We hear a lot in the media about the health benefits of achieving a good work–life balance, but it is harder to achieve when your home is also your workplace. How do you avoid the stress of not being able to switch off and differentiate work-time from home-time? The following are some strategies that can be adopted that I have learned from many years’ experience of working as a freelance proofreader from a home office.
Allocating a specific space or room within your home helps to focus attention on the work to be done and keeps together all your resources such as computer and peripherals, stationery, telephone, reference books, and financial and client records for easy access. Ask those you share your premises with to respect that space.
Do not place unnecessary demands upon your time by deciding to work excessive hours to promote and develop your business – set a minimum work target for each day based on the deadlines for completion of work, not the maximum you can cram in. Working to maximum on a long-term basis can lead to burnout and you making mistakes that will affect the quality of your work and your reputation with clients.
It is not quantity that counts but quality, so work smarter, not longer, by computerizing as much of your work and administration as you are comfortable with. If necessary, get training or outside help. A successful manager employed in an organization knows when to delegate and so should an aspiring freelance. As an example, I engage a computer engineer not just to repair my computer systems, but to provide and install the hardware and software after consulting me over my requirements, and also deal with any software issues. It costs a little more but frees up more time for me to concentrate on developing my business and satisfying client needs without having to grapple alone with IT and communications issues.
It is important to have a dedicated landline and/or mobile telephone to deal with clients. You would not want your 5-year-old son taking that phone call from an important client, or the phone line being tied up for hours by an over-chatty teenage daughter. Almost all of my client enquiries are received by email or text but I still have a dedicated landline and mobile phone for easy access. A new and lucrative client can pay the annual telephone charges many times over. If you are not available to take those calls then get voicemail facilities on your phone or hire a virtual assistant/secretary to handle calls and take messages.
We all make mistakes – it is part of being human. If you make a mistake apologize to the client and make amends. If that is not enough and the client leaves, then you should move on too and learn from the experience. Do not beat yourself up over it.
It is important to recognize your successes and triumphs, perhaps even reward them in some way, but do not drive yourself on further with unrealistic targets. It is easier and better for your mental well-being to achieve a series of smaller, slowly increasing targets than overreach and ‘bite the dust’. Recognize the opportunities of the present by looking after your existing clients rather than chasing that ideal future that may never materialize if you miss the here and now.