Everyone struggles with unplugging from work from time to time, especially when it gets really busy. As a remote worker, however, your work is often your life: not only in the sense that you often work where you live, but also because the lines between your work and your personal life can easily become blurred.
With the daily pressures of winning new projects, making customers happy and earning a sufficient living, freelancers are often inclined to be available around the clock and feel guilty if they allow themselves breaks from work.
After learning that unplugging from work is the biggest struggle for freelancers, I turned to Scribbr’s editor community to ask for their strategies and tips for flipping the switch between the work and leisure mindsets, which is vital for our sanity.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to increase productivity during your work day and recharge your mind once it ends:
1. Separate your workspace from your living space
As soon as you mention you’re a freelancer, the next thing you’ll hear is probably some comment about how you work from your bed, free from any textile from your waist down. And admittedly, it can be tempting to skip all the effort in the morning and stay cozy — especially on those dark winter days, when you’re feeling under the weather.
Most of us would agree that long-term, this is neither a sustainable nor comfortable way of working. Working in the same places in which you relax, whether it is your bed or your sofa, weakens the mental association between that place and your sense of relaxation. We recommend setting up a space in your apartment solely dedicated to work, as this will allow you to physically step away from work at the end of the day.
It’s vital to have a separate place dedicated to work. I work only in my study, and in my study I only work. Editors living in cities with high rents might not have this option, but they can virtualize the underlying principle. I’m convinced that it already helps to have a separate notebook dedicated to work. It should also exclusively be used for work. — Alex
Another option, one which comes with the added benefit of social interaction (certainly not seen as a benefit by every freelancer), is going to coworking spaces. Platforms like Croissant or Workfrom can help you find the right coworking space, if working in a local cafe is not your thing.
2. Have after-work rituals
Scheduling an activity at the end of your work day is a great incentive to wrap things up after work and to leave your laptop. It can be as simple as going for a short walk, scheduling a gym class or meeting a friend.
I’m a big fan of scheduling evening activities to ensure that I have time away from thinking about work. Even something as simple as a weekly coffee date with a friend can help to break up the day! — Liz
It’s important to know yourself and what it is that you need after a busy work day to help you make that mental transition. Some people get their mind off work by socializing, while others (like us introverts) might need some silence and time for themselves.
I follow a cooking class every Wednesday that basically doesn’t even allow for a phone, since your hands are constantly so dirty. — Emily
3. Be strict with your availability
As a freelancer, one of the biggest perks is setting your own working hours and the flexibility that this brings. It stops being a perk and becomes a stressor, however, if you see every hour you’re not committed to working as turning down money you could earn. While you don’t have to stick to a 9-to-5 routine, scheduling your week and sticking to set working hours will help you focus on your life away from projects and deadlines.
I try to work standard office hours. This way I’m finishing work when my friends are finishing work, and it’s easy to switch into social time or my own time, as it’s what everyone else is doing. — Courtney
If you value your time and set boundaries for yourself, then your clients will, too. Inform them of your regular working hours and the channels through which you prefer them to contact you. This will allow you to go offline on your free days, without being greeted by angry emails the next day.
Focus on building relationships and establishing mutual respect. Your clients should think of you as a human whose time and effort are valuable, rather than a workhorse willing to do anything for work. Setting the right perception is important. — Samantha
While freelancers love to pride themselves on their “hustle,” learning to say “no” is just as important. After all, it’s even cooler to say you’ve never been close to a burnout than to impress anyone with your 60 hour work week.
That said, for many freelancers, it’s a luxury to be able to turn down projects. If you’re a freelance newbie and you simply need and want the work experience, that’s okay — it also means you’re working your way towards being able to be more selective with the work you accept in the future.
However, if you’re unable to turn down projects simply for financial reasons, focusing on establishing long-term relationships with multiple clients is the only way. Agencies like Scribbr, which focus on long-term collaboration and can provide editors with work throughout the year, offer stability that is otherwise hard to find in the freelance world.
4. Schedule holidays in advance
Sure, it’s easy as a freelancer to hop on a plane every few months. But when was the last time you went on a holiday without carrying your laptop with you and being stuck on your phone?
While most remote workers have unlimited vacation days, on average they take even fewer holidays than the traditional worker. Long-term, this will affect not only your productivity and creativity, but also your mental health. Giving yourself a brain-break will benefit you and your career in the end.
Give yourself a number of (work-free) vacation days that you take as a minimum. Again, this resembles the character of a traditional job, but that’s because (most) employers care about you. In other words, be the boss to yourself that you’ve always wanted. 😉
Thanks to Scribbr’s editor community for sharing your experiences and advice with us. Scribbr provides 600+ freelance editors with interesting projects according to their preferences and availability throughout the year.