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Learn how to simplify your freelance work-life steadiness

14, 2020

10 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

This article was written by Kay VanAntwerpen, a member of Entrepreneur NEXT supported by the Assemble Content Team. Entrepreneur NEXT is our Expert Solutions division that leads the future of the work and skills-based economy. If you're struggling to find, review, and hire the right experts for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT is a platform that allows you to hire the experts you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance to technology, we have the top three experts ready to work for you.

The future is freelance. This type of employment isn't just a trend or a whimsical alternative to the contemporary lifestyle – it's fast becoming mainstream.

With each new generation, freelance work has become increasingly popular. In the survey, 29 percent of baby boomers said they are likely to be freelance, followed by 31 percent of Gen X, 40 percent of Millennials, and 53 percent of Gen Z. By 2019, around 57 million Americans were freelancers.

These not-so-unconventional workers now make up nearly five percent of US GDP. That is more than the construction or transport sector – statistically closer to the information sector.

Companies that are looking for skilled workers without having to hire them full-time will benefit from hiring freelancers. Hence, most of the freelancers work in skilled jobs – programming, business consulting, marketing, information technology, etc.

There are a number of benefits for these employees too, including:

Better Pay: The average freelancer is paid better than 70 percent of the regular worker, an average of $ 28 an hour.

Location independence: Freelancers work on their terms, be it from home, in a café or on the go.

Freedom to Choose Customers: Freelancers are not indebted to the company's power structure, reckless management, or supervisory control. They choose their own customers. When a particular relationship isn't working, a freelance professional can easily break up.

Ability to prioritize personal needs: 46 percent of freelancers say they prefer their work pattern because they cannot work for a traditional employer due to personal conditions such as illness, injury, or more.

This is not all to say that freelance life is trouble free. Setting your own schedule, sticking to that schedule, and meeting deadlines are easier said than done. Once you're used to the guard rails of a 9-5 job, navigating the open seas of the professional economy can take practice.

Below we've outlined some of the best ways to make your freelance life easier.

Build your office.

Location independence can be exciting. You can work in whatever clothing you want, be it a suit and tie, pajamas or simple old tighty whities. The decision to make your kitchen table, coffee shop, or hotel lobby your office is a level of freedom you may not have expected. However, you will quickly find that some locations are more productive than others, and a suitable workplace can make all the difference in your career.

Refrain from working from bed. Waking up from bed sounds pleasant, especially if you decide to go freelance because of a chronic illness, but it also has its drawbacks. Lots of people do this – a study shows that 80 percent of young professionals work from bed. Unfortunately, this choice can negatively impact your work routine and health in a number of ways.

On the one hand, your brain automatically assigns certain areas to certain functions (e.g. your bed and your sleep). It can also blur the lines between dedicated sleep and wake time, resulting in decreased quality of sleep. Using bright screens will prevent your brain from producing the necessary amount of melatonin you need to get a proper sleep, and your work will eventually suffer as well.

Create a dedicated workstation. Without a dedicated place to do your work and work-related tools, you will find chaos engulfing your life. Your items are scattered around your living area like scared chickens: your laptop ends up in your living room, your notebook and calendar in your bedside table drawer, and your pens in the freezer.

Securing a good desk doesn't have to be expensive, especially if you use Craigslist, the Facebook Marketplace, or a local thrift store. All necessary elements should be kept within reach to minimize stretching or to interrupt the workflow and search your place.

Ideally, your desk should be placed near a window that has adequate exposure to sunlight (it's easy to get out of sunlight when working from home). No matter how well your room is lit, you should also equip it with a decent lamp, just in case. You never know when a rainy day will show up or how many times you will burn the midnight oil late at night.

Keep in mind that you may not always use your work space – if your house is empty for the day, you might spread yourself out in the living room, or if you are feeling a little crazy you might want to jump into a coffee shop for a few hours. However, having your own dedicated location for your freelance gear will keep you organized and keep track of all of your items.

After all, your space should be ergonomically optimized. Use a suitable chair and adjust the height so that your feet are touching the floor. You should be looking directly at your monitor (without turning your head horizontally or vertically). When working on a laptop, you may need to prop it up on a pile of books so that it is at eye level. In this case, an external keyboard can be useful. As you type, straighten your wrists and sit in line with your knees and hips. For an example, see the Mayo Clinic manual.

Once again, it's nice to break the routine at times, and neighborhood cafes are a great place to do so. Many cities create co-op workspaces where freelancers can also work together.

If you absolutely have to work from bed because of a physical disability or illness, make sure you move at least every half hour and use a breakfast table or something similar to prop up your laptop and type in the correct posture if you can are physically capable.

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Developing a work ethic at home.

Most people who work in an office eight hours a day are bound by a certain strict routine. They come in at a set time, go in at a set time, and take breaks at a set time. There can be negative consequences for deviating from this routine. When you work from home, all that rigidity is removed. As liberating as this is, it also makes it a lot easier to get distracted.

One of the best habits you can develop in developing your work ethic at home is determining the time of day when you are most productive. For some people, it's the first time in the morning. For others, it's late in the evening. Whatever it is to you, then schedule your work and don't deviate unless you have to.

Working from home can also make it easy for you to adopt unhealthy habits. You may get less sunlight, exercise less, and eat poorly. Counter this with regular exercise – even a simple regime at home to keep you moving. Take vitamins and make sure you are eating well. Healthy work habits require healthy daily habits.

Don't be afraid to spend time outside the clock to organize your upcoming projects as well. You should plan your day at least the night before it actually occurs, but ideally a week in advance. That way you can keep up and communicate better with customers about appointments and your ability to do more work. You won't feel so bad turning away prospects knowing how much work you have and how much you are able to handle it.

Appreciate your work, calculate what you are worth, don't work for free.

The type of customer you attract is directly related to your tariffs. If you keep your prices low, you're more likely to get frustrating customers asking for lots of changes. If you set your prices higher, your customer will consider you a professional whose time is valuable.

Most freelancers underestimate themselves drastically. You may feel like you are asking too much, but remember that the alternative is to hire an employee with overheads like health insurance, benefits, etc. These come out of pocket for you. A good rule of thumb is to set your tariffs about two and a half times the hourly rate an employee would get for the same job.

Don't be afraid to work for free if you are unfamiliar with your portfolio. Everyone starts somewhere. If you feel the need to show your clients work, either design your own work (you may be able to sell this later) or consider volunteering for a nonprofit (this not only adds work to your portfolio, but it will look great on a resume).

Deposits and contracts.

Some freelancers require deposits, but this is not common. You probably shouldn't make a deposit unless it's a large project and you are taking a significant risk if you don't get paid. Instead of taking a deposit, hold back some of the final product until you are paid – watermark your artwork, take screenshots of your web designs, and so on. Most importantly, you have to sign a contract before you start working.

Working for clients without a contract is risky. It doesn't take much for clients to get inexperienced freelancers to work more and more for less and less money. Signing a contract not only protects you on a legal basis, it also clearly defines what work you are doing at what price and what payment you will get if the customer wants more. Creating a contract is super easy. The Freelancers Union offers a free contract maker, which is particularly useful.

Even if you have a contract, make sure you communicate via email. If you have a meeting on the phone, summarize the decisions that were made in an email to the customer to make sure everything is correct. Not only does this keep you in the loop, but it also gives you written evidence of expectations in case something should go wrong.

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