Let’s start off with a bit of a disclaimer for this post. Do I have a perfect work/life balance? Absolutely not. The truth is, that balance isn’t always possible on an everyday basis. I don’t always succeed. But after nearly 3 years of being a freelancer and essentially running my own business, I have been able to just about eek out a bit of time outside of all the million and one things that are entailed in running the show around here.
If there’s one thing I often hear from bloggers of all kinds – whether you are trying to blog whilst having a full-time job (Yes, I did this for 4 years), while you have a part-time gig (did that for a few months too) or if you work full time as a freelancer, you are probably struggling with this. I admit things aren’t as insane as they were when I was full-time and I was trying to bring my blog and freelance work to the point where I knew I’d be able to just about support myself. For a good year/year and a half, I had absolutely no time to myself. Like, none. Every weekend and every evening outside of my normal working hours, I was working on my blog.
Was it fun? Nope. Did it nearly kill me? Yep. Did it affect my relationship with my partner? Oh yes. It was HARD. And so, for those of you hustling with a very clear-cut goal to make your blog and freelance work sustain you to the point where you can quit your job, all I can say is, you will struggle to make it work for a time and no, you won’t have balance. But but but. It will get a bit better.
Notice I say ‘a bit’ because honestly, things will always be a little crazy. When I went part-time at my job, I thought it would free up my time to concentrate on my blog. And it did. But all that magical free-time I thought I’d have? Didn’t really happen. I only just took on more work that filled that time up and I was right back to the crazy all-night-every-night-every-weekend hours. It was only once I went full time as a freelancer that things started to sort of calm down. But but but. I had to force myself to do it.
Ya see, it’s really easy to let the blog and any freelance work completely take over your life. For me, I was finally working for myself. I was finally filling my own pockets. And most importantly, I was finally doing something I love. And that’s really the crux of it. You are finally doing something JUST FOR YOU and oh my god, it’s great, right? Until you realise that the rest of your responsibilities and relationships are being totally neglected. And that, my friends, isn’t good.
So I thought I’d pass down a few of my thoughts and feelings and tips on how I *try* to maintain a good work-life balance. Is it perfect? Hell no. Is it just about manageable? Yep, I would say so. So perhaps some of my tips might work for you too.
Create a Schedule that Works for You
Having a bit of a schedule for my week helps me out a lot and I plan my content at least 6-8 weeks ahead. I always allow some flexibility but one of the things I’ve changed that has had the biggest impact is the way I weight my week. Essentially, I will heavily schedule Monday-Wednesday and then Thursday and Friday are my catch up days.
I also group my days so that I’m working on similar things throughout the day. So in other words, if I have blog writing to do for a client (which I do every week), I will schedule two posts to complete on a Monday and then on Tuesday, I work on my own blog, on Wednesday I work again on client stuff, Thursday my own blog and so on. I used to find it difficult to switch my mindset when I was doing too many different things on the same day. Bulk working allows me to have a certain mindset so I can concentrate on one type of work at a time.
I will also allow some flexibility on that, especially if I know I’ll be shooting something that week. So I will always check the weather forecast for the week and plan my days accordingly so that I schedule my blog work (including photography) on the days when the weather is likely to be the best for shooting.
I also find I work best in terms of things that take a higher level of concentration (so researching, writing) in the morning. If I wait until the afternoon to do these things, I struggle. So getting to know when you work your best – either morning or afternoon – will make it so much easier in terms of when to schedule specific tasks.
Also? Pre-schedule as much of your social media as you can. The last thing you want to be doing is spending time every single day pinning to Pinterest (I use Tailwind for this – see more about this here) or creating promotional tweets or posting to Facebook. Automate your posts if you can so that they automatically post across your social profiles when the post goes live (Jetpack on WordPress will do this for you) and I use Hootsuite to schedule out any tweets for the week. For Instagram, I use Later which will allow you to create the posts ahead of time and send you a notification when the post is ready for publishing.
Create some flexible working hours
While the schedule above does help me structure my week, I do allow a certain amount of flexibility and I normally work this in so that Thursdays and Fridays are basically my catch-up days. If I’m really struggling with writing something and I want to give myself a bit of a break and work on something different, I can move it to later in the week if I need to.
I also allow myself some time on a Saturday morning to catch up with emails and any admin work I need to do on the blog. I normally wake up early (thank you fur babies) and whilst Wayne takes Quito on a long walk, I have a quiet house to myself to get things done. There’s something rather relaxing about responding to emails on the weekend so that you know you won’t immediately get pinged back, leading to a long and time-consuming email conversation that saps your time and energy!
