Combatting the Phrase: Sometimes I wish I had a 9-5


The phrase that has haunted me over the past few weeks, as I hear it from friends and colleagues. I’ve heard it come from my own mouth a few times, but I realized that it wasn’t the truth, it was frustration over other things. It’s like when working for a big corporate company the phrase “I wish I worked for myself” would often be repeated to friends and family. That, was the truth.

You make sacrifices for being in the creative freelancing world, or any entrepreneurship where you are going to wear the majority of the hats for your business. We do it so that there is freedom. Freedom in creativity, freedom in hours worked, freedom in choosing a heath plan that fits your needs (sometimes), in deciding what the process is, or the direction of your career. So sometimes those sacrifices take their toll. But do we really mean it when we say or think “I wish I had a 9-5?” Or is this something we can fix with a  little bit of ingenuity and refocus on what the heart of the issue.

Examplesfrom Friends and Myself

Let’s dive into a few examples from the last few weeks to discuss what the true intentions of that phrase tend to lead back to. The first, a friend whose business is in transition. Part design, part fixed mostly work, part hourly work. This mix of things, leaves her feeling like she never really moves towards her goal. The mix of doing design on a contractual basis and on an hourly basis, leaves multiple clients on multiple types of contracts, with the issue of some having different working parameters. 

By not starting our their contract on a PROJECT by PROJECT basis, there was a loss of boundaries in the design. When can you email someone and expect a response? If you allow them to talk on the phone, can they call and request something? If you have an assistant or a VA who does design work, then this is BOUND to happen. So how do you draw a line in the sand?

Besides that line being really hard to draw, there are a few things that can be done right?

  1. Not emailing back right away. If you do, schedule your email to go out during business hours. This keeps a strong line for business work, to be done during business hours. You will get better at it, but the first place to start is scheduling out the email. If it is during business hours, consider not replying in 3 minutes time. Sit back and craft a thoughtful answer, most likely it will be just fine :)

  2.  Getting a work phone. How many times have you gotten texts/calls from clients when you were doing something else/and then that dread that they now have gotten your personal cell voicemail? Yeah, it's not a good feeling. So, one of the things I am doing to separate business from life is get a work phone. Not that expensive to add a land-line to my wireless bill, and completely worth it for a few reasons. No texting :) This puts a prescient that you aren't in the office, the second thing is having a voicemail for your business, so for me - so often they get to my voice mail and hear Meg Sheeley and say "Who is that?" I have numerous clients who don't read my contract (ahem my real name is in there, or even my about page on my site, where they will learn my MIDDLE name is Summerfield lol). 
  3. ONLY checking email during work hours (what a thought right?) This one I am still getting used to. It is really really hard. In fact it's the hardest part of the equation for me. I am slowly adapting to being better at it, but it's SO important. That factor of sanity comes from decompressing, and if you constantly are checking for an email, then you will never be productive, relaxed or find that work-life balance.

Does this fix the problem? No, but it starts to set boundaries, one of the root causes of us feeling like a 9-5 stable normal office gig is better. There’s less that bleeds into the everyday life of a freelancer when you “leave it at the office” figuratively and physically. IN this case, contract and personal boundaries need to be set so personal time is … personal. It’s not about a work-life balance, it’s the idea of that balance actually being respected by all parties INCLUDING yourself. 

Doing it all and never-ending feeling of something "to-do"

The second thing that really puts that “9-5 job” on a pedastool for us freelancers is the fear and the stress of “doing it all”. The boss things, the finances, the taxes, the accounting, bookkeeping, contracts etc. Even if you hire-out for these things, the responsibility can sometimes be daunting. So how do we go about fixing this one? Or better phrased, how do we go about lessening the stress of these things through a better formulation of our process, our bookkeeping etc? For this I highly suggest finding a business-friend to share these things with.  You don’t need to pay someone straight out to help you (we all know it’s expensive) but finding someone to keep you accountable - share those fears with - like a bestie/therapist. That person does’t HAVE to be in your business, but having a sense of how it works is a nice perk. Being able to say, omg i have no clue what “I’m doing in this part of my business taxes” is really freeing. Once you figure out your downfalls, talk through them then it’s much less stressful. You need a water-cooler buddy. 

Defining Your Own Rules

The last thing to realize is that finding the balance for this “treating your freelance business like a 9-5” comes with your own rules, they dont have to be the same as your blogging buddies, or other freelance friends. For me, I try to use this frame of mind around my office HOURS, but I allow them to be worked from a cafe, couch or studio, it doesn’t matter. We are going to talk next time about how I’m changing my office hours, but in the meantime, start writing notes when you are frustrated with working for yourself about WHAT it is and WHY you are frustrated. You might start to see a pattern that could be fixable!

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