When you made the decision to become a freelancer, you subconsciously also made a decision to change your attitude to life. Working from home, at the behest of clients, and probably often in the middle of the night, your relationships are going to change. Your partner, your children, your friends, and your family – they’re all going to notice.
And they’re not going to like it.
Here’s how to prevent relationship breakdown and maintain a good social life as a freelancer…
Talk To People About Your Plans To Freelance
Make sure your friends and family know that you’re setting up as a freelancer. As well as the benefit of finding potential clients through their referrals, you’re also setting a precedent for their expectations.
When your friends know that you’re serious about becoming your own boss – whether as a side job or full-time – they’ll realise that you won’t always be able to say yes to their invitations. You might need to spell that out for them, but if they’re good friends they’ll support you in your venture.
Remember, though, that when you do see your friends, you need to talk about things that aren’t your new freelance venture. It’s really exciting to you – but it can make you a very boring person to listen to! Take an interest in what your friends are up to, and your friendships will remain strong.
When it comes to maintaining relationships when you’re a freelancer, your family will be the biggest obstacle. They’ll still put huge demands on your time, and may not realise that when you’re in your home office, you need to be left alone.
Whether it’s telling the kids that they can’t bother you when you’re in your office between 12-3pm, or asking your partner to give you an hour of peace, boundaries need to be set.
To stop resentment rising, however, make sure that you set boundaries for yourself, too. Promise that you’ll switch off the laptop by 8pm, or turn your phone off after 9pm, or that you’ll always have one work-free day a week to spend with family. That way, it’s a case of give-and-take, and your relationships will remain balanced and supportive.
Explain Why You Say No
The word ‘freelancer’ should be synonymous with ‘sacrifice’. You’re going to have to give up a lot of time and energy to make your freelance venture work – and that’s going to irritate the people around you.
Say ‘no’ to invitations, but always follow up with an alternative. Show your friends and family that you want to see them, however right now isn’t a good time. For example, if a friend asks you to dinner, say “I’ve got a really tight deadline to hit, but I’m free next Wednesday or Friday if that works for you?”. Give them a couple of options for your alternative suggestion, to make sure it doesn’t feel like you’re controlling the balance of your relationship where you always dictate the when and where.
It can also affect your professional relationships, if you always say ‘yes’ to clients and realise afterwards that you’re simply not going to be able to complete work to deadline. If you tell clients ‘No, sorry I can’t make that deadline’, they will respect you all the more. It won’t necessarily go down well that they aren’t your number-one-work-must-always-be-prioritised client, but they will realise that you have other clients. This also has the added benefit of the scarcity principle: if you’re too busy to complete a short deadline, it shows that your services are in demand. If other people want you, your client is going to want you, too!
Never Skip Important Events
Whether it’s your son’s school play or your partner’s Christmas party, your granny’s 80th or your best friend’s wedding, there is no excuse to miss it.
You became a freelancer so that you could manage your time on a more flexible level. Unfortunately, being a freelancer usually means actually working many more hours in the week than in a salaried job. However, this flexibility of schedule means that you absolutely cannot reason with any excuse to miss important social events.
Always, always turn up. Even if you have turned the same friend down six times in a row for dinner, if they call you bawling down the phone because they’re newly single – you go to them. Your work can wait.
Multitask Your Socialising
You can always make the most of being a freelancer on flexible time by arranging savvy social events. For example, meet friends for breakfast instead of dinner – that way, they’re on a deadline to get to work in the morning, so you won’t have to deal with escaping from a lingering dinner to finish your latest blog.
Doing something like this also helps you, too: it gets you out of the house and into the city. Freelancers can too easily become wrapped in their home-office cocoon, never to emerge. Once you’re out in town, you can say goodbye to your friends after breakfast, and make the most of being out of the house. Go and visit the museum that has an exhibition related to your work, or arrange to pop in and see a local client. Multi-tasking your time like this will help you feel more productive, as well as maintain your social relationships.
Being a freelancer can be an isolating and lonely job – but it doesn’t have to be. Make sure you don’t ruin your relationships by finding time in your flexible freelance schedule to spend with your valuable friends and family. They’re the ones who’ll support you when the work gets tough, and they’re the ones who’ll be your champions when things are going well. Your relationships are just as important to your job as they are to your wellbeing – so remember to make time for them!