Balance Is Key For Self-employed


Balance Is Key For Self-employed

People have this strange idea about being self-employed …

It sounds sort of glamorous and luxurious; like we spend our whole day sipping lattes with our self-employed friends while everyone else is at the office, or that we are at home in our comfy-pants whilst all those poor regular workers have to don a tie or heels. And despite the fact that I am currently sitting at home in my comfy pants (it’s only 8.00am, don’t judge me), I can tell you that being self-employed or running your own business, isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be. It’s actually a lot of work (the fact that I am already up and working when I am definitely not a morning person should be case and point of that).

Don’t get me wrong, being your own boss has its perks. For example, my boss really doesn’t mind if I bring my dog to work, but when you run your own business it can be easy to fall into the trap of simply ‘always working’. See, when you work at an office you usually have set hours and set days; 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Evenings and weekends are your own time, and it’s easier to differentiate between your work-life and your personal-life because they are for the most part separate. But it’s different when you’re self-employed.

I can do my work just as easily at 10.00pm on a Saturday night as I can at 9.00am on a Monday morning, nobody’s switching off the office lights and telling me to go home. There’s a lot of freedom in that, but when you run your own business, and the workload feels never-ending, you can start to feel like you’re chained to your computer. This got me thinking … When there’s always someone trying to get in contact with you or something you need to finish or fix or organise, how can you really manage to achieve a work-life balance?

Well, having been self-employed for over 10 years, I’ve got some ideas:

  • Just because you can work all the time doesn’t mean you should.

Just because there isn’t some corporate team regimenting you to a 40-hour work week, doesn’t mean that you can’t put a few restrictions on yourself. I know many self-employed people who create their own ‘office hours’, both so that people know when to contact them and expect a reply and so that they know when to put the computer away. For some people this might look like 9 to 5 every weekday, or maybe 9 to 12 every day; others might not like the thought of confining themselves to such strict working hours, but the point is really just to set some boundaries. If Sunday is going to be your ‘holy’ work-free day, then don’t you even think about answering those emails until the calendar ticks over to Monday.

  • You need to know that it’s okay to put the laptop away even if the work isn’t all finished.

There is always going to be more to do (always), but sometimes you just need to switch off. I know someone who turns her phone off at 7.00pm every night and doesn’t turn it back on till 8.00am; anybody who wants to get in contact with her after that simply has to wait till the morning, and they do. Maybe for you, that’s unrealistic but the point is your downtime will feel a lot more relaxing without the constant ‘bing’ of your phone in the background demanding your attention.

  • Surround yourself with the right people.

It can be hard to find people who really understand the demands of running your own business. Because the fact of the matter is, there will be times when in the middle of dinner the world will start imploding for no particular reason, and you will need to take that phone call and go hide in your office for five hours. It’s just a part of being self-employed. You need to find people who understand that (and can forgive you for it) but you also need people who are able to keep you accountable and tell you when it can wait.

You need to find someone who will drag you out of your office and take you out for some much-needed sunshine or someone who’s not afraid to remind you that on Sunday you don’t answer emails. Creating balance can be hard, but it’s easier when you’ve got someone helping you along the way.

  • Don’t feel guilty.

That’s one thing that is sure to ruin your downtime in about a second. You’re out ‘actually’ sipping your latte with friends, and then you remember that report that needs finishing or those quotes that need emailing, and you instantly feel so guilty for trying to enjoy yourself. Stop it! The reports will be there in an hour, the quotes will wait, and this ‘downtime’ is more important than you think.

Because the reality is, if you give yourself some time to unwind and think about other things then when you do return to your work, you’ll remember why you decided to start your own business in the first place. You’ll remember why you’re passionate about what you do and why you care so much about this business succeeding and you’ll be happier and more productive for it.

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