Who doesn’t want a better work-life balance? Self-employed people though, especially those who are self-employed working from home, can find it even more difficult to know when to stop and sometimes when to start!
Many more of us have been pushed to work from home due to the Coronavirus crisis. That’s set to be a permanent change in many cases. Whether you are employed or self-employed, home-based working gives you a lot more autonomy and a lot less direct support. It can take time to get into the rhythm of this new way of working.
Persevere; it’s worth it!
Here are our top tips for getting the work-life balance right when you work from home:
1. Plan your time
Lack of planning leads to poor use of time and stress. Planning your time is essential for a smooth work-life balance for anyone, but even more so for the self-employed who often only have themselves to account to. Don’t put things off. Write your top three priorities down every morning and do them before anything else.
2. Keep your working hours flexible if you can
Self-employment is after all about you being the boss, so no more 9-5 unless it’s necessary. Lots of the growing number of self-employed parents do a short day shift if the kids are at school and another shift after bed-time. I myself am not at my best in the mornings, so I meet friends or go for a walk or to the gym then and hit the desk from 12 – 7pm every day. It’s another joy of self-employment, or autonomous working, that you can often work in time with your own body clock or priorities.
3. Use planning to slow down and get balance
Plan gaps in your day and ensure you organise non-work gaps in your weekends and evenings as well. It is absolutely counter-productive to work non-stop. If you don’t plan breaks, your body will demand them when the toil takes its toll on your mental or physical health. Build in balance: that can include time out to do absolutely nothing, but try also to make time for connection with friends and loved ones as well.
4. Make the space
Keep your workspace separate with either a dedicated area at home or, if you need more space for products or equipment, think about hiring a flexible office storage space.
Even if it is just a corner of a room, try to keep your desk free of all other clutter. Close it off with a screen that you can put up when you are working and then fold away for the rest of the time.
Alternatively get an office away from it all or hire a desk by the day or the hour at a co-working centre. Co-working has the advantage of building in connection with co-workers and can be an excellent way of overcoming the isolation many self-employed people feel when they work on their own at home.
5. Set your priorities and be prepared to let things go
You don’t have to do everything. Prioritise the things that are important and be prepared to drop anything that’s not. Focus on the tasks that are directly related to bringing in revenue. Ask yourself who would notice or care if you didn’t update your Facebook page every day? If it’s a ‘nice to do’ rather than a business imperative, then let it go.
6. Share the load
It’s not true that you are the only one who can do things. Get others to help and don’t fuss if they don’t do it quite the way that you would. The best way to grow your business more quickly is to focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. You can find freelancers for all types of business support tasks, like marketing, administration and design, on platforms like peopleperhour. Technology can ease the burden too: for example you can simplify and streamline financial management using an online accounting package and, depending on your line of business, there are tools for project management, customer service and so on that can save considerable time and energy.
Over 60% of new small firms are family businesses. If you decide to run a business with your partner, work-life balance becomes even more of an issue. Plan to share domestic, social and wider family responsibilities according to your interests and talents. Make sure you allow yourself time away from your ‘work colleagues’! Plan a regular day or evening out with friends.
7. Value your time
Look at all tasks you do such in your business and home, for example gardening, cleaning, book-keeping and developing your website. If you can afford it, free yourself up by paying someone else to do the support tasks. Maybe you could barter with other self-employed associates? This gives you more time and energy to focus on what you are good at and what you can command higher fees for.
8. Look after yourself
When you are self-employed you will need lots of energy. Taking care of your wellbeing is essential. Take regular exercise, drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet. The trick is to plan ahead. Schedule time in your diary for a regular walk or exercise.
And remember to move. Sitting is very much the new smoking. Sitting for too long will have detrimental impacts on your long-term health and mobility. Substitute your commute for a local walk. Schedule regular trips to the kettle. Try and get up and moving at least once every hour. You could also look into a standing desk. It doesn’t need to be fancy. A wide shelf or a pile of books can do just as well as a purpose-built affair.
If you get it right, working from home while self-employed or employed, can and will deliver a great work-life balance.
Statistics tell us that the self-employed and people who have more autonomy over their time, work themselves harder, but are happier with their lot. Having control over your time and workload is definitely one of the reasons why.