How to Be A Happy Freelancer ~ Tips for Getting A Good Work-Life Balance

In this post you will find a selection of ideas about time and the problems of not having enough of it.

The first post picks up on the very real and particular problems that women deal with and that Ann-Marie Slaughter highlighted in her recent essay: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, where she talks about how extra hard her life became when she moved to having a boss that she had to report to, and how she really wants to work and she really wants to be at home – you can see her talking about this in this video (you have to watch a Prudential ad first)

Ellen Ruppell Shell picks up these themes in her post In Praise of Down Time and goes on to to advocate the need for all of us to resist the pull of working more and longer hours.

Then there are some practical tips for making time work well for you as a freelancer from Creative Boom – reminding us to remember why we choose to be freelance in the first place.

This theme is picked up and developed further by writer Tim Kreider, who urges us to remember just how absolutely essential idleness is to creativity.

Lastly this theme of trying to make time work is taken global again, with the new economics foundations video proposing for a shorter 21 hour working week and their arguments for how improving working hours will improve the employment picture, improve ecological outcomes, and improve quality of life…”

I hope you have time to enjoy these ideas…


In her blog post In Praise of Downtime Ellen Ruppel Shell makes some timely and important observations about how completely we all now seem to believe that we have to work hard and constantly, perhaps even more so in these difficult times of unemployment and continuing staff cuts…

Since its publication in The Atlantic this month, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s thoughtful essay: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All has garnered thousands of opinions voiced in everything from personal blogs to the national media. But few if any of these posed what to me seems the essential question: How is it that we’ve come to believe that “having it all” means working our tails off — be it at home at the office or both?

Like many readers, I am grateful to Slaughter for pointing out the challenge of parenting while simultaneously holding a powerful job. She is absolutely right — more women deserve to be and must be in positions of power and authority. Her message is generous, heartfelt and necessary. But very few of us — male or female — can afford to make demands on our employers, or change a system the endless demands of which undermine our families and our health.

So I do hope that Slaughter did not mean to imply that we as individuals attempt to reform a system that increasingly relies on overwork — and underemployment — to pad the bottom line. Such reform is a job that society — the collective “we” — must tackle. And to do so we must push hard against our current practice of celebrating overwork and treat it as the scam it has become.

As philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote eighty years ago in the essay, In Praise of Idleness “We keep a large percentage of the working population idle, because we can dispense with their labor by making the others overwork.” As a nation we must fight back against this ugly bit of nastiness. And as individuals we ought to take to heart Russell’s incisive observation: “….I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work…”

Any freelance working in arts and culture will tell you the tough times can leave you miserable, stressed and exhausted. Here are some tips on achieving a happier work-life balance

posted by Creative Boom and Katy Cowan, part of the Guardian Culture Professionals Network

Have a morning routine

You went freelance to have a happier work-life balance, enjoy all the perks of working for yourself and be your own boss. So why do you feel so miserable, stressed and exhausted? When we work for ourselves, we often make mistakes that lead us to despise our businesses rather than enjoy them. We forget the original reasons why we went solo and become trapped in a vicious circle of negativity.

Being a business owner, you’ll have many ups and downs. There will be times when you’ll feel like pulling your hair out. You’ll have unpleasant experiences with people. You’ll sometimes mess up considerably. You’ll forget to take regular breaks. You may even work 15 hour days, seven days a week and push yourself to breaking point. Whatver you’re doing wrong, I’ve put together these top tips to help you become a happier freelance.

When you work from home, it’s all too easy to roll out of bed and stumble straight to your desk. Before you know it, it’s 11am and you’ve not even had a shower or had any breakfast. Adopt a healthy morning routine. Get up, have a shower, get dressed, shave/put on make-up and relax and have breakfast. Start work at 9am like everyone else, if you can.

Stick to normal working hours

Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean you have to work every waking hour to make yourself a success. Avoid long working days by sticking to a regular routine, working normal office hours, such as 9am until 5pm. Studies have shown that working for more than seven or eight hours a day doesn’t mean you’ll get more work done. This is because your productivity levels will drop. You’re best calling it a day and stopping work at the same time every evening. There will always be more work to do, granted, but you just have to accept that your job list can never be ticked off completely in one day – it will be constantly added to.

Work when you want to

Of course, not everyone suits the “normal working day”. If you’re most productive between 11am and 2pm and again between 5pm and 8pm, then just work during those more productive hours. Just make sure you don’t spend more than seven or eight hours each day working. It doesn’t matter how much work you’ve got to finish: if you’re still spending 15 hours at your desk every day, it’s time to figure out where you’re going wrong. Consider any distractions and get rid of them. Turn off social media if it’s ruining your concentration. Eight hours every day is all you need. Just make sure those hours are spent as productively as possible.

Get your work environment right

A desk facing a brick wall in a darkened room isn’t going to make anyone happy, so make sure your workspace is inviting and comfortable. Ensure there’s lots of natural light, a window to look out of and that your desk is clean and tidy. Get a decent office chair – an ergonomic one, if you can. And set yourself up so you can easily listen to music if it helps you to be a happier worker.

