This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
For many of us who freelance, the boundaries between “work” and “life” are much blurrier than they are for folks in organizations. The term “work/life balance” is harder for us to grasp, in large part because those aren’t two clearly separate spheres anymore.
"Work-life integration" is a much more helpful framework because it expands our understanding of how work, community, family, and our internal experiences can enrich one another.
I don’t know about you, but when I started freelancing, I had a hard time figuring out how my work and personal life would fit together.
I had questions like, “Am I just always ‘working’?” and “How do I know when I’m switching to “life” mode?”
After over a year of trying to find the answers to these questions, I have some ideas about how we can relate to our work and our personal lives more holistically:
1. Bring your entire self to work and to life.
It’s exhausting to make big swings between your “professional” and “personal” identities, and it can make it difficult to relate to others with authenticity.
For many of us, it can feel awkward to be totally authentic with clients or professional peers, but we’re all people, all the time. You can start small; for example, if you have a quirky sense of humor that you haven’t shared with your clients before, throw out a joke and see what happens.
My guess is that it will make you feel (and seem) truer to who you really are.
*Note: just try not to cross the line between “TMI" and “authentic".
**We do work/life integration well **
**2. Work in a way that supports growth and change. **
If you work from home, make your own schedule, and have clients who are friends, it can be hard to feel justified in taking time to rest and play, but we still need to.
If we’re going to successfully integrate our work and our personal lives, we have to make space for growth and change, which requires us to take care of our bodies and souls.
Just because you get to work from home in your yoga pants doesn’t mean you don’t still need 8-9 hours of sleep, healthy food, and quiet time to daydream.
Prioritize those things that allow you to expand and innovate, both personally and professionally.
**3. Accept that work happens in the midst of everything else. **
Very few people are able to do their work in cloistered environments with few outside demands. Freelancing can be hard for the same reason it’s so wonderful: we lose the boundaries that organizations provide.
We may not have a permanent desk or set schedule anymore, and it can feel frustrating not to have structured, “uninterrupted” time to work.
New freelancers often have to learn that the work is being done all the time, whether they’re actually on the phone with a client or getting lunch with a friend who may have a referral one day.
The boundaries between work and life may appear to be gone, but they were never really there to begin with.
The challenge for all of us, freelancers or not, is to integrate the parts of our lives that, when working together, create a rich and full existence.
Megan Leatherman lives in Portland, Oregon and works as a freelance Human Resources Consultant and Career Coach. She cares about making workplaces more people-friendly and writes about work-life integration on her blog. You can learn more about her on her website, www.integrated-consulting.org.