Freelancers: Do You Lead Alternate Lives?
So when I was thinking of a conversation I had with a previous employer who was assisting me with the startup of The Phuse, I never thought that the ideology they’d explained to me in such a simple adjustment could apply to freelancing in general.
If you’re anything like me, you find yourself working through weekends, staying up all night and just managing to do everything. But maybe we’re doing things wrong. Maybe it’s not more hours that’s needed in a day, but maybe we need less. Yes, spring sprung one hour less into our hectic schedules, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Maybe we should limit our work.
Gasp! Why would you even say something like that? Hold on now – hear me out: we need to separate our lives properly. I spend weekends working because I have clients on instant messaging platforms. Early last year, I had a GMail account that had all of my work and personal accounts amalgamating into one super-account that I thought was super awesome. My tax return for this year probably could have been better, but I didn’t keep track of business expenditures properly.
There’s something wrong here, and here’s the key. We all have personal lives – it doesn’t matter if you work from home or you work in an office with 50 other people. We all have work lives. Why are we constantly mixing them up, who can we blame, and what can we do about this?
Separate Your Payment Methods – er – Everything
For a while there, financial advisors have been telling us that we should be separating how we pay for business expenditures with how we pay for personal things. Simple little tip, but we need to apply this to everything else we do. This means different things to different people, but let’s put it in perspective.
E-mails, E-mails, Everywhere!
We all have company e-mail accounts and instant messaging accounts (MSN/Skype/GTalk). What you need to do right now is open a new e-mail address just for personal stuff (if you’ve been using one e-mail for everything). This way, when a friend asks your e-mail to send you pictures of his kid, you don’t have to see it in the middle of designing a pamphlet and coding a website. If you’re one of those GTalk-crack-fiends, then either create another Google account for your personal e-mails, or put your work e-mail in another app. Same things apply to instant messaging accounts.
So, now you have two e-mails. Double the work for everything, right? Wrong. Now you can focus a little better on work and your personal life. When you’re working, you don’t take that unnecessary time to see the photos of your friend’s kid that ends up taking longer than you expected as you decided to e-mail him an awesome photo of you snowboarding on your roof. There are a few ways you can separate the two e-mails you have now.
My preferred way is through having my personal e-mails online and having my work e-mails on a desktop application. This way, personal e-mails I can access from pretty well anywhere that I can log onto a computer. Work e-mail is pretty well the same, but mentally in my head I have it in one place: in my desktop app. I do have my work e-mail synced up on my phone as well, but I usually never respond to e-mails on there. I have it so I know if there are any urgent matters that need to be attended to.
When I’m working, I have my desktop app open. When I’m done, I close it and ignore it. That’s when I open my personal account and check for any personal things I need to respond to! Same thing goes for those IM accounts. I use Adium (it merges multiple accounts for me through AIM, MSN, GTalk, etc), and when I’m done with work, I switch all the work accounts off and open the personal ones up.
We all hate taxes. I won’t lie, I fairly butchered my taxes this year, even with my accountant doing an amazing job pulling things together with me. It’s fine though because this was my first time doing things. (I’d done things before, but it was all put down as personal income.)
So separating your credit cards, chequing/savings accounts, and even cash on hand is very important. You’ve probably heard this one before, so I won’t go into it. I’ll just say that I’m going to be using this tip this year for sure!
What About My Phone Number?
A lot of us give out our cell numbers to clients to call us. This seems like the greatest idea in the world until a client calls you at 11PM at night and you end up spending the rest of the night making changes for that client. There are a few ways around this:
- Get another phone line. It’s a little bit of an extra charge ($30 a month last I checked), but opening another phone line is pretty awesome. If you have a BlackBerry you can have two lines coming in at once (personal and work), and you can set it to send calls to voicemail from a specific phone number. I don’t know what other phones have this capability, but you should call into your cellphone provider to help.
- Alternatively, you can also get a landline. This is good for your credit, and can be used for work calls only. Just unplug the cord every day when you’re done working!
- Just use Skype. This is another nice option. When you’re working, you’re at your computer anyways. If you’re someone like me who is always connected, you likely have a smart phone that allows you to access Skype. Have two accounts on Skype: one for work, one for personal things.
- If clients want to talk to you, they should be scheduling time to speak to you anyways, and you should make this clear. This way, clients don’t end up calling you constantly, and you can make sure you’re 100% ready when you call them to help them with their request.
If you’ve taken the liberty to do some of these things already, how are they working for you? Do you have any other suggestions for others to separate their work and personal lives? Share them in the comments, below!