Take regular breaks

Freelances who forget to take regular breaks end up making themselves ill. I can’t stress this enough. Take regular breaks away from your desk or studio space. Breaks help you to recharge and boost your productivity. In fact, health officials advise you take a five-minute break every hour, even if it’s just to get up and stretch. If you’re not doing this, start taking breaks.

Know when to stop

Guess what! Just because everyone else is working 9am until 5pm without stopping, doesn’t mean you have to! If you’re having a bad day or you’re feeling unproductive, put down your tools and take the rest of the day off. Put an “out of office” responder on your emails, saying you’re in meetings and add a suitable voicemail on your mobile. Clients won’t know that you’re really in your local swimming pool or catching up with friends, so don’t worry about it!

Book holidays

Having something to look forward to is a wonderful thing when you freelance. Particularly when you’ve got a huge workload and tight deadlines to meet. Book regular breaks and holidays to keep yourself sane and have something to make all that hard work worthwhile. And when you’re away? Leave the laptop and mobile at home so that you can completely switch off and recharge your batteries.


Exercise is proven to reduce stress. Join a gym if you can afford to or dust off your bike and get out there. Do at least half an hour’s exercise every day. I wouldn’t be able to cope without my gym membership. It keeps my stress levels down, keeps me sane and, when I’m pounding the treadmill, I often come up with solutions to the many problems I’m facing. Start an exercise routine today!

Eat well, sleep well

Look after yourself by adopting a healthy diet and ensure you’re getting plenty of sleep every night. Avoid alcohol if you can. Save it for special occasions. Alcohol is a depressant so, although you think it makes you feel better after a stressful day, it’ll actually make you feel worse. Alcohol also disrupts sleep and you’ll feel terrible the next day. Eat well, drink lots of water and get a good night’s rest. Leave the booze to the weekends.

Get out and about

It’s easy to get cabin fever when you work from home, so turn your business into a virtual or remote one, so you can work wherever you like. Ensure you can work on your laptop and access your files from anywhere. This means you can tap into the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop or even go on a short break and continue to work. Make the most of being your own boss and have a better work-life balance.

Never burn bridges

In business, there will be many situations when you have to deal with difficult people or clients. Whatever you do, always stay positive and never burn any bridges. The creative industries can be a small pond and you never know when you’re going to bump into people again.

Have money in the bank

Nothing is more stressful than living each month on the edge and being constantly worried about when the next pay cheque will arrive. Stop this misery by having a nice cash reserve in a savings account. Plus, keep your overheads low and avoid lengthy contracts with expensive things, such as vehicle contract hire or mobile phone agreements. You don’t want to overburden yourself with too many expenses or bills to pay.

Always save for your tax bill

We all do it. Leave the taxman to the last minute. To be a happier freelance, start saving for your next tax bill every month. Put money aside and don’t touch it. Remember, it was never yours to keep in the first place, so leave it alone to avoid a nasty shock come the end of the year.

Do what you love

Freelancing sometimes means we offer services that we don’t really enjoy. While it’s always tempting to broaden your offering, you might end up doing more of what you hate, rather than what you love. If you can, stick to what you enjoy the most and take steps to ensure you win more of that particular work.

Don’t overburden yourself

It’s all too easy to book in too much work, especially when you want to make as much money as possible to avoid those quieter months. It might seem strange at first, but you really should stop over-booking yourself and have a more manageable workload. I’m not saying turn work away – just try and find ways to manage your workload more effectively. Why not create a really strict work diary and tell new clients that you can work with them but can only schedule them in on a certain date? It might not work for everyone, but you could certainly give it a try.

Pat yourself on the back

Freelancing is tough. It requires discipline and skill. Loads. If you’re running a successful business – and, by successful, I mean that you’re making ends meet – then you should be darn proud of yourself. Pat yourself on the back and be proud of what you’ve achieved. Not everyone can go solo. You’ve done it, so be happy about that!

This content was originally published by Creative Boom

Katy Cowan runs the Creative Boom website voluntarily – she is a trained journalist, writer and PR professional. Follow her and Creative Boom on Twitter @Creative_Boom

Here is another take on the subject – this time an edited selection from freelance writer and cartoonist, Tim Kreider’s blog post . . .

The ‘Busy’ Trap

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work…

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. …  It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. …  I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking…

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd.

Life is too short to be busy.

(Anxiety welcomes submissions at

Tim Kreider is the author of “We Learn Nothing,” a collection of essays and cartoons. His cartoon, “The Pain — When Will It End?” has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics.

Lastly, here is a new economics foundation video making the case for a 21 hour working week and drawing out some of the links between time and our happiness and wellbeing – not only as individuals, but as a society and a better world…

“The conventional wisdom says that in periods of hard times, such as the one we are going through, what we need to do is double down and work harder because we are poorer.  That’s the standard view.  But it’s a fallacy.”   (Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College)

About Time – 21 hours (new economics foundation)

4 thoughts on “How to Be A Happy Freelancer ~ Tips for Getting A Good Work-Life Balance

  1. Pingback: Happiness At Work ~ edition one | performance~marks

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  3. I have learned many useful suggestion from here, the information is correct and anyone can get valuable assistance from this. To broaden your knowledge of freelancing this post can assist you a lot..

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