If all the different responsibilities that freelancers have makes you nervous, you’re not completely off base.
We’re taking care of marketing, strategy, customer service — all while trying to produce the actual work! It’s a lot, and unless you enjoy wearing a bunch of different hats, it can be overwhelming.
That’s why I’m a big believer in applying some freelance boundaries here.
See…freelance boundaries aren’t just about saying no outside your business. They’re also about designating space within your business so that your responsibilities make more sense and even work for you instead of against you.
This is the system I use and that we work toward in the Academy — role-based freelancing that divides tasks and responsibilities up based on the function you’re fulfilling in your freelance business.
Here, we break things down under executive, marketing, and production roles, but you can switch that up. Depending on how you approach it, it can bring tons of benefits to your freelance life, but I’m going to cover just a few of the basics here.
A Simple Calendar
I’m somebody who left employment with calendar-induced anxiety, but today? I consider it one of my favorite tools.
A big part of that is because I break my days down by roles. Mondays I’m marketing. Early in the month I’m functioning as an executive and mid-week I’m focused on production. I can adjust all those depending on my business and lifestyle design needs.
I don’t worry near as much as I used to about bringing on new clients.
Part of that is because my business has a matured a lot over the last couple years, but it’s also because I keep my concerns — from marketing to production to strategy — compartmentalized.
I only worry about closing a relationship during marketing hours. I only think about how fast I’m turning work over during production time. Do I need to expand my niche? I’m not giving it active thought until I’m sitting in the executive chair.
I didn’t feel this benefit immediately. It came after I trained my brain to focus on issues individually and not try to process 100% of my business 100% of the time.
Easier to Identify Problems
OK…so problems will come up in your freelance business. Honestly, there’s always something that could be better, but figuring that out? It’s incredibly difficult if you’re looking at everything at the same time. Most of us will just default to grinding harder when something goes wrong, when working less might be the actual solution.
Let’s take the issue of not making enough money to cover your health insurance. Most of our knee-jerk reactions are going to be putting in more hours (thanks to conditioning from employment). But, if you’re keeping an eye on results in your production role, you’ll have a better chance of knowing that maybe you just need to raise your rates or offer services that bring in more money for the same level of effort.
Simpler Skill Development
As challenging as it can be, I genuinely believe that a lot more people could be running successful freelance businesses. It only starts to feel impossible when you don’t know how or where to focus.
At any given time, I’m improving my writing, sales competence, strategic thinking, and marketing tactics. If I tried to do those randomly, I’d be constantly overwhelmed — I probably would’ve given up a LONG time ago.
But taking a role-based approach, I’m able to look at challenges and opportunities in an organized (segmented) way and I can focus on where I need to improve (or maybe even outsource) some of my work.
Better Response to Burnout
Freelancer burnout is real and it’s common. I really believe that while there are more chances to reduce stress when you’re employment-independent, there are also more chances to increase it.
What I’ve learned while navigating freelance stress, is that I often just need a break from one thing.
Sometimes I’m tired of producing but have plenty of energy for following up with prospects. Sometimes I’m sick of selling or just completely over onboarding new clients, so I adjust my calendar temporarily to let myself just focus on getting the work out the door.
That kind of nuanced need is next to impossible to identify if you have all your roles muddled together.
So how do you start? First off, this is a little difficult if you’re a brand new freelancer, so it might be helpful to work through a couple phases in your strategy workbook first. But once you know your initial niche and skill set, you’re probably good to go. In the Academy, we dedicate a month to each role and I check in weekly on a different responsibility of that role — but you can start on your own. Keep a list of responsibilities and tasks you have under each, and use your calendar to break up the time you’d like to spend.
And if you want to talk it out? Come swing by the community boards.