Those of us who are insane enough to traverse the self-employed wilderness know firsthand how difficult it is to stop working at the end of each day. We answer emails or texts pretty much whenever, are constantly thinking about (or worried about) our small businesses, and find it extra tricky to maintain a proper “work/life balance.” The truth is there really is no balance when YOU are solely responsible for your income via hustle and making things happen. When I worked for the State doing the same job I’m doing now as a self-employed contractor, I got paid regardless of my clients’ behavior or lack of follow through. I didn’t care to drive an hour to meet with someone who didn’t show because I received my pay check anyway plus mileage reimbursement. Now, though, the rules have changed. Here are my top 5 tips for maintaining peace of mind when you work for yourself:
“No” is a complete sentence.
This sounds incredibly cliched, but it’s true for a multitude of reasons. You don’t have to say the word no to say no to someone. For example, if you’ve been clear about your work hours, and a client isn’t respecting that boundary, choosing to wait until your work hours to respond is a subtle way to say no. A not so subtle way is to simply say the word and leave it at that. Saying no can be empowering – try it.
Don’t talk yourself into work that you’ll regret later.
I’ve done this on multiple occasions and learned from it. Building my sewing business has been a mix of wanting work but also narrowing down my ideal client. I’ve taken on jobs that have been a pain in my ass and learned from it, but it took time. I met someone recently who, after I told her my fee for creating a bespoke dress, commented that that was expensive. Instead of justifying my cost structure and thus probably initiating a job with her, I was quiet. I knew in that moment she wasn’t an ideal client and I didn’t need to talk her into working with me. Don’t be afraid to pass up work when you instinctually know it’s not best for you.
Set rules and enforce them.
I deal with this one more with my counseling clients than my sewing clients, but I’m very clear when I begin working with someone what my expectations are of them, and what they can expect from me. I have a strict no-show policy and I stick to it – it’s not my job to make excuses for other people – it’s my job to help get them a job. Set your professional rules and then stick to them. People will take you seriously and you’ll maintain your peace of mind.
Take care of yourself.
I see Instagram accounts all day long from female entrepreneurs who are up at all hours doing all sorts of things and chastizing the rest of us whose “hustle” isn’t as strong. Fuck that. I need my down time, my bubble baths, my trips, my meals, my selfish sewing time, etc. and I refuse to feel guilty about it. One of the greatest perks of being self-employed is that you dictate the terms. Yes, you may have to work harder than you normally would, but you’re doing work you LOVE everyday and making a difference in the world – don’t apologize for taking a nap or doing restorative activities.
Set your intention.
I’m a counselor, seamstress, and owner of a creative venue space. It will be a cold day in hell before I make a million dollars. And even if I did, I would probably give it away. My intention with being self-employed is to pursue work that I love and do it the way I believe it should be done. I don’t give two shits about buying a Mercedez, wearing Louboutins, or donning diamond studs. I DO care about making the world a better place, being a kind person, creating opportunities for others, and having enough money to eat, live, and have occasional fun. The beauty of self-employment is that you offer the world your unique gifts, and you decide for yourself what’s important. Consider your intention and then get busy creating the life you want.
I’m sure there are other amazing tips for juggling self-employment, a creative side business, or whatever venture feeds your passion. I’ve found that these five are the ones I keep coming back to time and time again.
What are your tips for maintaining work/life balance?