3 Steps for Maintaining Balance as a Web Copy Writer

8 May

If you are a freelance writer, do you often find it difficult to find that perfect balance in your life? Are you continually feeling guilty about not having enough time to do it all? A while back, I wrote a post about maintaining balance as a small business owner, which provided some helpful tips for anyone struggling in this area. Now I’d like to address the writing community out there specifically, to talk about some of the ways to find a better balance between writing work and a personal life.

First, let me start off by saying that being a full time web copy writer is by no means an “easy” job, like some of my corporate counterparts like to think. They seem to imagine me as this free-spirited person who has all the time in the world to dream up content for websites whilst I relax in my pajamas eating bon-bons all day. I suppose it’s because they wonder what it is that I do from 9-5  in my little home office. When I tell people I write for a living, I often get that puzzled look and then a question like, “So what books have you written?” My response is then, “Well, actually I don’t write books, I create website and print marketing copy that helps small business owners get their message out there more effectively.” Then it makes better sense and people realize that I work HARD all week long.

When I first started out in this biz, I had the same set of expectations which included: being able to roll out of bed when I wanted to, work on the projects I chose, and deal with clients on my terms. Instead, I found out very quickly that I had a lot of hoops to jump through as a service provider. If I didn’t spend time daily looking for new opportunities, they wouldn’t exactly be banging on my door. My world quickly got out of balance as I spent more and more hours glued to my computer.

Then I started taking a real hard look at my business and set up a 3-Step Plan to get myself back into focus and create a more reasonable work-life balance for myself (and my family). Here’s what I came up with:

1. Establish standard business hours. Without a clear schedule and work hours, it’s easy to let things get out of balance. The lines between work and personal time begin to blur. In addition, clients begin to think that you will be available at their command, any time of the day or night. When you get a call from a client at 4 AM on a Sunday, you know you have a problem with balance. So, I decided what work hours work best for my clients and I, and then I set them into action by stating them clearly on my business website.

2. Allow goof off time or mental health days. One of the ways that freelance writers get out of balance is by not allowing themselves time to relax. Spending 12 hours in an office chair  6 days a week is not a healthy way to conduct a business or produce quality copy. So now, I allow myself at least one hour of “goof off” time during the day, and take a mental health day off twice a month. I also frequently plan on-site client meetings and go to business networking events to get out of my home office. Getting away from the desk refreshes my mind and helps me to focus on work when I am in the office.

3. Learn to ask for help when needed. The biggest lesson I had to learn as a web copy writer in Charleston was getting help from other writers or creative professionals when the project called for it. The personality of an entrepreneur is to try to do everything yourself. But this is also an indicator of being a complete control freak! If a big project comes in, I quickly assess how much time it will take me to do my part, and then I get in touch with a couple of trusted entrepreneurs I have in my network to help out. This has created more balance in my business and life.

So, whatever you find yourself dealing with now in your writing career or as a home based business professional, know that you CAN find a better balance for your life. The key is to learn what your priorities are and establish clear boundaries so that you can focus on what’s most important to you. Don’t wait – do this now and save yourself a lot of stress and frustration.

How do you find balance as a freelancer?

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6 Responses to “3 Steps for Maintaining Balance as a Web Copy Writer”

  1. Billie May 8, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    Thanks for your take on this, Tess! I’m going to look into those mental health days! One of the tricks I use is to break the day up into early-morning work and mid-afternoon work, so I can build in a couple of hours of playing hooky. And I’m with you on the importance of networking! I’m often the only writer in my networking groups, so when it’s time for someone to find a copywriter, I know I’ll be on the short list!

  2. Haley May 8, 2011 at 2:43 am #

    As a freelancer, finding balance has been one of things I’ve struggled with the most. Establishing standard business hours is something I’m still working on, but I’m getting better at putting up boundaries between work and the rest of my life than I was when I first started. Thanks for the great tips!

  3. Nisha May 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this, Tess. Though I do take mental breaks, I find it very difficult to adhere to time schedule. At times it’s really difficult, especially if one is working from home.

    • admin May 9, 2011 at 1:26 am #

      Hi Nisha – thanks for your comment. It can be tough trying to stick to a set schedule, but also sets up clear boundaries so you are not tempted to take client calls in the middle of the night, or work when you should be spending quality time. I encourage you to try to set a schedule that works for YOU for a couple of weeks and see if you are happier and more productive. – Tess

  4. Joan Lambert Bailey May 8, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    Just what I needed to read. I’ve been feeling completely overwhelmed of late even thinking about all that I have to do. I feel like I’m forgetting how to relax. And I feel like I’m having a hard time producing the kind of work I like best. Thanks for a great post!

  5. Alison Law May 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Tess, I agree with you that establishing business hours is key. Even if I’m working past my established closing time of 5:30 p.m., I don’t respond to emails or send work at night. It sends a bad message to the client that it’s OK to contact me “after hours” and expect an immediate response. If you proactively manage client expectations, I think it’s OK to set these boundaries.

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