Is Self-Employment the Key to Worklife Balance?

The other day I received a press release from Elaine Biech, the author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond, about worklife balance for consultants. “On one hand, you get to do the work you love while enjoying perks like setting your own schedule and traveling to exciting cities. But on the other hand, you must endure the punishing realities of your job: 4:00 a.m. flights, hours upon hours of work, poorly prepared restaurant food, and getting home at midnight after a long week.”

It got me thinking! So often we associate overwork culture with companies that demand we work longer hours and answer emails in the middle of the night. But that’s not always the case. Being self-employed brings a whole new level of stress to the table.

It’s not just consultants that run themselves ragged despite having more control over their schedules than most of us. This is often the curse of the self-employed. Building a business, any business, is a lot of work. More often than not it means long hours that go well beyond 9-5, Monday-Friday. You’re doing it all for yourself, which I suppose is better than working your fingers to the bone to line someone else’s pockets. But it’s still not balance.

Being a freelancer is like doing every job in a company, but only really getting paid for one. You have to find work, do the work, and then make sure you get paid. You have to sell yourself, manage the client, and keep the books. Oh, and you need to figure out how to save for retirement, get health insurance, and more.

It’s a lot.

But it could, however, lead to the life you want someday. If you’re lucky enough to establish your business and find success, you might get to a point where you can pick and choose the jobs or clients you take–demand more money so you can work less. Frankly, it’s the dream.

But Biech has some suggestions for anyone looking to re-evaluate their lives and set new priorities:

First, identify the imbalance. Without first laying out your life priorities, it can be hard to create a work/life balance. Biech recommends this exercise from mentor and consulting whiz Geoff Bellman: Identify the three things you value most in life. Write them down. Now scan your checkbook, bank statement, and calendar. Do your choices match the three things you value the most?

Next ask your spouse, a colleague, or a friend what he or she believes you value the most. Did that person choose the three things you chose?

Now begin to make real choices. What do you need to do to demonstrate the value you place on the three things you chose?

In other words, are you putting your money where your heart is? If not, it’s time to rethink it all.

It’s a good tip.

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