When I tell people I’m self-employed often the reaction is “Wow, that’s awesome, you can take time off whenever you want!” While being your own boss does give you freedom to make your own rules, you will never have a successful business if you don’t put the hard work in.
The reality of running a business (especially when still in early stages) is quite the opposite of what many of my peers had presumed. My greatest struggle is trying not to overwork and switching myself off from work. Over time I’ve gotten much better, but it took a few months to really get into my routine, and set strategies and boundaries to help best use my working hours and take well-deserved time off.
If you're running your own business or thinking of taking that leap to start your own business, here are my tips for achieving a healthy work-life balance when self-employed:
I myself am happy with working pretty regular hours, working 9-5 with a maximum leeway of extending to 6 if I’m in the zone to keep working that extra hour or to make up for an extended lunch break I took that day.
When you’re your own boss you can set your working hours around picking up your kids from school, taking that lunchtime gym class, or perhaps you’re a super early riser or night owl. Pick what suites your lifestyle and stick to a clear regular schedule.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO SWITCH OFF
As part of your routine don’t forget to set a time for breaks. In my previous job at a design studio I always took around 20 minutes of my lunch break to go for a walk in the nearby park. I found it great to recharge, clear my head and stretch my muscles. This routine was lost when I began working for myself as I fell into the trap of shortening my breaks. I’m now trying to reintroduce short walks into my lunchtime break and I’m instantly feeling the benefits in my afternoon work.
I’m very strict on myself that I cannot look at client emails at the weekend. I failed at this for the first few months of my business and it caused me to overwork and run myself down very quickly. Overworking only causes stress and you will end up producing poorer quality work. Don’t get in that trap – look after yourself!
STICK TO IT
There will always be the friends and family who assume now that you’re self-employed you are free anytime. Technically, yes you can slack off, but avoid the temptation. A strict routine is what will make your business run smoothly and consistently. Get that right, stick to it and let people know you have office hours for working.
Similarly, stand your ground on the time you take off. Make clients aware of your working hours and when they can contact you. If a client expects you to work late or over the weekend let them know you are not available or that they will have to pay a premium rate for you to work overtime. If a client cannot respect your boundaries and is continuously calling you outside of office times you may want to consider if that sort of client is worth the hassle.
Maintaining a healthy life-work balance is something that takes discipline and practice. Over time, sticking to my routine has become easier and helps me get the most out of productive days and enjoyable time off. All in all, keeping a health life-work balance is vitally important for successfully running your business and keeping yourself happy!