Freelancing seems like a dream come true — you call all the shots and have the freedom to pick and work on projects according to your preferences. But with all its perks being your own boss could be a curse as well. On one hand, you could have so many projects lined up that you have to work all-nighters to meet the deadlines. On the other, business could be drying up and you are forced into working every single day to pay the bills, always worrying about 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 hesitate to turn to your competitors. As a result, you have to work even longer hours to keep your business afloat — it’s a slow but steady downward spiral into stress and depression.
In the end, you realized that almost all your waking hours are devoted 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 from an office job. Even worse, with no set hours there’s nothing to stop you from overworking and burning yourself out.
Understand that you are no good to anyone or anything without first and foremost taking care of your mental health and well-being. Remember, the main draw of freelancing is the independence and flexibility to manage your own time, but part of being responsible for your own time is 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 you.
Consider taking a break every few hours of work to recharge your body and mind. It’s also a good idea to divide the day in blocks to make your hours more manageable. You might also want to dedicate hours when your concentration is higher for more important tasks.
Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean lazing around or having a food binge. 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 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 main takeaway here is to incorporate activities into your daily routine that are beneficial to your physical and mental well-being.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of working every single day of the week and burning weekends 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 likely work alone and from home 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 a listening ear and encourage you when you are feeling down from work.
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 might be unreachable at times. A planned vacation gives you something to look forward to, creating the motivation to finish your projects on time.
If you aren’t able to leave your work completely, why not try 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 so they know what to expect. Consider a 80/20 approach — spend 80% of your time on vacation and 20% working on your projects.
It’s recommended to have some savings so you don’t have to worry about money while on 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 similar benefits to an overseas vacation.
You can also sign up for activities and explore places that will inspire you as a graphic designer. For a start, design museums are a great way to get your creative juices flowing and improve your design knowledge by exposing yourself to the works of talented designers.
All in all, as a freelancer it’s important to give yourself some time to relax and regroup. Learning to take a break from freelancing goes a long way to ensure success by improving your productivity, mental health and creativity.
Work-life balance can be hard to achieve when you are 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.
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 difficult as it can be you have to put them aside as best as possible so you don’t do or say things that you might regret later on.
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 are emotionally unstable, it’s impossible to do good work. Taking a break will calm your nerves and realign your mindset.
At the same time, realize that there’s a difference between taking a break and procrastination, and one can only achieve success by moving forward. Ultimately, you have the responsibility as a professional to meet deadlines, manage your time, and avoid procrastination — while taking enough breaks so you don’t burn yourself out.