Finding the fuel: A self-care guide for freelancers

Because a day off here and there just doesn’t cut it

guide for freelancers
Chapter 3

Your highest priorities: Accounting for “you”

Corporate burnout is one of the many things that can push us to choose the freelance life. What no one tells you is that freelancing can also put you on the fast track to burnout. Being a freelancer means you now run the entire show and more responsibility can often lead to more stress. The key to avoiding burnout is through self-care and actively working towards a better work-life balance. Working for yourself doesn’t automatically bring more peace just because you don’t have someone else telling you what to do. Being a successful freelancer or business owner is about managing your energy and finding, and honoring, ways to protect yourself in times of stress. 

Freedom is what motivates many freelancers. Freedom to set your own hours, freedom to work on projects that you are passionate about, freedom to work with whom you choose, financial freedom, freedom is what makes the freelance life so attractive. That same freedom can also feel restrictive if you don’t honor it and hold space for the things that bring you joy and fulfillment outside of work. 

As a freelancer, it’s up to you to keep track of all of the moving parts. You control your workload, your calendar and how you spend your time. In the midst of accounting for everything it takes to run your business successfully, give equal attention to accounting for you and what enables you to show up every day as the best version of yourself.

What are the most important priorities in your life?

The most important question one should ask themselves as a freelancer is “What are my most important priorities outside of work?”

Is spending more time with your family a priority? Block your calendar off for school pickups, after school activities, family dinners, lunches with friends, whatever that looks like for you. Always dreamed of being able to go to that yoga class at 11am on Wednesdays? Schedule it in your calendar. Always dreamed of having more time to read or fuel your creativity? Give yourself regular blocks of time to make that happen. Whatever your top priorities are outside of work, set aside time in your weekly schedule to do those things. You make the rules now. 

Prioritizing yourself isn’t easy, but it guarantees greater fulfillment and joy in everything you do. There will always be times when you feel the pressure to put your personal priorities on the back burner and sometimes, you will make exceptions. However, consistently honoring your commitments to yourself is the secret to avoiding burnout, ultimately making you a better person and a better business owner.

Here are some strategies that you can use to achieve better work life balance.

Protect your energy at all costs - not all clients are worth it

Some clients are just not worth the stress and that is ok. One of the perks of freelancing is that you are in control and you get to pick and choose who you work with. If you and a client can’t seem to get on the same wavelength, it’s ok. It’s perfectly fine for you both to move on. 

Saying goodbye to a toxic work relationship is an excellent form of self-care and a powerful way to take ownership of your energy and time. One lost client isn’t going to make or break your business. Letting go of a difficult relationship is actively clearing space to welcome in your ideal client. 

Set boundaries - Your calendar is your first line of defense

Setting boundaries is critical in every part of your life, especially when it comes to work. As a freelancer, you get to set your own work hours and when you let work eat into your personal time, it takes away from the time you could be spending on yourself to recharge your batteries. 

Working more does not make you more productive, it tends to reduce the quality of your work. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Set boundaries by actively managing your calendar to be your first line of defense. Schedule your work hours and stick to them.

Setting boundaries and sticking to your calendar also forces you to really consider the amount of work you can do. Overloading yourself leads to burnout and possibly poor client experience, ultimately doing more harm to your business than good. Knowing the volume of work you can realistically take on without making yourself miserable keeps stress levels down and makes your work life more enjoyable. Freelancing is about getting to do what you love. Don’t ruin that for yourself with impossible expectations.