How to Set Boundaries as a Freelancer

Although it can seem exhilarating to finally be your own boss and setting your own schedule, it cannot be denied that freelancing comes with its own unique set of responsibilities. You have to be the one to find work for a sustainable income. No work means (excluding any passive affiliate income) no paycheck, which does not a happy or financially secure freelancer make.

The temptation to work more and more hours is all too real. However, with the threat of burnout ever-looming, there will have to come a time when you must take charge of your freelancing destiny and set boundaries – seems ironic in a way, doesn’t it?

Consider following the “handful of gigs” rule…

Freelancing and/or remote work opportunities are becoming more mainstream than ever – they definitely tend to dominate job boards. It’s understandable, then, that in your quest to obtain (or attain) livable income levels, you apply for lots of freelancing gigs at any given time. Problems start when you actually accept the gigs – especially if you’re a freelance writer – and end up falling behind anyway because you quite literally took on too much.

Thus enters the “handful of gigs” rule. Keep no more than five gigs going at any given time. If you’re alternating between freelancing-work-whenever-you-want-platforms and specific deadline-driven clients, a reasonable ratio might be three clients to two platforms. Of course, since nothing is forever in freelancing, you’ll need to adjust as you go – never more than five, though, and preferably less if time management is a particular struggle.

Know your rates (on several levels).

Even the most interesting freelancing gigs can come with a caveat – if you don’t work quickly, you don’t earn anything close to resembling a decent hourly wage. Some gigs (search engine evaluation and types of editing, for example) are preferred by many freelancers for this very reason. As for other gigs (like media production, transcription, and writing) well, those can really eat up time and, in turn, productivity.

Really consider where your strengths are – you might like to write, but can you sustain the focus that it takes to consistently create quality content? Editing could be a favorite for you, but if you ending up rushing through projects with dollar signs in your eyes, you run the risk of closing that door.

Make sure you know what your time is worth, too. Lots of jobs these days ask for rates from any prospective applicants. That’s just a clever way of hiring the person who ultimately requires the lowest amount. Payment amounts should, ideally, be listed upfront. If you need to make, say, at least $12 per hour, evaluate the parameters of any given project and stick to a time frame. Speaking of which…

Technology is your most important time tool.

There’s no excuse these days to overwork and be like, “Oh, I lost track of time.” Computers have alarms, phones have alarms – everything can be as structured as you want or need it to be. That being said, the most important boundary you can set for yourself as a freelancer has to do with time.

You’re the boss of your work day, so make your hours as such. Build in short breaks of around 15 minutes each for every hour and a half to two hours that you work. Try to leave weekends for personal time, and even allot yourself a weekday every now and then to rest and recharge.

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