Graphic Design Podcast :: The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

Balancing Your Freelance Work & Life

Balancing Your Freelance Work & Life

Something any creative person understands is the need for, and the constant struggle with, striking a balance between your work and your life.

History is replete with creative types that worked their magic like none before them, but burned out from a lack of balance.

But just how is it done? How do you keep up with the rapidly changing world, get all the work done you need to, and yet keep sane and balanced?

Join Wes McDowell, Mikelle Morrison, and Nick Longo as they hash out some of their own experiences for us.

Mikelle talks about the changes marriage and children brought about in her work. Have the changes affected her ability to enjoy her work, or has she found ways to balance the load?

Children bring a whole new dimension to working from home, especially infants. How should you handle the unavoidable interruptions little bundle of joy will bring to your conversations with clients?

Freelancing is full time work and then some. Anyone who does it knows you can’t always shut down at 5 PM and call it a day. And not having a hard schedule where you can “clock out” and wash your hands of it for the day means you need to strike a balance between your working hours and not working hours.

Nick outlines the difficulty self employed people and freelancers in general face when trying to be the best and most successful. It’s very easy to fall into the spiral of working yourself to exhaustion trying to be as successful as you think those around you are, which may only make you less likely to succeed. Sometimes it is better to track your time, see what is nibbling away at your productivity, and work less rather than more — something that could be that missing step between pulling your hair out and being successful.

Wes talks about unplugging during your work day. As graphic designers, the internet is one of the tools of the trade. You can’t get away from it even if you wanted to at this point. But things like Facebook, Twitter, and email break your work time into little chunks, and every time you stop and start again after a distraction, a little lost time is added to your work day.

Unplugging yourself, answering emails later rather than right now, taking the Facebook app off your phone, these things can help make an 8 hour workday more like a 4 hour workday.

Weekends are another thing freelancers have to worry about. It is all too attractive to work every day and answer that phone no matter when it rings, but is that healthy? Being self employed, you need to set boundaries, keeping a day or two to yourself. Wes and Nick explain how they handle working and not working on the weekends.

And then there are vacations. Freelancing means working on your own, for your own goals, but you can easily lose track of your own time off. In the corporate world, you are often forced to take vacation time, but freelancers have to be mindful and allow themselves some “me time”. How does Wes, Nick, and Mikelle handle the “loss” of time and how important is the vacation to keeping them all on their game?

Today’s Listener Question

Often when building your portfolio, especially in the beginning, much of your work will have been done while working for someone other than yourself. Few of us can fill a portfolio without doing some of the work in a “day job”!
But what are your rights when using some of this work in your own portfolio. Can you show it in your portfolio at all? Are there any conflicts of interest? How useful is it, really?

Show Links

  • Anti-Social – A program that allows you to temporarily block access to social media sites, stopping the temptation for that “one quick look.”
  • Toggl – A fast, free, and easy time tracker for web, Windows, OS X, Android and iOS. See what you are spending all that time doing!
  • Shutterstock – Visit Shutterstock and check out their massive selection of stock images for your designs. Be sure to use the promo code DEEP914 for a 20% discount on any subscription!
  • – Visit to start your free trial! There is no place out there quite like — you can learn at your own pace on so many subjects and at such a good price.

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(2) responses

Steve Wilkinson

September 17, 2014

Hey, a bit off-topic, but regarding your intro discussion:

You really, REALLY need to start using a password manager if you haven’t already. Wes, you mentioned sites prohibiting your use of your ‘favorite’ password (or something to that effect). If you’re using the same password at more than one site, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of trouble if hackers break one of those sites.

Of course, having a unique, strong password at each place is something almost everyone can’t do without tracking them somehow. The nice thing about a password manager is that I don’t even have to think about it any more. I just click and done. It takes me to the site/place, enters user and password, and makes them up for me when I’m starting a new account. And, a good one is cross-platform, so they are with me when I’m at the grocery store on my phone, as well as on my work desktop.

I recommend one like PasswordWallet (by Selznick) or 1Password, as they are off-line (so you’re in control of where the file lives, you can access it off-line, as well as backups, etc.) and they generally work with more than just within your browser (which is especially why I prefer PasswordWallet).

As for the main topic (which I’m horrible at!), I’ve found the big thing is just to dedicate hard time boundaries. I often think I can multi-task, but it’s mostly just fooling myself. It seems like there is time when the little ones are around, for example, but I always have one ear on that, which makes me extremely unproductive at my work. When I’ve got that focused time, I really get into it and get way more done. I also find it takes time to get into that spot, so with regular interruptions, I just never get there.



September 24, 2014

Guys, I was SO excited when I saw the topic of this episode, knowing that Mikelle recently had a baby (I just had my second baby a few months ago). I was a little bummed that she hardly spoke about juggling family and work and that the majority of the episode was time management and a bit on how to set boundaries (which was great!). I would have loved to hear more from Mikelle on being a self-employed parent. You guys have touched before on the time management and weekend email issue – so please consider covering the whole family balance thing again in the future!

I’ve been a long time listener and love your podcast! (You’ve even answered a few of my questions – thanks!)


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