Staying active as a freelancer
Updated: Mar 1
Andrew Bell is a medical translator working from Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan to English trading under the name Bell Johnson Translations. You can connect with him by using the following links:
A few months ago, I handed in my final assignment for my master’s degree and made the decision to take the plunge into freelancing. Even though I’ve not been in business for long, I believe I’ve made huge strides in finding my work-life balance. One of the biggest misconceptions of freelancing is that you can work whenever you want. In one sense this is true, you are your own boss and you can set your own working hours, however if you plan on having a successful business, you need to be available during normal business hours so your clients can contact you. In addition to this, given that freelancers don’t earn money if they don’t work, it’s very tempting for freelancers to spend hours upon hours in front of their computer waiting for their next job. Even though you do need to be available and be close to a computer for most of the day, you can still be fairly active. Therefore, I thought I would share some of my tips for staying active whilst working from home that I’ve learnt in my first few months in the business.
The first thing I’d recommend is following these three easy, but important steps, to minimise your excuses for not being active.
1. Dress appropriately
Even though your commute to the office as a homebased freelancer is quite enviable to most (especially those working in the big cities!), you should still make a habit of waking up early, getting ready for work and having breakfast before you turn your computer on. Make sure you dress appropriately for work because if you don’t, this may result in you being less active. The big NO for me is working in your pyjamas. You may be at home where no one can see you, but no matter how comfortable your pyjamas are, they are for sleeping. If you wear them, you’re subconsciously telling your body that you are in sleep and relaxation mode, which will make it even more tempting for you to lay down on the couch all day.
2. Minimise distractions
Would you have the TV on at work? Well, don’t have the TV on when working from home either. When you’re at home, you’re surrounded by distractions and it’s very easy to lose focus, especially when you don’t have someone monitoring you or others working around you like in an office. If you have the TV, radio or something similar turned on, you are asking for trouble. Even the most dedicated worker will eventually give in to office fatigue and get sucked into whatever’s on TV whilst they have a stretch. The problem is, once the TV has you hooked, it’s very difficult to pull away. You might say you’re only going to take a 5 minute break, but that can very easily turn into a 15 minute break because you wanted to see if Judge Rinder finds the defendant guilty or innocent. Then, because you’ve wasted 10 minutes you didn’t plan for watching TV, you need to play catch up on your work. 10 minutes may not sound like much, but if you do this repeatedly throughout the day, the minutes soon add up, and these are minutes which could be used to stay active.
3. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water. Many people think that they’re tired, but actually they suffer from chronic dehydration. There are other health issues associated with this, but for the purpose of this blog post, we’ll only talk about tiredness. If you feel tired, you’re less likely to be active. Furthermore, if you’re going to exercise, you need to make sure you are hydrated so you don’t become even more dehydrated.
If you’re able to follow these three steps, you’re more likely to be active.
This is the method that works best for me to balance productivity and activeness, but of course there are many other methods out there, so experiment and find the one which works best for you. With the 50-10 rule, I work for 50 minutes straight, which is about as long as I can in my current ergonomic set-up before I start feeling aches and pains, and then I take a 10 minute break. But, instead of using these 10 minutes to watch Phil and Holly on This Morning, I do 10 minutes of exercise. I don’t do anything strenuous, because after all, I need to get back to work. My exercise of choice during the working day is walking. I usually go for a walk around the block, which takes just under 10 minutes and gives me just enough time to put my shoes and coat on without being in a rush. If it’s raining, I walk around my house. I have a designated indoor walking route which involves me starting in the kitchen, walking through the living room, up the stairs and to the bedroom window, until turning round and doing it all again for a total of 10 laps (God knows what my neighbours must think). Walking is the exercise that fits well into my routine, and it's very easy to vary your route so you don't get bored doing the same walk every hour. However, this isn't the only option. I have freelance colleagues that do office yoga in their breaks (there are plenty of videos on YouTube if you’re interested), and others that prefer to do short exercise routines.
Once you’ve finished work for the day, try to make your final 10 minutes of exercise last a little bit longer. As I choose to walk, for my final walk of the day I try to walk for at least 30 minutes. Or if you’re a morning person, perhaps you could start the day with this longer exercise session (I know it’s easier said than done in winter)!
Working as a freelancer can be quite lonely, but it’s only as lonely as you want it to be. As a freelance translator, I am a member of the ITI and many of its regional, language and subject networks. In the North West Translator’s Network, some of my colleagues have set up a Fitbit group where we challenge each other to weekly walking challenges. I know it’s not the same as walking with somebody, but a little friendly competition can give you some motivation to stay active, and it also adds a social aspect to the activity.
What I’ve found is, that by following these simple steps, not only do I feel physically better for staying active, but these 10 minutes of exercise have allowed me to disconnect from my work for a short period of time, which has resulted in improved concentration and productivity when I’m in my (home) office.