Freelancers don’t get sick.
Freelancers don’t go on holiday.
Freelancers, self-employed and startup people are often told these supposed rules, and many start believing them. Well, I’m a freelancer and I just came back from a holiday. Before that I happened to fall ill for a week. I’m happy to report the world did not end.
So, let’s rethink those freelancer myths and instead take better care of ourselves so we can be better at what we do. Here are a bunch of don’ts that I think all freelancers should absolutely do.
1. Do this don’t: Let the phone ring.
Yeah, you heard me right. Just don’t pick up. Or, at least, not when it doesn’t suit you.
The problem with phone calls is that you rarely have control over when they happen. Emails are less disruptive. You can read them later, schedule times for replying, while the phone can seriously interrupt your workflow. If the phone rings at an inconvenient time, simply call back later. And don’t you dare feel bad about it!
However, make sure to stay professional. Always get back to people in a timely fashion and make sure you don’t forget. I use an IF recipe that sends missed calls to my Todoist. That way I can swipe calls away on my phone and forget about them for now.
2. Do this don’t: Go on sick leave.
An ex-coworker once told me the story of a friend of his, who always worked through her common colds and flus, doping herself with flu meds — until she dropped dead at 32. Yup! There’s your scary lesson!
I’ve met a lot of people, especially women, in my life who buckle up and work through everything. Working while you are properly sick can put a serious strain on your heart though. And keeling over 35 years early? So not worth it, simply to please a few clients now.
Fortunately, clients are humans too (most of the time), and they will be surprisingly understanding if you tell them you have to take it slow for a few days because you’re ill. If they don’t understand that, they’re definitely not the right clients.
3. Do this don’t: Resist working 24/7.
A lot of people believe that as a freelancer you have to be available 24/7, but you wouldn’t do that for any other job – and if you would, then we have to have a conversation about that anyways. You’re not doing anyone any good by wearing yourself out.
So, whether it’s a day off or the often overlooked break after a few hours of hard work — you need breaks. Without them, you haemorrhage productivity faster than you can say “We’ve got a bleeder!”
Set up a few rules to stick to unless it’s crunch time. Don’t work on weekends or — if working weekends is your jam — take a day or two off during the week. Don’t work into the night — unless you’re a night owl and work only at night. Don’t stuff your own business into your own time. Monika Kanokova keeps reminding freelancers that they need to not only work in but also on their business. I absolutely agree. But remember that this is part of your office time as well — not part of your free time.
Eek out time that is just yours/your family’s/your friends’. If you do that regularly you can come back to work with renewed vigour. You’ll be more productive that way. It’s very much like what they tell you on airplanes: Put your own oxygen mask on first, and then you can help others, i.e. take care of yourself, and then do the work for your clients. Sometimes a half-day at the zoo can do wonders for clearing your head.
4. Do this don’t: Take a holiday.
For many of us disconnecting completely seems impossible. But if you set everything up neatly you can keep all work-related communication during your time off to a minimum.
I told my clients well ahead of time that I’d be taking a vacation. Then we worked out together what could easily be suspended during my time off and what needed to be prepped beforehand. Blog scheduling is a blessing.
On my last day in the office I sent out a quick newsletter to all my clients, reminding them that’d I’d be off the grid for a bit and when I’d be back. And I posted similar information on LinkedIn and my Facebook page, so that people potentially wanting to contact me would be aware of this as well.
Remember this: The world will not end if you go off the grid. Any clients who take offense in you being human can sod right off.
5. Do this don’t: Say, no.
It takes a while to figure this one out. When you’re new to freelancing you’re obviously taking every job you can get, and that’s totally okay. After all, you have to build your brand, get clients, get your name out there. But, if things go well, you will find yourself swamped with work at some point. This is because you have taken on too much.
Take a close look at your projects. You will invariably find something you enjoy doing a lot less than all the rest. Some work will not be for you, some clients will not mesh with how you like to work. Now, get rid of those projects or don’t accept more work from those clients. It’s okay to say no. It’s better to say no than to say yes out of obligation or fear and then be stuck with a project you hate while not having the resources to take on an interesting project that came in later.
Which freelancers “rules” have you broken?