Living the dream on a beach. Being my own boss. Spending time with family. Work whenever I feel like. Work wherever I want to. Sticking it to “the man”. These are all valid reasons why someone chooses to go into being full time freelancer. If you read between the lines of each you’ll see that they really boil down to the work-life balance. Everyone wants a better work/life balance and this especially holds true for freelancers.
When you become a freelancer, the work-life balance line is blurred so much that it’s almost non-existent. Especially in the beginning stages. When I started freelancing full time, my desk was in my bedroom. I literally had 4 steps from waking up in the morning to getting to work. I was working from 6am to 9pm. I was doing everything from sales calls in the kitchen to answering emails at the supermarket.
Let’s talk about what work-life balance is first. This is the idea where someone has some clear separation and prioritization between their work and their personal life.
If you were to walk up to someone on the street and asked them what they say work-life balance is you’d probably get something related to the hours they work and how it needs to be less. No one wants to work 50, 60, 70, or even 80 hours per week.
Often times folks who decide to become a freelancer think that they will be happier being able to work for themselves in the hopes that they will spend less time working and more time playing.
Here lies the rub. There’s much more to happiness than not working long hours. What about family life? What about the activities and social circles you are in? Does your favorite sports team constantly disappoint you? These are all things that are a part of your happiness.
I worked only 25 hours a week as a stock boy in a fabric store when I was 14 years old. I only worked half the week, but I wasn’t happy. Why? Because the job was terrible, I was a teenager with teenager problems. The fact I was a teenager pretty much defined me not being happy.
Being a freelancer just affords you to control the work in a more structured way so that just like a puzzle piece, the other aspects of your life can fit together to make you happy.
Let me explain this in another way. Work is a part of everyone’s life. We all need money to live (for the most part). Work is a part of life, it’s not something that sits alongside it. Work is something we’ll do more than anything else over the course of our lifetimes—more than sleep even.
This is something I’ve said for years and really all it means is that I’d rather do something I love and am passionate about because it affords me the opportunity to live the type of life I want for me and my family. This is opposed to being at a job where I’m obligated to do what others tell me, where to sit, who to work with, and have others define my value.
Becoming a freelancer gives you the ability to blueprint the type of work you do so that you can accomplish and reach the goals you have for your life.
Work Blueprint: Do something you enjoy
If we spend most of our waking hours working, why don’t we do something we enjoy doing.
Freelancing allows you to work on projects and with people that you choose. This lays out the blueprint for the lifestyle you want to live.
If you want to go away on vacation with your family, just plan my days prior accordingly. If you want to make a major purchase, but not dip into savings to do so, then look for more opportunities to take on projects.
Here’s my blueprint
I’m passionate about affecting the bottom line of a business. I’ve worked on many e-commerce platforms over the years as well. So it only makes sense to cater my freelance services to online businesses running e-commerce on their websites.
Being the data geek I am, I love to see how making website changes results in more sales. I minored in psychology in college, so the ways in which people think and act intrigues me. Therefore my services that are catering to folks running online stores are tailored to helping them get more customers.
This blueprint shows the projects and people I enjoy working with. It lays out what my freelance services are. This is the type of work that makes me happy.
Aside from that I am passionate about helping other freelancers build their businesses. Over the years I’ve seen too many businesses fall victim to freelancers dropping the ball. When they come across my desk looking to hire another freelancer for their project, I used to find myself in almost a defense mode talking about why I don’t run my business like their past freelancer.
This is something I hated doing, but more so that I hated seeing freelancers not helping themselves out by doing right by their own clients.
Since I’ve managed to build my freelance business with some success, I’ve been pretty vocal about helping other freelancers do the same. Whether that’s how to get the best clients to even talking about the biggest mistakes I’ve made freelancing.
I’m even on Snapchat every day showing behind the scenes of my business, giving tips and chatting with other folks on anything freelance life related.
This another aspect of my business that I enjoy and ultimately makes me happy. In taking these 2 aspects of my personality, I’m able to shape my business. I’m able to blueprint out exactly what sort of path my business takes. No other type of career can make this possible. Being a freelancer allows me to do that.
When my day ends and the work for the day is done, my mindset is poised for whatever the rest of the day brings. I’m rarely in a bad mood or stewing about the day’s events in a way in which it affects all other aspects of my life.
Blueprint for life
Anyone who works to make money, work is part of their life, whether they want to admit it or not. How they feel at the end of the work will affect how they feel and act for the rest of the day. The work-life balance is a fallacy that folks want to believe is reality.
I’ve been asked many times how I balance the two working from home. My answer is always the same “I don’t really, I can’t shut my brain off, but I can shut the screen off.”
There isn’t a work life vs personal life game going on for me. The lines are completely blurred to the point of almost being non-existent (the pay check may be the only semblance left).
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not working 80+ hours a week anymore. Those days are long gone for the most part. But I’ve built my business so that I don’t have to. I’ve laid down the groundwork of my business to be able to blueprint my life.
My freelance career is built so that should my wife and I want to get away for a few days, I’m able to do so. If I want to end the day because the little league team I’m coaching has a playoff game, I can. If I want to give myself a raise I can do so any number of different ways.
If I can do this, you can do this too. Focusing on what you enjoy doing and being able to optimize that is the key to this blueprint.
Think about the last time you had to goto DMV for something. You probably waited to the last possible day to do so. You dreaded going there the whole week. It occupied parts of your brain that cloud all others. This is because you are trying to avoid doing the thing you don’t enjoy doing. The same thing happens if you don’t enjoy working on things you don’t want to work on.
The reason time flies when you are having fun is because your brain is focused on what it’s doing and not wandering. You are able to get from A to B in a direct manner because of the focus. This holds true for work as well. If you enjoy what you do, then you don’t think of it as work so much.
A Game for you to play
When you retire (or if you had enough money to never need to work again), after one month what are you going to do?
This is a thought game I do myself from time to time. I sometimes wonder what retirement will look like. What will I occupy my time with every day? Will I sit on the porch watching the cars go by? Probably not. Will I play golf? Probably not. Will I spend as much time with family? Yes. Play video games? Probably.
But ultimately what’s going to be that piece that stimulates my mind? I’m a learner. I can’t sit still and do the same thing over and over again. That’s why I love the challenges that freelancing brings. Every single day is something new.
I ask myself this question and specifically after one month because let’s face it, that first month of retirement is going to be pretty sweet doing absolutely nothing other than maybe some traveling. However once the every day sets in, what is it that I’ll be doing?
I’ll be honest with you. I wouldn’t mind doing what I do right now. Helping folks build their business so that they can accomplish their goals and live the lives they want to.
If you are a freelancer and looking to have better work-life balance, stop looking to work less hours and start looking at the type of work and who you are working with. Make sure you enjoy both aspects of it. Blueprint out your work day so that your personal day benefits from it.
I’d love for you to ask yourself “When you retire (or if you had enough money to never need to work again), after one month what are you going to do?” and encourage you to share it in the comments below.