If you’re a freelancer or independent contractor, more likely than not, your work is always at the forefront of your mind. For many, acting in this position can be more stressful than those in “regular role” positions. That’s because when your home is also your office and your regular computer is your work computer, switching off at the end of the day can feel almost impossible. Here are a few ways you can achieve work-life balance as an independent contractor and avoid dreaded burnout!
Switch Off Your Work Email Alerts
The first step we advise you to take is to shut off your work email alerts on your smartphone. Your clients certainly dismiss themselves from work once they get home from the business, so why shouldn’t you? While having work emails on your phone is necessary in today’s world, those alerts can also send you into a state of anxiety when you get that dreaded last-minute email at 7:00 pm. More often than not, you’ll feel the pull to address that email (after you’ve already worked your full day) rather than set it aside for tomorrow.
Do yourself a favor and turn those alerts off at the end of the workday. More likely than not, your job as a freelancer is not life or death. Your client’s company will not go up in flames if you wait until the next workday to start to address their issue.
Know Your Worth: Be Open to Firing Clients Who Drain You Beyond Capacity
When you’re running your own independent contractor business, it can feel like every single client is beyond important. To practice quality customer experience, you will want to go out of your way to give each and every client the best experience possible. Not only because they are your clients, but also because your clients can act as a referral system for your business.
Remember, not all clients are going to be the right client for you. Of course, you’ll have those that are extremely easy to work with where projects go off without a hitch. And you’ll have others who may throw a few curveballs at you that you’ll need to learn how to cope with. But beware of those who make you question your self-worth and drain all of your energy. We’ve all heard horror stories of nightmare clients. Do yourself a favor and be open to parting ways with those who make you question why you do what you do in the first place!
Know Your Limits
This subjective concept can be one of the hardest things for independent contractors to get a grip on. That is because the more work you have going on, the more stability you have. The more you take on beyond your capacity, the more drained you will feel. When this begins to happen, your work begins to suffer as well as your mental and physical state. The last thing you want to do is suffer a burnout.
If saying “no” is too much for you, remember you can always ask for extended deadlines or using the phrase “not right now”. You control your own workload. Communicate your availability and ask for the appropriate amount of lead time on larger projects.
With that Said, Outsource When You Need to
If you’re someone who can’t say no, then it might be time to outsource. You’ll want to begin building a network of other professional freelancers to make sure your clients are getting the same quality of work. Another thing to consider is outsourcing aspects of your business that you don’t have much expertise in. If you’re not great with numbers or money, consider hiring someone in finance to take away that burden and stress. Are you stressed out about correspondence and appointment setting? Try utilizing a virtual assistant or scheduling software. Not only will this help keep you organized but can also free up extra time to take on that extra work (or give you needed “me” time away from the business!).
Keep Your Workspace Separated from Your Living Space
As a freelancer, it may be tempting to set up shop on your couch or bed each day. But this is one of the worst things you can do for your mental health! When you work in the spaces you live and relax in, it can become harder and harder to disconnect from work once your workday is over. Do yourself a favor and set up a home office or find an outside space you like to work in. When you have dedicated workspaces you can keep yourself productive and focused, rather than getting distracted by home chores or other means of procrastination.
Set Actual Work Hours
As we said before, your clients follow workday hours, so why shouldn’t you? While you have the benefit of flexible working hours as a freelancer, make sure you stick to a set schedule of them. If you work better when you begin your workday at midmorning and work til dinner, do so. But keep it consistent. When your work for the day is fulfilled, you need to step away and unplug from the business.
The same goes for adhering to time off and sick days. Many freelancers tend to think they can still work when they’re sick. Or that they should be working during time off. Just because you have your laptop or access to your work emails on your phone doesn’t mean you don’t need time off to reset and recover like the rest of the world. Your work and productivity levels will thank you when you take the time you need to recharge.
CPA Counseling for Independent Contractors
We know work-life balance is hard for most people. And it can feel impossible for those who work as independent contractors. Counseling can be a helpful tool to help you make mindfulness techniques a part of your daily life. Sharing your burnout with your therapist can help you both stay on the same page and keep you accountable in working towards your goals. Therapy and counseling are safe spaces where you can voice your concerns, develop coping and communication skills, and find the support you need.
Remember, therapy is hard work! It can feel extremely uncomfortable and even exhausting. Having a hand to hold and help guide you will only add to your personal success. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has one location in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and one in the Robinson area. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you as an independent contractor!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Dave Lori – LPC
Dave has had the honor and privilege of working in the mental health field for the past 20 years. His experience ranges from family-systems work to individualized-focus. His clinical orientation ranges from client-centered, solution-focused, humanistic and Existential approach. Dave believes in providing a strength-based, supportive, authentic and non-judgmental approach to the therapeutic process. We all face various challenges and have the ability to reach our personal goals given the independent choices we make each day.