Each business day morning, I salute the sun on a rock overlooking a tropical bay, before having an organic granola sprinkled vegan smoothie. I then take my MacBook poolside, or beachside, bang out a few social media posts and then drink cocktails until the sun collapses into the sea, leaving the sky a virtual kaleidoscope of pinks and purples. That’s my freelance life in a paragraph. Yeah, right…

I talk a little about why I began freelancing in this post, but the ‘how’ part of running my biz is equally important. I know some people hate the term work/life balance, but the reason I created my business to to create a work environment that I love, but one that doesn’t impact on other areas of my life. I train in the early mornings, work in school hours, and am mum in the late afternoons and evenings, and Blue51 Communications allows me to do this.

There’s a definite level of commitment and self-discipline that comes with having no direct line manager- I’m the boss, the admin manager, the IT director, the marketing and social media manager and mail room attendant. It’s easy to let coffee after school drop off or lunch dates sneak into one’s schedule when you share your office space with a cocker spaniel, so I have five keys or essentials that I work by that I find makes running my business effective.

Have a business plan:

I’m no drifter; I’m a planner. Out and proud, baby. I want to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. My biz plan gives me my audience, my why (insert gag reflex), my goals and my marketing in one beautiful document that spells out clearly and unambiguously what it is I (Blue51 Communications) actually do.

Having said that, I review it regularly, and evolve with it, keeping my mind open to new ideas and opportunities.

Have boundaries:

I set boundaries because I simply don’t have time to fluff.  I live by my boundaries, and I expect others to respect them too. For example, I don’t work while my cherubs are around unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. This means I don’t work before 9am or between 3.30pm and 7pm. I don’t often work in the evenings either- namely because I’m up at 5.30am every morning so my brain is not it’s most spectacular self after 7pm.

Have support:

They say it’s lonely at the top- well I can’t speak from experience on that one, but I can tell you it can be lonely in the home office. Working from home can feel professionally isolating, so I’ve built a network of colleagues and clients (and cafes) with whom I hang out with regularly.  I have an accountant, a photographer, a graphic designer (or 3) and a web developer that I work with bringing clients’ projects to life, and I have a group of other business owners, wahm and otherwise, that I hang with, both virtually and in real life.

Have Processes:

Processes are my best friend and allow me to work smarter and effectively. I have processes and checklists that guide how I get clients, how I get paid by said clients and how I manage my workflows, admin, marketing and content.

Time manage like a boss:

I think it is critically important not to work 80 hours a week for anyone, including myself. As my time is extremely limited (see boundaries above), prioritising and planning is as essential to my work and my business as is writing and communications coaching my clients. I have a detailed to-do list and I allocate the start of each week to plot out my priorities and focus areas for the week ahead in a calendar- both hard copy and electronic.

That’s it! Nothing overly complex or ground-breaking there, but whenever I let any of those elements slip, I notice that my work/life balance tilts in an unpleasant way and overwhelm comes a-calling. Tighten up my processes, reinforce my boundaries, revisit my schedule, reread my business plan and have a coffee with a virtual colleague and I’m back on track, in word nerd heaven.

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This post is one of a series about freelance life. Each month, I share the good, the bad and the beautiful about being my own boss. I provide insights, hacks and ideas for freelancing and running a business. If there’s something specific you’d like to know about working for yourself, freelance communications or copywriting, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll do my best to help.