On Working 5 Steps From Your Bed, AKA Remote Freelancing


As a freelancer, or anyone that deals with multiple remote clients and you’re more often alone than you are in an office setting, work-life balance can be one of the biggest struggles next to the sales cycle and perfecting your advertising portfolio.

Between 4 hour workweek fads and self help books about motivation, it’s easy to be said that remote working and freelancing is infinitely harder than a traditional 9-5 job when it comes to discipline and  people taking you seriously. It takes self-discipline, precise independent scheduling including breaks and mealtimes, and the ability to work several hours (sometimes <8, sometimes >8) even if your home office is five steps away from your bed and Netflix.

They Don’t Get It, But That’s OK

First off, no one who HASN’T worked from home correctly estimates the struggle. They picture you taking conference calls with no pants on, and scarfing popcorn like no one’s watching while you work (because no one is).

But you know that it’s not that simple. Everything relies on you — when you start work, how well you do, and how proud you can be at the end of the day. There’s no boss making sure you arrive by 9; there’s no manager double checking your tasks. Your only motivation besides rent some days might just be creative expression or getting in an online magazine or publishing in Issuu for the week. There are no coworkers to bounce ideas or problems off of. It’s all you, and that includes unreasonable clients on top of everything.

But here’s the new verbiage that actually makes much more sense for people in our position.

Instead of Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance, when the concept took off in the earlier 2000s, involved making sure you can separate yourself from work in order to stay holisitically healthy. It meant not answering emails after 7pm because this is time with your family. It meant knowing when you deserved days off even if you were after a promotion. It meant staying healthy in ALL aspects of your life, including non-work communication and setting priorities straight. For bosses, this would eventually create healthier work environments and happier, more productive employees.

For remote freelancers, this meant going to great lengths to separate your work and home life, even if you work at home. It meant purposefully getting out of bed, not just pulling your laptop into bed with you — this sets the standard that your bedroom can remain a relaxed, unprofessional space. A bed should be used for sleep and sex, not work.

It meant sticking to a schedule — obviously didn’t have to be 9-5, but knowing when you should be working and not cooking an elaborate breakfast for no reason.

It meant telling your clients that, yes you work from home, but that doesn’t mean they can call you at 10pm and expect you to be as fully dedicated as you were at noon. 

Work-Life Integration is Work-Life Balance, But Better

Work-life integration is more about arriving to your professional state as a whole person — not an employee that outside those doors has a normal life — but as an employee who is also a dad or a student or an activist. An employee whose car crapped out and whose cat ran away. An employee whose mother’s birthday is coming up or whose kitchen has a mold problem or whose friends are all at the lake for Labor Day.

Work-life integration, as opposed to balance, involves less separation. Here’s how this can be even healthier than work-life balance. You’re not expected to cut off your outside life just because you get to work, or pretend you don’t have other things going on. In fact, with freelancers and creative workers, it’s all the things that happen outside the office when you’re mulling over things in the shower that you find inspiration and motivation.

Humanizing Optimization

Work-life integration for an office worker means they are respected and understood as whole human beings, not workhorses, subsequently making them less stressed and more productive, all things a boss or stakeholder would want. It’s the concept that water cooler talk doesn’t need to be whispered in secret in the breakroom, but actually heard in normal spaces in the office, and that this results in greater productivity, not less (in moderation, obviously). Talk about an executive having future vision.

For remote freelancers, it means acknowledging that yes, you do work five steps from your bed or at a coffee shop and could leave anytime and no one would know, but you are also a damn good designer (coder, writer, influencer, consultant, etc.) who sets the time for themselves when they know they’ll get stuff done.

It means, as with work-life balance, not taking calls or answering emails after 7pm, because your Netflix or vegging out time is just as important as your work time. Employees who don’t torture themselves with all-nighters and stressful 12 hour days are happier, healthier, and more productive and successful. They are the employees who acknowledge that their downtime, family time, exercise time, etc. is just as crucial to their job as their working hours are, and will integrate those “two” separate lives together in order to be happier.

On our own digital design magazine, we wouldn’t just write willy-nilly about work life balance, but rather how the industry is changing and how our beloved freelancers can stay on top. Work-life balance is important. But it can be optimized through integration, through humanizing the employee experience, through knowing that the best work comes not from stressed people who need to get home to their families, but from people that can speak freely and say they need their downtime if you want them to continue doing their best work.

Everything’s Harder as a Remote Freelancer

Everything’s harder as a remote freelancer, this is true. But with great responsibility comes great freedom. We notice you for this on our online magazine, does everyone else?

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