One of the main reasons why I became a freelancer was to find the perfect work/life balance. But it wasn’t as easy to achieve as I thought it would be.
Everyone wants to find a good and healthy work-life balance. Many of us quit our jobs to go and work for ourselves in pursuit of that lifestyle.
However many sole entrepreneurs and small business owners still struggle to find a good work/life balance. We face different challenges to those who work for others, but we still find it hard for reasons like:
- We’re passionate about what we do, what makes it difficult to take breaks away from our jobs and focus on other daily routines.
- We have to wear too many hats. We do everything ourselves and there are always too many things to do and not enough time.
- We often don’t have specific working hours. We work while our kids sleep, weekends and public holidays. We never have a 9-5 job.
Building a business and looking after your family while staying productive, happy and healthy is the ultimate goal of any small business owner. So today I’m sharing some of my best tips to achieve an elusive work/life balance for those who work for themselves.
1. Start the day with a good morning routine
When you work from home, who is going to notice you didn’t have a shower this morning or you are still in your pyjamas at 4 p.m.? Your morning routine could be reduced to go from bed directly to your computer.
But something I learned from working from home is that a good morning routine sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.
Anyone’s routine can be different. You may want to start your day with a beauty ritual, a healthy breakfast or going for a run. But don’t rush to start your computer, instead identify a few tasks to help you start your day in a healthy and positive way before jumping into work.
This other article on How To Craft A Morning Ritual To Supercharge Productivity by Richard Lazazzera gives great tips to start your day with a good morning routine.
2. Plan the day ahead
This is a topic that I personally love - and why I have an entire shop specialised in planning. All those hours spent in researching organisational methods and creating planning solutions for my shop has taught me a simple but essential thing about productivity: 10 mins of planning a day can save many hours of unproductive work every week.
My Mondays start by making a list of things to do along the week, combining work responsibilities with family activities. Then I schedule time to do each task, book appointments and prioritise.
To help you get yourself organised and plan your week ahead download the Free Printable Organisational Set that you can download from my Printable Library.
3. Set timeframes to do things
When you do a creative job it's easy to lose track of time. That’s why it’s important to plan not only what you have to do but also for how long.
While some ideas come easy, others take time. The longer I spend on seeking a great idea the harder it gets to find it. For that reason, I try to limit the time I spend working on a project to no longer than 3 hours a day. Having a timeframe helps me know when it’s time to stop and do sometime else.
4. Take breaks and days off
One of the best things of being self-employed is you can take breaks and holidays whenever you want. I sometimes stop working for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to do some outdoor activities with my 3-year-old son. Others my husband and I take a day off in the middle of the week just because it’s our wedding anniversary.
Some people feel they can’t afford to take time off when running a business. They work every weekend, every public holiday and their life become a long working session. Breaks are essential to disconnect for a few hours or a few days, reset yourself and go back to your work activities in a better frame of mind.
5. Focus on one big project at a time
When you are new in business you try to get as much work as possible to grow your business fast. But one thing you soon learn is that trying to manage several projects at the same time can bring a lot of stress and have a negative impact on your business.
Multitasking increases the chance to make easy mistakes, and make it harder to meet deadlines, which could end up damaging your professional image.
By taking on no more than one or two big projects a month I ensure I dedicate as much time as need to work on each project, giving my clients the attention they deserve and reducing significantly my level of stress.
6. Reduce the use of the phone
Being constantly on call is one of the worst sources of stress. I try to avoid the phone as much as I can. Trying to help a client while I’m chasing my 3-year-old boy all over the playground and without having the project information in front of me, won't prove to be very helpful.
Instead, I tried to schedule phone calls or set face-to-face meetings when I can. This way I make sure I’m well prepared before talking to a client, to answer their questions or address their concerns.
7. Eliminate low profitable jobs
When you love your job, you could make the mistake of working on things just because you love what you do, but not because they make money. If you want to see your business growing, focus on revenue generation.
Identify areas of your business that generate more revenue, or clients that bring more profit and focus on growing your business on these areas while reducing the amount of hours spent in less profitable ones.
When you have built a good client base, you can set a minimum fee per project and turn down jobs that don’t make the minimum fee.
8. Build production processes and automate tasks
As I explained in this other post on How To Resolve Common Challenges Of Marketing Design Services by identifying repeated tasks on a project and automating processes you can save yourself time to spend on other critical parts of your business or just enjoying family time.
For example, one of the things that I found easy to automate is client communications. Let’s say that a new potential client wants a new logo, clicks on my Branding Services page, see my logo design package and click on Buying Package. The system will ask for company and billing details that will automatically be sent to me by email. The client will receive a welcome email with the invoice, a design questionnaire and further information about timeframes and next steps. These automatic communications usually save me a lot of time while providing the client punctual and quick information on the project.
9. Choose freedom over money
An elusive work/life balance usually costs money. Not money that you have to spend in achieving that balance, but money that you won’t be able to make, because you will have more time for yourself.
You will have to turn down opportunities or outsource work just because you are over-capacity. We all have to learn to say no to work to be able to spend more time with your family. Making less money is the price of living a healthy and happy life.
In this other post published previously on my blog you can also find a list of Free Essential Tools for Small Businesses. Many of this tools can help you work smarter and spend less time working more time living that the life.
As a sole entrepreneur or small business owner, what are your main struggles to achieve an elusive work/life balance? What are your best tips to overcome those challenges?