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.

Working for yourself is about more than just setting your own hours and making decisions that directly affect your business. Freelancing can be daunting when you have bills to pay and other obligations to meet. Can you ever take a break from it all?

The answer isn’t black or white. The gray area is what’s most important; how to manage your workload without risking your mental or physical health.

Three little words

The three most detrimental words in the English language are “should,” “ought,” and “must.” How many times have you said them, out loud or to yourself? I should do this, I ought to do that, and I must get it done. The pressure we lay upon ourselves in everyday life can be destructive. But as a freelance worker, you know how important it is to make deadlines and, please the client. Still, you need to care for yourself and have time for indoor and outdoor upkeep on your home.

Striking a balance between work duties and home life is essential for those who are self-employed. Consider these tips:

1) Be Flexible

The freelance life depends on flexibility and the willingness to work some unusual hours. But it can get stressful if you get the balance wrong. A flexible schedule lets you work in a few games of Words With Friends while you tackle your professional responsibilities. Create a schedule that best fits your productivity. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person? Self-employment often means working more than the standard eight-hour day. There’s no hard and fast rule that says you must maintain specific working hours. Allow yourself the freedom of taking time off when you’re sick or have family obligations.

2) Plan ahead

Determining the details of your day before the sun rises is a good way to set priorities and not stress about what to do next. Use a planning calendar – on a computer screen or paper. It will help you get organized; especially when juggling more than one client and project. Separate your day into single hours with short breaks, so nothing gets too overwhelming.

Designate a personal workspace with the right ambiance for your creativity. One of the perks of freelancing is that your home office is your own. Comfort and ergonomics are essential elements for success.

3) Physical activity

It can be tough to dedicate time for exercise, but freelance professionals who sit at computers for hours need to engage in some type of physical activity. Exercise is the secret to better physical and mental health. Whether you hit the gym, pool, go for a walk, or devise a home workout plan, set aside 30 minutes for at least three days a week to get your body moving.

4) Break time!

As a freelancer, you don’t get paid if you don’t work. There are no paid holidays, sick days, or vacations. But that’s part of the game, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan some time off. We all work better when we have something to look forward to. So take an afternoon, full day, or several days off for fun and relaxation. Life is not about work, work, work! Taking time off to play and rest will help you become more creative and productive.

5) Manage commitments

Don’t be afraid to say, "No." It’s easy to say “yes” to every job that comes your way, and as an independent contractor, you want to strike that work iron while it’s hot. But overcommitting can lead to missed deadlines, a poor work outcome and, a disappointed or angry client.

Know your limits and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Good clients who respect your work will stay with you, and if you need more time to complete a project, don’t be afraid to say so.

Sometimes it’s best to outsource work, especially if there's a lot of research involved. Delegating projects can help relieve stress. Reach out to the professionals you engage with on your freelance platform. They’re there to help!

The number of freelance workers in the U.S. has increased over the last five years; now at an estimated 56.7 million people, according to a 2018 study. That figure is expected to rise significantly over the next decade. Don’t be afraid to join the crowd — just keep some time for yourself.

Caroline Gray is a freelance journalist who balances writing for newspapers and blogs with taking care of a five-acre ranch.