I also have one day (normally one day of the weekend) that I don’t work at all. While one day off might sound a bit crazy, it’s so easy to just work every single day, even just for a few hours. I always try to schedule at least one day where I allow myself a full 24 hours to myself or to spend time with Wayne, working on the house (yes, we enjoy this!) or getting out for the day.
Turn off the phone/laptop every weeknight at a set time
Wayne and I decided quite some time ago that at a certain time in the evening, the laptops get shut, the phone goes off and we sit and relax together. So every evening at around 8 pm, I know that’s it, the day is finished for work and I can just have a relaxing evening like a normal person! When you work for yourself, you know as well as I do that the 9-5 work day does not exist and your day could potentially never really end. If I know that at 8 pm, I need to shut up shop for the day, it gives my day a bit of structure and I know that I am able to relax before heading to bed.
Bonus Tip! Turn off the push notifications on your phone. Honestly, it’s one of the best things I ever did.
Decide on your working hours and stick to them
Speaking of working hours, I normally work from 8 am until 4 pm every day and then I tidy up, start prepping for dinner, feed the animals etc. After dinner, I work for a little longer, normally from about 6:30 pm – 8 pm. However, my ‘advertised’ working hours for my clients are from 9 am – 4 pm Monday through Friday. If you only work on your blog part-time or a few days a week or you have children or other responsibilities (as we all do) then don’t be afraid to put your working hours in your emails or on your website and communicate that information to your clients or contacts. If there’s an expectation that you are available all day and all night, you will feel an obligation to get back to people and who needs that?
Charge prices that are worth your time
Speaking of your time, I honestly believe that you should be paid for what you’re worth. I realised early last year that I was undervaluing my work because I wanted to remain competitive. All this did was attract a lot of low-quality work which took up what precious little time I had. I decided to raise my prices to make them work for me. This essentially weeds out those low-paying opportunities and while I may get fewer offers at my price range, the quality of the collaborations are better and therefore, I don’t need lots of them, I only need a few. Quality over quantity every time.
Learn How to Say No
This was one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years. I think as women, we feel this need to be people-pleasers and so it’s incredibly hard to stand up for yourself and just say no when something doesn’t feel right. We’re afraid people might label us as ‘difficult’. Well, bullshit to that. You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way, you don’t have to do things you don’t feel comfortable doing, you don’t have to say yes to brands that don’t fit naturally in with your content, you don’t have to go to every event you’re invited to. When you stop saying yes, and start to say no, you will notice you are then in control of your time. You’ll work on those things you are passionate about, you’ll find the time to say yes to the things you really want to do.
Accept the Fact that You’ll Fail
There will be times when a deadline can’t wait, you’ve overextended yourself or you just can’t say no and it’ll throw your schedule into complete disarray. This is okay and to be expected from time to time. You will end up working on a Sunday evening or late into the night on a Wednesday or find yourself up at the crack of dawn. It happens. As long as every day doesn’t start and end this way, then the occasional time when you need to crack on isn’t going to be the end of the world. But put a limit on it. Giving yourself permission to work more than you intend is absolutely fine as long as it’s temporary. If you find that you are breaking your schedule repeatedly, then it might be time to reassess what you’re doing.
Don’t Buy Into the Hustle
One last thought. I know there’s this whole romanticised ideal of being busy all the time. When you are working towards something, it’s easy to let it come before every other thing in your life. But let me assure you, being busy isn’t the end goal here. Filling up every waking hour with work isn’t healthy. You will burn out. You have to be nice to yourself every once in a while. Schedule some downtime, schedule time with your family or your friends, don’t neglect your own well-being. Yes, sacrifices sometimes need to be made but don’t forget why you are doing something and from time to time, make sure you are living in the here and now. Enjoy the things you already have, appreciate your achievements, look around and realise how lucky you already are. And then go grab the latest copy of Elle Decor with a nice cup of tea and relax. You’re doing fine, I promise.
Now, it’s your turn. What things do you do to create a better work/life balance? I’d love to hear some of your own tips in the comments below!
P.S. The irony of posting this on a day I don’t normally publish on my blog has not been lost on me! It’s been one of those weeks where my schedule has gone out the window as we putting our house on the market so lots of appointments and visits – gotta stay flexible, right? C’est la vie! Ha!