workspace. Yes, you might occasionally work on your cosy sofa, but the main working place must be an area you don’t use for anything else. If you don’t eat, sleep, play games, or watch TV in that particular spot, you will train your brain that when you are there, it’s time for work.
Not only will this help you concentrate and get the work done, but it will also enable you to separate work from all the other activities you do at home. And, even, if your working area is a desk in the corner of the room, once work is done, move away and don’t return until the next day. You can always read your emails and check social media while sitting on your comfy couch, instead of mixing work with fun at your designated desk.
Take Care of Yourself and Find a Routine
Creating a designated work area is very helpful, but not enough. To achieve work-life balance as a freelancer, you also need a routine. For instance, I like getting dressed in the morning. It really helps me wake up and get things done. I know this might seem like a cliché, and I am not suggesting spending an hour grooming. But just putting on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt to avoid sitting all day in your pyjamas might help you get in a work mindset and avoid lazing around.
Reaching your deadlines is important, but so are your health and well-being. So, taking care of yourself should also be part of your routine. As a freelancer, not leaving the house for days and forgetting to eat and drink can easily happen. But with a proper schedule, everybody can overcome these issues. Try to have planned meals and do sport. If going to the gym is not your cup of tea, enjoy daily walks. Moving around and breathing fresh air will help you physically and mentally. My choice is to take dance classes twice a week and walk every day, after lunch for about an hour. It does help a lot!
Socialise, Socialise, Socialise
Many freelancers are also introverts, so socialising is not always the easiest part of life for them. I know how lonely freelancing can be, especially when living in remote areas. Online socialising can help sometimes, but it’s never enough. Try to meet your friends as often as possible, and when you are far from home, befriend other freelancers or become part of a freelance community. I moved around a lot, and when I was in a place where I found it hard to make new friends, I always used Meetup and Internations. You should give these a try. And, of course, if you want a romantic meeting, don't be afraid of dating apps.
Don’t Forget to Switch Off
For many workaholic freelancers, like myself, the most difficult part is to switch off. Sometimes, I find myself going on vacations with my laptop and spending half of my days working. Obviously, I love it, and it doesn’t feel like a burden. It does, however, stop me for completely relaxing, even if that was the purpose of my trip.
Giving yourself a break can be difficult, not only because you love your work, but also because you’re not going to be paid during this time. But you have to understand that constantly working will lead to burnout. So, make sure you have holidays like any employed person, without feeling bad about it.
To make sure I take my time off, once in a while, I go on active holidays. Whether it’s hiking escapes, scuba diving sessions or yoga retreats, these vacations help me disconnect. The last outdoor adventure I had, without my laptop, was a few months ago when I walked to El Camino de Santiago. Not only did I unwind and learned many things about myself, but the pilgrimage changed the way I looked at life and work.
These are some of the things you can do to achieve work-life balance as a freelancer and keep burnout away. But, of course, each person is different and has different needs, so you can add many other things on this list. And you should, because, if you want to be a successful freelancer, your physical and mental health are necessary.
Rebecca is a translator by day, and a traveler mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. You can read more of her exploits at RoughDraft.