Working from home is practically the new American dream. Everyone I know wants to do it, and everyone I know says they envy my ability to set my own hours, pick my own clients, and work in my pajamas (or naked!) any time I feel like it.
What’s less obvious is that working from home can be a huge stressor sometimes. You know how bored you get when you haven’t left the house in a few days? Imagine not really having to leave the house for work, ever. The only time you leave is when you have a grocery trip or a laundromat run.
Pretty soon you start sleeping late every day, and then you’re working through the afternoon and into the night. Once your work is done, there’s no reason to leave the house because your friends are sleeping and the laundromat is closed.
Still sounds like the American dream?
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep yourself from losing your mind as a stir-crazy freelancer. Here’s just a few of the ways I keep myself sane on a daily basis…
Maintain regular working hours
The hardest part of freelancing for me is setting hard-and-fast rules about when I can work. Half the fun of working from home is setting your own hours, which means that if I want to sleep until noon and work until midnight, that’s my prerogative.
Unfortunately, working weird hours and sleeping late also means fewer opportunities to get out of the house during the day. When I’m working erratic hours, my social life suffers and so does my sanity. I get stir-crazy very quickly.
The best solution to this problem is to decide that I’m working eight hours per day, from 8-4, or whatever works for you in terms of hours. Sometimes I break up my workday with an hour break in the middle, so I’m working from 8-5.
If I need to run errands, I might work 2-3 hours in the morning because that’s the best time to contact many of my clients, then get out of the house for a while and come back to it in the evening.
However, this is always scheduled work time. If I know I need to run errands, I work it into my schedule rather than letting it go until the last minute and blowing off work, then earning myself an all-nighter.
Treat yourself to a day out of the “office”
Working at home gets bland after awhile, so why not head out for the day? Pack up your laptop and work phone, and head out to your local co-working space, coffee shop, library, or any other public space that has internet.
You can save these days out for occasional days when you’re just bored and need a change of scenery, or you can build that change of scenery into your schedule and plan to go to the cafe every Monday. Sometimes the bustle of a new, busy space can be just what you need to break up the monotony of working from home, especially if you get to look forward to these outings once every week or so.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries!
As tempting as it is to pick up your work calls at the dinner table, or reply to email at brunch on the weekends, DON’T DO IT! Are your clients important? Absolutely! Can their call or email wait until tomorrow morning? Short of a true emergency, absolutely.
You’ve already set your daily working hours, right? So tell your clients that you need to be reached within those hours, and if they call or email you late, you’re going to have to get back to them in the morning. You’re running a business, not dedicating every waking hour of your life to work!
If possible, you could also get a second cell phone and designate that number for work purposes only. When you get up from the computer at the end of the day, turn the phone off and leave it on the desk. Don’t touch it again until the next morning.
If you set these boundaries with your clients, you won’t need to chain yourself to your office chair at home quite so often — just from 9 to 5 (ha ha).
You’ll have the freedom to get up and do things at 5pm on a Thursday or 10am on a Sunday, and your loved ones will appreciate that your after-hours time is dedicated to yourself and your home and family life.
Factor in vacation time and personal days
Just like any day job, your job as a freelancer should afford the luxury of vacation time and personal days. This keeps you from burning out. When you come back to work after a weekend away or a couple days off, your energy is renewed, and you’re ready to be productive again!
Of course, treating yourself to time off can seem impossible when you’re working as a freelancer, since every dollar of your income is directly related to how many hours you’ve billed or projects you’ve completed. Time off means time not spent working.
This just means that you need to account for time off when you’re calculating your fees and accepting projects. Need to make $XX,XXX this year to justify a week of vacation time? That’s totally fine! Make your monthly project goal that amount divided by 12.
Put back the excess into an account that you only touch during vacation time. Then, make sure that you use that amount to finance your time off! Your motivation will thank you.
Offbeat freelancers and peeps who work from home: How do you keep sane when work’s keeping you at home?