You became a freelance copywriter for a reason. You were tired of the rigid workdays that sapped your soul and drained your creativity. You were sick of missing your daughter’s school programs and soccer games. You wanted to be able to surprise your significant other with lunch on the town or play golf on a weekday when the course wasn’t so crowded. You wanted to take a vacation without worrying about your measly allotment of days off.
Now you’re finally discovering success as a freelancer… sort of. You’re at least as busy as you were before you left your day job, and when you finally do get a minute of free time, it almost feels like a burden. After all, it’s so scarce, you don’t want to waste it. So you freeze up into “free time paralysis,” unsure of whether you should read a book or call your brother or sit down and do a puzzle with your daughter.
If you can relate to this, it’s time to make some adjustments. You’ve learned how to make money from copywriting, now you need to strike the proper balance so that you can enjoy the fruits of a flexible lifestyle.
How’d I get here?
You’re not the only one who struggles to maintain a healthy allotment of free time. You may be used to having other people assign you tasks. Now you’re in charge of moderating them yourself.
Maybe your copywriting work started slow, but then you made a name for yourself and you were swimming in writing projects. You figured out systems and processes to streamline the flow until you were in a good place. It was everything you dreamed of when you were at that desk job. But then more opportunities came knocking, and you were nervous about letting them go—so you got in over your head.
The good news is, there are ways to manage this cycle of overcommitment so that you don’t end up in a permanent spin.
Here are some tips for safeguarding your free time and keeping the sparkle in life.
1. Recognize free time as essential.
We tend to think of free time as an “extra”—something we will allow ourselves when the truly important things are complete. But there’s plenty of research to show that free time is not just a nice indulgence—it’s critical.
This article published in Perspectives on Psychological Science shows that downtime creates the neurological flexibility required to build identity and purpose. There’s even an entire research initiative called Project: Time Off devoted to proving the personal, business and economic benefits that time off provides to the American economy. Companies like Google and 3M were onto this when they introduced programs that allowed their employees a certain allotment of paid downtime to pursue their own projects.
Before we get into more tips on creating and safeguarding free time, recognize that the MOST important change you can make is a mental one. Start thinking of free time as being critical to your well-being and productivity—not an expendable luxury.
2. Plan it.
It seems counterintuitive to plan your free time, but if you’re not great at taking breaks, this may be your best strategy for getting yourself to relax. Plan to sit down and watch your favorite sitcom with your wife every night at 8 p.m. after the kids are in bed. Plan to play ping pong with your son every day after school. Plan to go on a walk with your neighbor every Saturday morning. And don’t flake out on yourself. Treat these commitments just as sacredly as you do your business commitments.
3. Work faster.
There are always ways to be more efficient, and the more efficient you are, the more free time you’ll have. So sit down, map out your time and figure out what part of your life is taking more time than it should. Is it that collaborative project that you signed up for and now want out of. Is it your low-return jobs that you could be outsourcing to someone else without taking much of a financial hit?
If the problem is how time-consuming your writing projects are and you haven’t checked out the RMBC method, that’s a no-brainer. The RMBC method helps you write more copy in less time. If you haven’t tapped into the benefits of this four-step copywriting method, it will change your schedule and even your life. It’s a proven, simplified formula for producing sales copy guaranteed to get you quality leads in much less time. It’s the secret sauce that is helping people write seven-figure sales letters in just three days.
4. Stop connecting your sense of worth to the amount of things on your calendar.
Somewhere along the way in American work culture, our busy-ness became a basis for our self-worth. This is called “conditional self-esteem,” and it tells us that we’re worthwhile if we’re running out the door at 6 a.m., getting home at 8 p.m. and filling our evenings and weekends with home improvement projects, entertaining, community involvement, and more. We may get instant validation from all of these pursuits, but to be truly happy, the validation needs to come from inside and exist independent of the amount of ink in our daily planner.
5. Keep a list of free time ideas.
When that little window of spontaneous free time comes along and you feel yourself sliding into “free time paralysis,” have a list at the ready. That way you won’t dither away your downtime. Make sure that your list includes things that are, foremost, fun and relaxing—even if they aren’t productive in the least.
Remember, the goal of free time is not productivity, it’s self-care and relaxation. Your list might include taking a walk, binging on Netflix, talking on the phone, crafting, painting, etc. Whatever brings you joy and helps you step out of the rush zone. And remember, if you have nothing to show in terms of productivity, that wasn’t the goal in the first place.
6. Don’t jump into more commitments.
When you reach that comfortable place where you’re not overburdened, there’s a tendency to feel guilty or just—weird! After all, if you’ve been building your freelance business, you probably haven’t had a lot of free time lately. But remember, while a busy pace may be part of getting started in the biz, it’s not the end goal.
So if you’re in a good place, don’t feel like you need to jump on another project just to fill your time. Take a few weeks and think about scaling up. You might find that you’re perfectly happy right where you’re at. And don’t forget that saying yes to something is the easy part; actually doing it is a lot harder.