Balancing the ups and downs of your freelancing see-saw can be a challenge.
Tall Tartan Talks here … I’ve listed 12 ways in which freelancing is like life on a see-saw with ups and downs, how to maintain control and balance, and how to cope with swings that make us panic.
Scheduling time for each aspect helps give a sense of control. As a freelance proofreader, I try to manage the swings so that I have more control. A tip I have learnt – things may not get done unless they are scheduled. Included are suggested reminders for fun …
12 Elements to balance
1. Managing clients
Freelancers need to balance client expectations, contend with deadlines and project requirements, while ensuring you are not overextending yourself or compromising on quality. Some clients raise ‘red flags’ in our minds from their requests. Ask yourself, is this client is a good fit?
2. Managing time
Freelancers need to manage their time efficiently to juggle multiple projects, meet deadlines, and allocate time for administrative tasks, such as invoicing and client communication. Develop the habit of, firstly, scheduling projects to allow ‘wiggle room’; secondly, working on a job in manageable stages, perhaps easiest part first (or do you prefer to get the hardest part over with?). Try time blocking. Avoid daily overwhelm by taking regular breaks.
Schedule time: #TreatTime (eg do a hobby for 15 minutes.)
3. Managing finances
Freelancers need to manage their income and expenses effectively. There are times when you’ll earn more than expected (fantastic!). Boost your savings. Other times your income may be more limited than usual. Balancing your financial stability is crucial.
Whenever I buy something for my business, eg equipment, software, a course, and receive the receipt, I open my Excel Expenses spreadsheet and list the date and expense. I feel more efficient and in control. This means I am up to date with my evidence by 6 April for filing my HMRC Self-Assessment Tax Return.
When I return the completed proofread I attach my invoice – again, opening my pinned Excel Invoices spreadsheet to enter the details promptly. Go so far as prepare the invoice before completing the job so that just the final details need to be entered.
Schedule time: #AdminMonday #FinanceFriday
4. Using time efficiently in times of famine
Freelancers can experience periods of busy work schedules and high demand (feast) followed by slower times with fewer clients and projects (famine). Balancing those extremes can be challenging (see point 3). When a client cancels or postpones work, perhaps another client can be brought forward? Or ask a colleague if they could refer work. Or is it time to book some CPD – that training course you’ve had your mind on?
5. Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Freelancers need to keep their skills up to date to stay knowledgeable and instil trust. Scheduling time for ongoing training and skill improvement with client work is essential for future-proofing your business. I have completed many training courses run by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP); if you’re a member you get a discount.
Schedule time: #TrainingTuesday
6. Balancing health and well-being
Freelancers need to maintain their physical and mental health. The demands of freelancing can lead to neglecting self-care, so finding the right balance is crucial. At least get out for some fresh air and look up at the clouds. My examples of exercise below use the hashtag popular on the socials (‘stet’ is an editing term meaning leave the marked word as it is).
Schedule time: #StetWalk #StetRun #StetCycle #StetSwim
Or stroke a #StetPet
Building and maintaining professional relationships and networks are crucial for freelancers. Balancing that time and effort with doing paid client work is vital.
For me networking happens on a particular day when I attend two online groups on Zoom – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. One group is for all breeds of freelancers; the other is run by my Institute and is editor-specific.
Schedule time: #NetworkThursday
Freelancers may need to promote their services to maintain a steady stream of clients. This can require a delicate balance of marketing efforts. Use social media to show up and show people your services. They won’t know what you do unless you tell them.
But, when work is challenging with a tight deadline, how do you find your next client if you have no time to do any marketing? Scheduling tools for social media posts can be your friend.
Schedule time: #MarketingMonday
9. Work/life balance
Achieving a healthy work/life balance is often a struggle for freelancers. The flexibility of freelancing can sometimes blur the lines between work and personal life, making it challenging to maintain boundaries. Anyone else work at the weekends? Sure, when necessary.
I used to resent it when I was a teacher and using my weekend for marking, assessment, and planning. There just wasn’t enough time during the week. My family suffered. I never saw them. I felt guilty. If you do feel the need to work at the weekend, make sure you balance it by taking one or two days off during the week to maintain control of your freelancing see-saw. And make time to see the people in your life who are important.
Schedule time: #FamilyFriday
10. Do a variety of projects
Freelancers often work on a variety of projects with different requirements and clients. Balancing diverse tasks and meeting client expectations is like adjusting weight on a see-saw.
I prefer to book an easy project after the challenges of a long, complicated project as a way of changing gears. Of course, what is easy to one freelancer is not easy to another; it depends on our strengths and interests. How about treats or rewards: do you reward yourself when a task or stage or project is complete?
Schedule time: #TreatTime (This hashtag appeared in point 2 but treats are important to me as a great motivator!)
11. To specialise or generalise?
Freelancers can take the opportunity to specialise by providing editing or proofreading services in their niche. Editors that generalise say they can edit both fiction and non-fiction. Specialists offer editing in specific genres of fiction or non-fiction. The choice is yours. Using a previous career is a good starting point for a specialism as you already have more knowledge in that field than others, eg education, law, medicine, music. Or, you may want to move into a new area.
12. Flexibility versus stability
Freelancing offers flexibility but can lack the stability of a traditional job with an employer. Balancing the desire for freedom and autonomy with the need for financial security is an ongoing challenge. Flexibility of work hours and choice of clients is preferable, but the temptation of a regular income can be strong.
Overall, freelancing, like being on a see-saw, involves constant adjustments and careful balancing and control to ensure a successful and fulfilling freelance life.
Up and down, up and down … How do you ride the peaks and troughs? How do you stay calm? Finding the right balance for each of these aspects is a key challenge for freelancers. But so rewarding when it works!
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Contact me to check my availability for proofreading non-fiction and children’s books.