Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer with bylines in publications like Forbes, Vogue Business, and Adweek, and a client list featuring some of the biggest brands in eCommerce. With an impressive portfolio comes a demanding workload. Below, she shares her personal experience with burnout and boundaries, and some hard-earned tips on cultivating balance as a freelancer.
How to Find Work-Life Balance as a Freelancer
Talk to us about what work-life balance means to you.
These days, I’m taking better care of myself and trying to avoid overworking, but… there’s a lot of room for improvement. Some background: In the first year or two I was freelance writing full-time, I worked a lot. These were long days with short breaks and *maybe* a 10-minute lunch. I woke up in the morning mad at myself if I’d overslept by even a few minutes, sweaty with panic and already worrying about whether or not I’d get everything done for the day.
The reason: FEAR.
Those first few years of full-time freelance writing were 100% fear-driven.
Fear that I wouldn’t make enough money and would regret leaving the security and stability of my full-time job.
Fear that I’d look like an idiot failure to my friends and family.
Fear that I wasn’t smart enough to manage running a business on my own.
Fear that my clients would think I was a charlatan or my work would suddenly dry up.
Lemme tell you: It wasn’t a great way to live.
Turns out existing in a constant state of low-grade anxiety isn’t all that healthy, either. I got really sick. Not only was I dealing with a variety of ongoing health issues, but I couldn’t sleep well and I had terrible back pain from so much sitting at the computer (even with a nice chair). I started doing some things to regain that work-life balance thing I’d heard so much about.
What is something you do regularly that helps you achieve balance?
Getting a massage every 3-4 weeks, drinking lots of water (the secret is lemon!), going to therapy, and implementing a sleep routine. The other big shift that happened was that I finally gave myself permission to chill. I toned down the self-competition and started asking for help when I needed it. I made myself get out of the house and go be around other human beings during the day. I stopped letting that fear dictate my days.
What boundaries do you set with clients to protect your time and capacity?
I think a lot of people are lying when they say they don’t check email around the clock. I know I do. It’s just another app I open as I’m checking social channels. But by turning off push notifications, it put some of the power over that back in my hands. No more incessant DING! at all hours of the day. Now, I use flags to mark the emails I need to respond to when I’m back at my desk. And while I read emails outside my office hours, I don’t respond until the next day. It helps me mentally prepare for what’s coming and stay on top of messages without being pulled into reacting right away.
I learned to say NO.
If you’re a people-pleasing person like me that JUST WANTS EVERYONE TO LIKE HER, DAMNIT, this is a hard thing to learn. But I did, and it helped me be more selective about how I invested my time and energy… which also made me resent my work a lot less.
What are the signals that your work-life balance may be off-kilter? And how do you course-correct?
Sleep issues, constant stress/anxiety, resentment toward your workload, and general grumpiness are some top signals. You can course-correct by outsourcing some of your work, asking for a deadline extension, and making a plan to prevent overloading yourself in future months with a project planner.
What advice do you have for freelancers who are struggling to find balance?
Stop being so hard on yourself, and remember: You’re the boss in this situation! You set the rules.