5 Freelancer Myths about Work-Life Balance
Photo Credit: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock
When I became a freelancer, I had no idea what I was going into. I had recently moved to a foreign country, and I didn’t have a job or prospects of getting one. Plus, I had a kid attending a new school in a new language, so I had to be around a lot, and freelancing seemed to be the best fit.
I went into this blind, with no clear goals or expectations. I just knew it was my one-way ticket to being financially independent and the perfect housewife at the same time. I would soon realize that the fairy tale in my mind had nothing to do with reality.
As women (and mothers), we become freelancers to be the boss and have flexibility. It’s the “ideal” job for mothers who can finally “have it all” and do it all. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work, and learning to keep the wheels running can take time and some extra night working hours.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the past eight years about freelancing and work-life balance. Spoiler alert: This article will debunk some myths.
The Joy of Being Your Own Boss
As soon as I landed my second client, I realized I was anything but the boss as a freelancer. I was new to this and didn’t know how to set boundaries. I wanted to over-deliver and secure future work from both clients while also making myself available full time for my family. I worked at night, slept poorly, and became overwhelmed.
After you learn how things work and manage client expectations, the number of tasks grows. It means more work for you, and you get to know the ugly truth: being the boss has its advantages, but it also means responsibility.
You have at least two full-time jobs and a rigid boss. You become the bookkeeper, the salesperson, the one who has to handle clients who don’t pay, and the cleaning lady. Plus, you have to worry about sending invoices, networking, and taxes.
The key to finding a work-life balance is lowering expectations, outsourcing, and setting clear boundaries with existing and new clients. Furthermore, you need to develop soft skills like persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management that enable you to find better clients and deliver a better customer experience.
The Happy Kids
Whenever anyone’s talking about freelancing mothers, they illustrate their materials with a happy mother holding happy kids while doing something at her computer. I’ve been doing this for many years, and it’s safe to say that this idyllic image can’t be further from the truth.
Here’s the thing: Whenever you go on a client call, your kid will want water or something to eat. In more complex scenarios, they’ll need to use the bathroom, watch their favorite cartoon right next to you, or just have a tantrum.
As a freelance mother, it’s most likely that you’ll have to schedule work based on your kids’ sleeping schedule. Plus, your program will adjust to new challenges every summer, based on how old your kids are and how much you can rely on your partner and grandparents.
The Magic of Scheduling
After understanding that chaos and freelancing don’t go well together, you’ll try scheduling — the holy grail of people who need to do more, better, and faster. I’ve learned the hard way that planning my day was easy, but sticking to the plan was a very different story. Nothing happens just because you write down tasks.
The good news is, scheduling works when you’re realistic, committed, and flexible. If you have toddlers, you also need all planets to align.
If you want that work-life balance, you need to make it part of your schedule and commit to not working when you’re not supposed to. It also means that you don’t over-promise or take on extra work just because you can.
Being ‘Just a Freelancer’
You might like to think of yourself as “just a freelancer,” but the government might have a different opinion. It’s in your best interest to do your homework on what working independently means from a legal point of view and adjust accordingly.
And, even if you’re a freelancer on paper, you must grow a CEO mindset. That’s because you must learn to develop your activity and gain stability. Fifty-nine percent of freelancers say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Another thing I’ve discovered about being a freelancer is that work-life balance comes when you no longer have to worry about bills or paying for your kids’ piano lessons. To get there, you need systems, regular clients, and consistent income coming from multiple sources, and the way to achieve all these is by learning to manage your work more as a CEO and less as someone who just does the homework and goes home.
Being Fully Present in Your Kid’s Life
When I started freelancing, I needed to be around the house all day for the kid. But, once you become a full-time freelancer, you won’t be able to be present every hour of every day of your kids’ lives. The sooner you get used to this, the easier it becomes to manage professional and personal obligations without mom guilt or missed deadlines.
When I started making consistent income, I accepted that I could hire a babysitter and work from home at the same time. Asking for help and forgiving myself for missing playdates allowed me to be present in the moments that mattered without quitting anything.
This way, I’m able to focus on work when necessary and be fully present with my family when everyone’s around and needs my attention.
Being a freelancer isn’t a perfect scenario. It has its ups and downs — pretty much like any other job. In some ways I have it all, and that’s because I redefined “all” to make it realistic and achievable.
Freelancing taught me to be myself. I’ve built a system that enables me to grow, meet new people, and be financially independent — and all from my kitchen table. But I had to align my expectations with reality in order to make this possible.