As a freelancer, taking time off can feel like a daunting task. The thought of stepping away from work can be nerve-wracking, especially when statistics show that freelancers often find themselves working on weekends.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 31% of single job holders and a staggering 58% of multiple job holders clock in on weekends. In the world of freelancing, it’s no different. Many of us choose to work through weekends, aiming to stay ahead and exceed client expectations. But the reality is that overworking can lead to diminishing returns – a decline in both effectiveness and quality.
I recently had a firsthand experience with this dilemma. My family decided to embark on a long weekend getaway to Itasca State Park for some camping. It was one of my first extended breaks since I transitioned to full-time freelancing, and I admit it made me anxious.
Let’s explore the reasons why freelancers often hesitate to take time off, the health concerns associated with excessive work hours, and signs that indicate you might be overworking.
The Freelancer Fear of Taking Time Off
Much like traditional employees, freelancers face a common fear – the fear of taking time off. This fear can be attributed to several factors:
- Income Gap Concerns: Freelancers often worry that taking time away from work will result in a significant income gap. The freelance economy is unpredictable, and the loss of potential earnings can be anxiety-inducing.
- Client Expectations: Freelancers are keen on maintaining their reputation for responsiveness and reliability. This can lead to hesitation when considering time off, as we fear clients might turn elsewhere if we’re unavailable.
- Lack of Benefits: Unlike salaried employees who may receive paid vacation days, freelancers usually don’t have such perks. Each day away from work can directly affect our income.
The Health Toll Freelancers Pay When Overworking
Working long hours can have detrimental effects on your health. Recent studies by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization have revealed that clocking in more than 55 hours a week can result in various health issues. Here are some common side effects of overworking:
- Sleep Deprivation: Overworking can lead to sleepless nights, impacting overall health and productivity. This is a conundrum for many freelancers like myself. As a freelancer, you often have the ability and flexibility to create your own hours and work schedule. This means starting and ending your day when you want to. For me, this means sleeping in, and it also means staying up late. But, when I sleep in, even though I know I can, I feel guilty, feeling like I should have started my day and begun work on that next client project (even though I always meet or beat my deadlines).
- Poor Eating Habits: You might skip meals or resort to unhealthy snacks due to a lack of time. It can be one or both of the above. I skip breakfast (which is not recommended) and then go too long between meals. Sometimes, I opt for something unhealthy that I can grab from the pantry for fear of taking too long of a lunch break to make something healthy.
- Neglecting Exercise: Long hours at the desk can hinder your ability to exercise or maintain a healthy lifestyle. It can also cause you to multitask while working out. I’m guilty of this myself. I’m an avid Peloton enthusiast, yet I regularly check my email on my phone throughout my workouts.
- Strained Relationships: Neglecting personal relationships is a common consequence of overworking. It’s essential to spend quality time with loved ones. And even as I type this article at 10:30 at night, I could spend time with my husband instead.
- Adopting Unhealthy Habits: Some people turn to excessive drinking or smoking to cope with stress. Stress can be unhealthy on its own. Adding these vices can further complicate your health.
Signs You’re Overworking and Need Some Time Off
It’s crucial to identify signs that you might be overworking. If you experience any of the following, it might be time to reassess your work-life balance:
- Self-Care Neglect: You stop caring for yourself, neglecting basic needs like sleep, hygiene, and exercise.
- Mental Health Concerns: You struggle with anxiety, depression, or stress-related issues.
- Lack of Meaning: Your work no longer feels meaningful or fulfilling, leading to burnout.
- Constant Worry: You worry excessively about your job performance, fearing any lapse will harm your freelance career.
- Boundary Blurring: Establishing clear boundaries between your home and work life becomes challenging.
- Loneliness: Isolation sets in as you prioritize work over social interactions.
Seeking Balance and Well-Being
In my first three months as a full-time freelancer, I learned the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It’s not just about achieving success in your freelance career but also ensuring your well-being and happiness.
Taking time off doesn’t mean sacrificing your income or your clients’ trust. It means prioritizing your health and mental well-being, which, in the long run, can lead to greater productivity and success.
So, the next time you contemplate a weekend getaway or a few days off, remember you’re not alone in facing these concerns. By finding the right balance, you can continue to excel in your freelance endeavors while nurturing your overall health and happiness. And by all means, take the time off!