Freelancing seems like a dream come true — you call all the shots and have the freedom to do work according to your own time.
Unfortunately, being your own boss can be a curse as well. On one hand, you could have so many projects lined up that you have to work all-nighters just to meet the deadlines. On the other, business might be drying up and you’re sucked into working every single day to pay the bills, wondering when the next paycheck will come.
Over time, you start producing substandard work due to loss of motivation, resulting in unhappy clients who won’t hesitant to leave you for your competitors. You then have to work even more hours to keep your business afloat. It’s a downward spiral into stress and depression.
In the end, you realize that you have devoted all your available time to earning money — so much so that you miss out on the simpler things in life. Freelancing is no longer about passion for you, and has become no different than an office job. Even worse, with no set hours, there’s nothing to stop you from overworking and burning yourself out.
Understand that you’re no good to anyone or anything without first and foremost being good to yourself and your well-being. Remember, the reason you went into freelancing is for the independence and the flexibility to manage your own time — including knowing when to take a break. And it doesn’t have to be a vacation; even a few minutes from your workstation will do wonders for your physical and mental health.
In your daily schedule, consider taking a break in the afternoon. By dividing the day in half, tasks will seem more manageable. You should also take a few minutes of rest after every few hours of working to recharge your body and mind.
However, taking a break doesn’t mean you lounge in your couch and do nothing. Instead, consider an activity such as exercise. Working up a sweat alleviates your stress levels, improves your overall brain performance, boosts creativity and gives you a happy buzz by releasing endorphins to your brain.
Meditation is also an effective way to achieve peace of mind, greater focus and creativity. It only takes a few minutes every day, but the benefits can be life changing. If you want to learn more about meditation, be sure to check out The Meditation Beginner’s Bible.
The bottom line is that you incorporate activities into your daily routine that are beneficial to your well-being.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of working every single day of the week, and use weekends as time to push yourself ahead of deadlines. However, there is a reason why many institutions follow the typical workweek and weekend. The two days of rest recharges your brain and body, boosting your productivity in the long run.
Consider taking weekends off to spend time with friends and family. Since you usually work alone as a freelancer, it’s important to maintain healthy social relationships so you don’t get shut out from the outside world. Your loved ones can also provide an listening ear and encourage you when you’re down.
Even if weekends aren’t an option for you, make sure to have at least have one rest day every week.
No graphic designer can work 365 days a year and still churn out great designs. The same goes for you. It’s important to schedule out periods of time in a year for vacations — just be sure to let your clients know in advance that you will be away and unreachable. Planning ahead also gives you something to look forward to, giving you the motivation to finish your projects on time.
If you aren’t able to leave your work completely, you can do a working trip. After all, the beauty of freelancing is that you can work anytime and anywhere. However, inform your clients about your plans beforehand they know what to expect. In addition, consider a 80/20 approach: spend 80% of your time on vacation and 20% working on your projects.
It’s a good idea to have some savings so you don’t have to worry about money while on a vacation. As a cheaper alternative, consider staycations, which are holidays spent locally instead of abroad. A staycation is not only inexpensive, but also involves less planning and travel stress, while providing the same benefits as a vacation.
It’s never a bad idea to try out activities and explore places that will inspire you as a graphic designer, whether you’re on a vacation or staycation. For a start, design museums are great to get your creative juices flowing.
With all the suggestions above, the important takeaway is that you give yourself some time to relax and regroup. Learning to take a break from freelancing goes a long way to ensure success in your career by improving your productivity, mental health and creativity.
Work-life balance can be hard to achieve when you’re your own boss. However, sometimes you just have to put your work aside, and set boundaries with clients that they would respect in order to get your life back.
In another situation, a client might be so difficult to deal with that you just want to give up. Here is when you should take a break and reassess your priorities. Emotions can get in the way of professionalism, and you don’t want to do or say things that will cost you a valuable relationship.
There will also be times when life just doesn’t go your way. You might have had an argument with a loved one or suffered a personal tragedy. When you’re emotionally unstable, it’s impossible to do good work. Taking a break will calm your nerves and realign your mindset.
At the same time, you have to differentiate between taking a break and procrastination. While it’s important to relax, the way to success is to keep moving forward. Ultimately, you have the responsibility to meet deadlines, manage your time, avoid procrastination, and take enough breaks so you don’t burn yourself out.
Taking a break is very important to your long-term success as a freelance graphic designer. With discipline and the right attitude, you will be able to work hard and play hard whenever and wherever.