The 24×7 Freelancer Trap

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Just like permie employees, you rise from a long and restful sleep on a Sunday morning, put on some coffee, enjoy a long breakfast reading the newspaper, and then decide whether it’s the beach or the park for a day’s fun and relaxation with the kids. NO WAY JOSE!

Instead, you slide out of bed still half asleep, switch on your computer, check your emails, take a look at your online checking account balance, spent 30mins tweaking some code or whatever, reply to comments on your favorite forums,  you check who’s just followed you on Twitter, replied to your ‘friends’ on Facebook, and engaged in 5 concurrent conversations on IM.

Before you know it, it’s past noon and you haven’t even brushed your teeth or visited the bathroom for your morning constitutional. BANG! You’re a slave to the trappings of freelancing without boundaries.

If you recognize yourself here, welcome to the Guild of 24×7 Freelancers!

Sounds pretty drastic, eh?

If you still think that this describes ‘someone else’ then ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel agitated if you haven’t checked your email or twitter account within 2 hours of waking up?
  • Do you solve tricky problems in your head whilst watching a movie with your partner, and sneak onto your computer to test it out?
  • Do you have more online friends than you do in the flesh?
  • Do you begin work whilst still in your pjamas?
  • Are invites to a friends place or a restaurant filtered in your mind to check that you’ll have time to work around it?
  • Do you spend more time talking to online friends than your flesh-and-blood friends?
  • If your kids disturb you whilst you’re working, do you get pissed off?

If you answer Yes to more than one or two of these, then you’re a fully fledged associate of the Guild of 24×7 Freelancers!

Feeling this trapped inside something YOU created is frustrating! You can’t blame your boss unless you blame yourself. The nature of this problem is that it starts small – one extra email here, one brief phone call there, but it escalates . Like the boiled frog , your behavior slowly shifts. It creeps further and further, biting deeper and deeper into your lifestyle and mindset, and you’re probably not aware it is happening, or quite possibly, you’re aware it is happening but you let it happen anyway.

Worse still, at points of epiphany (when you realize that your working hours are escalating) you might rationalize it into a hard-work ethic. You’re not a workaholic, right? You’ll have fun once you’ve finished your work . Guess what though, work never finishes!

Workaholics Anonymous say that the 7-signs of warning that you might be a workaholic are:

1. Instead of accepting yourself, you seek approval and justification for your existence in work.
2. You work to escape your feelings, shutting out your true needs and wants.
3. You use work to tamp down the uncertainties of life by over-organizing and refusing to give up control, losing your spontaneity and creativity.
4. You create crises and get adrenalin highs by overworking to resolve indigenous problems, then suffer withdrawals into anxiety and depression.
5. You hoard work to insure you will always be busy, seemingly important and never bored.
6. You fear free time.
7. You’re typically a perfectionist, unwilling to ask for help or delegate because no one can meet your standards.

How do you feel about this? Sad, mad… indifferent?

No matter. Realizing that you’ve slipped into this lifestyle is the first step towards deciding if it is good for you!

If you don’t like it, then what do you do?

Number One – talk to someone. A friend, your partner, your mom. Share the burden! You won’t believe how positive a chat with someone you trust can be.

Number Two – identify what you enjoy (outside of your freelancing) and do more. Do this by laying down some boundaries. Boundaries are good. Set yourself time for work, and set yourself time for fun. And stick to it. You might fail first time around, maybe second time too, and quite possibly the third, but keep trying!

There is more! I’ll be following up this article soon with more tips for getting yourself out of the trap, and leaving the Guild of 24×7 Freelancers behind! Want to know when? Then subscribe to my RSS feed .

2 thoughts on “The 24×7 Freelancer Trap”

    1. simonstapleton

      @Elizabeth – It hurts to see oneself written like this, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, I’ll be writing the follow up soon 😉

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