Because I know what it’s like to have low points in my adventures as a freelance worker, I reached a junction in my professional life where I would accept just about anything that came my way. After a few months of having that oh-so-special form of chaos wreak a little havoc in my work life, I learned to set some boundaries.
Freelance workers are not a new thing. Often dubbed the “gig economy,” the prevalence of freelance workers is on the rise and is anticipated to continue its upward ascent. From contracted driving services like Uber to freelance digital marketing consultants (ahem, over here), many workers are choosing their working conditions and hours. And, for many of us who need flexible schedules, it’s a great way to handle business.
Some of you may be thinking, “yeah, well this doesn’t apply to me.” For some of you, maybe it won’t. But according to the CEO of Intuit, 34% of workers are a part of the gig economy workforce and this is expected to rise to 43% by 2020. If these predictions come true, we are looking at almost half of the workforce in freelance or contract work.
One of the major advantages of working for yourself is that you get to set your own hours, no real revelation there. You can work whenever inspiration strikes you and your work habits need no longer conform to someone else’s definition of what work looks like. I love this aspect of freelance work. But, as with many things in life, this can be a carefully laid trap if you don’t set some boundaries. Consider lottery winners, for example.
Winning the lottery seems like a wonderful occurrence. Who wouldn’t want to sit back, put up your feet, and not have to worry about working or bringing in an income? Well, if you believe the stories, just about anyone should hope for the opposite. Even Time has documented the disasters that plague lottery winners: “Many winners befall the so-called curse of the lottery, with some squandering their fortunes and others meeting tragic ends.” Many big-time winners fall victim to drug habits and wrecked relationships which they largely attribute to conditions related to their winnings. So yes, too much of a good thing can be bad. Follow my analogy here.
This same Time article also describes a man named Richard Lustig. This seven-time lottery winner is still enjoying the money he won nearly two decades ago. He’s maintained a marriage of 30 years and has two children. He frequently takes cruises and enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. When asked how he managed to fare so much better than others, he replied that, ‘”They think there’s no tomorrow. Well, there is a tomorrow and eventually it will run out.’”
This commentary got me thinking about my own habits. I decided it was time that I take a very similar approach to work. Similar to how lottery winners often neglect those around them and immerse themselves in their money, I was constantly engrossed in my work. Not because I wanted to be, because I felt I needed to be so that I could keep a steady income. Freelance work can be sporadic, with extreme highs and lows.
Quickly I found myself working, not just at times of the day that worked for me, but at all times of the day. I continually told my husband, “don’t worry it’s just for right now.” And being the wonderful man that he is, he understood.
But after weeks turned into months and I didn’t let up, I could see the understanding fade into resentment as I worked later hours and more weekends. I heard my own words parroted back to me from my children during playtime. My daughter would say “I can’t play right now, I have to work,” to her younger brother as they played house. I was focusing so much on what I was doing that I forgot why I was doing it. I wanted a better life for my family. Yet, here I was making them more miserable and neglecting to spend time with them.
Clearly, it was time to set some boundaries. These were the firm rules I established for myself:
I quit work when my husband comes home from work.
I take at least one hour of each day to do something my children want to do.
I don’t work weekends unless it’s completely unavoidable. When I do, I keep it to two hours max.
I acknowledge my husband’s presence when he speaks to me at all times (this includes making eye contact and looking up from my screen).
So now, even when things seem like I might be hitting a low period, I still keep to my boundaries. Because once those days are gone, I can’t get them back. I’d rather define my life by the moments that mean the most to me, rather than the number of projects I completed and the amount of money I made.
Ashley works in the mystical world of digital marketing. A true lover of the written word, she whiles away her time writing, editing, reading, and helping small businesses with their marketing needs. Believing herself to be a seeker of discomfort, she is always on the lookout for her next adventure. Check her out at contenthusiast.com.