Freelancing, like most things, has its pros and cons. Working on a flexible schedule allows for opportunities that are simply not possible on a 9-to-5 timetable, but at the same time, it may cultivate excessive expectations regarding our availability and time with family, friends and customers. Granted, we have the authority to choose our work and celebrate our independence, but it only takes a wrong turn for the workload to become unbearable or for communication to fall short. As a result, we end up replying to professional emails during school shows and browsing for vacation destinations when we should be working instead.
Luckily, freelancing and versatility are virtually synonyms, so we have come up with an array of methods to keep our two lives separate. Below, you’ll find the top six.
1. Block Websites
In order to keep business and personal life separated, one must endure sacrifices, and few are greater than restraining yourself from visiting your favorite websites (Facebook being a big one). However, limiting yourself is equally important to limiting your customers.
A freelance translator friend of mine, Andrew Reeves, finds this particular issue extremely challenging and has employed the use of filters on his web browser, that only allow him to visit predetermined websites at predetermined hours. “For instance, YouTube is out of limits during business hours,” Reeves says. “On the other hand, I also restrict access to my professional email in the evenings, when I am resting. Of course, these filters can be overridden on demand, but their mere presence helps with the temptation.”
There are several web filters available, but here’s what we recommend.
2. Have Multiple Phone Numbers
The old times, when customers could bribe their way into sending messages to freelancers any time of the day by giving porridge to carrier pigeons, may be long gone, but it only takes knowing your phone to do so today. For this reason, it’s crucial for your own – and your business’s— sake, to have at least two phone numbers.
To have more than one numbers on a single device, you can use a new app called Flyp, which enables the use of several numbers on your smartphone. During the previous 9 months, more than half of all Flyp users self-identified as small business owners and freelancers.
Another option for many numbers is Google Voice. LinkedIn profile writer and executive resume writer Kelly Donovan uses Google Voice to avoid current or future clients reaching her during her relaxing time. She keeps her true mobile number for family and friends only while listing her professional number publicly.
“I have call-forwarding set up to send business calls to my mobile phone, but I have instructed Google Voice to only forward these calls on weekdays, 08.00-18.00,” says Donovan. “When someone calls my business number outside this timetable, they reach my voicemail instead. This way I can fearlessly have my mobile phone on during weekends and evenings for my friends and family, without worrying for the occasionally awkward business call.”
In case you already have a second phone, and you still can’t resist using the work phone after hours, you can follow the paradigm of freelance standup comedian Dan Nainan.
“I keep my business phone and my router’s power brick locked up after 9 pm on weekdays and on weekends in Kitchen Safe, which is a safe with a time lock that I set to be accessible the following morning,” said Nainan. “By doing so, I am completely unable to get on the internet or access my phone after hours.”
3. Use Mint to Keep Track of Expenses
Freelancers need to pay self-employment tax, which can add up considerably. It’s the reason why tracking and registering all your business expenses year-round is crucial; when it’s time to fill your taxes, you will achieve maximum rebates without wasting your day digging through a pile of receipts.
By using apps like Mint, you can streamline the process, which is what Corey Barnett does to manage his business and personal finances. “I mark all expenses relating to business as such, whether they are on Paypal, credit card or check,” Barnett says. “Every month, I export all costs in a spreadsheet.”
“Mint provides a convenient way of tracking the money you spend and where it ends up,” says writer and founder of Due.com John Rampton. “I use Mint for both professional and personal expenses as a means of overseeing budgets and allocating funds where they are needed the most. It fits well with Due as part of our financial reporting and invoicing system.”
4. Set Limits with Clients
For many freelancers, their customers are equal to deities. Because a person has agreed to compensate us for our services and time, we feel we owe them for the whole duration of our professional relationship, meaning that we must oblige to fulfill every wish the client expresses, regardless of its relevancy or timing, as the unavoidable cost of doing business.
Limits keep expectations in check, show professionalism and lead to a better professional relationship. But moving from theory to practice in setting clear limits to your customers without insulting them, can be tricky business.
According to insurance marketing consultant Frank Kasimov, freelancers should try to avoid replying to clients on weekends or beyond work hours. By only sending professional emails during business hours, he makes sure that his customers respect his time. Even when he has to work on weekends, he schedules his emails to be sent out on Monday, with the help of apps like Boomerang. “By doing so I ensure that my clients are trained to expect their deliveries strictly during the workweek,” says Kasimov.
5. Use Different Email Accounts
If you do things like me (if so, good for you!), chances are that you have your email open all day long. It’s the primary tool via which the majority of us freelancers carry out the main bulk of our work, and also most of our personal correspondence. Therefore, if the goal is to separate business and personal lives, it makes perfect sense to keep the respective electronic lives separate as well.
Freelance UX design consultant, Jeremy Belcher, uses different email applications for his personal and business accounts. “I use Outlook for work and Google Inbox for my private emails. By this way, I avoid seeing work emails by accident when checking my personal email and vice versa.”
In case this measure is not enough, you can combine it with solution number #2 and install additional web filters, which will avert you from opening your work email during rest time, or the other way around.
6. Keep your Communication Centralized with Slack
I am pretty sure that Slack got its name by the fact that, if you don’t know what it is, you are probably slacking. It is an immensely popular application that facilitates team communication, but freelancers can take advantage of it in order to keep all their business communication centralized, and hold it from bleeding into their personal messages.
“With Slack I get to keep all business-related topics and message threads inside a single, committed application, sorting out communication by topic in dedicated channels and avoiding email clutter,” says Mabbly founder, Adam Fridman. “With a single account, I can access several company Slack accounts, which allows me to switch between teams and jobs as quickly as pushing a button.”
Slack is perfect for anyone who wishes to communicate with clients on the move while also cancels the need for calls and text messages. It’s also very easy to set up, so if a customer has never used it before, there is no real reason against trying it.
As Dexter Holland from the Offspring used to put it, “You gotta keep ‘em separated.” The fact that he was actually singing about his laundry is a minor detail; we might as well, as freelancers, take his words to heart.
If you want your freelancing days to be a success, you must keep your work separated from your personal life in every way possible; setting limits to yourself and your customers is a decisive step towards it. Let it be known that you only accept professional communication during business hours, and install web filters to keep your non-work online activities to a minimum during the same time. Use Mint to track your expenses and Slack to streamline your communication. Keep your personal and business phone numbers separate, either by buying a second phone and keeping it locked during off-hours or by setting up a limited-hours, work-only number. Last, but not least, use different email accounts. It may be hard on your storage space, but it will go easy on your brain space.
If you’re interested in more articles about productivity as a blogger, check out the following from BloggingPro. Then, let us know what you do to help isolate your personal life from your freelance life below.
Author: Amanda DiSilvestro
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO Company HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.