The digital nomad lifestyle is often depicted on social media as a total breeze.
Beach-front hammock? Yes, please.
Infinity pool with a ledge for my computer nearby? When do I start?
But we all know these aren’t exactly the reality. Although freelancing offers some incredible perks, like getting to control your schedule and the type of clients you work with, most freelancers aren’t working from a beach chair in their bathing suits.
In fact, studies show that freelancers typically work more than their corporate counterparts per week.
Yet, more people than ever before are entering the freedom economy. While it’s amazing to be passionate and excited about your work, it’s important to maintain work-life balance and remain healthy and happy. Working long hours, not taking care of yourself and burning out doesn’t do you or your clients any good.
Let’s dive into the freelancing industry by the numbers, the average work hours of a digital nomad, and how to achieve better work-life balance.
Freelancers by the Numbers
The United States
More than 55 million Americans work as independent contractors, freelancers or moonlighters, according to the Freelancers Union. The digital nomad field has grown by more than 2 million over the last two years.
Between 2008 and 2016, the number of freelancers in the UK increased by 43%, per ipse. There are reportedly 2 million freelancers in the UK as of 2017, with 1.7 million of them doing it full-time.
The breakdown of occupation type includes:
Artistic, literacy and media occupations – approximately 311,000
Teaching and education professions – approximately 153,000
IT and telecommunications jobs – approximately 123,000
More than 4 million Aussies are freelancing, which is roughly a one-third of the working population. And that’s a good thing. According to UpWork, 51% of people surveyed left traditional employment and now earn more as a freelancer.
Additionally, 58% said they would not quit freelancing or the digital nomad lifestyle to return to a traditional job with an employer, no matter how much it paid.
As of 2015, more than 1.3 million Germans were freelancing. Just five years earlier in 2000, 705,000 people were self-employed.
According to the government report, the breakdown in profession included:
Cultural professions – approximately 291,000 freelancers
Private health professionals – roughly 136,000
Lawyers – approximately 114,200.
The Hours by Digital Nomads Around the Globe
The United States
A survey of digital nomads by freelancermap found that, out of 1,386 survey respondents, more than 40% work 47 hours per week, with a quarter of respondents working more than 50 hours per week.
Freelance UK found similar findings in a survey by FreeAgent, which noted that a third of all micro businesses (which includes freelancers) work 48 hours per week on average. However, the same respondents also said they felt they had “good life work balance.”
It’s important to note that people who work more than 48 hours per week consistently are at risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes, and diabetes, according to International Business Times. Balance is absolutely a must when living a digital nomad lifestyle.
Aussies are doing it a bit different than their fellow freelancers.
Unashamedly Creative found that 40% of their survey respondents work less than 24 hours per week, with 30% of participants working between 25-35 hours weekly. However, the most common answer for “what causes you stress as a freelancer” was ‘not having enough time.’
How to Achieve the Digital Nomad Lifestyle with Better Work-Life Balance
Set Work Boundaries
You wouldn’t expect a restaurant to give you free food simply because you asked for it nicely, would you? Or your local mechanic to fix your car for free because you are old family friends?
Of course not! When you ask someone for a professional service or a product, you understand that you have to pay for it.
The same mentality needs to apply to your business.
Don’t allow friends, family members or acquaintances to take advantage of your services as a freelancer. The sooner you begin treating your business like one, so will the people around you.
Establish Office Hours
Just because you’re working from home or traveling full-time as a digital nomad doesn’t mean you need to be working 24-7. There are some amazing perks of being self-employed – like working in yoga pants and a sweatshirt whenever you choose.
However, the lines can become blurred when it comes to turning off work for the night and resuming your personal life again. Especially if you’re someone who has their email synced to every phone, computer and gadget you use during your free time.
A great solution is to figure out what time of day you work best and create a work schedule based around that.
Then, stick to it. It’s important to work smarter, not harder, to avoid burning out.
If you’re a morning person, commit to waking up early and getting work cranked out. Do you work better at night? Plan to start your work day after lunch if that’s best for you.
Pick Up a Hobby – or Two
It’s fantastic if you’re doing what you love every day, but everyone needs a break from work for the sake of their physical and mental health.
Leisure time is just important to thriving in the digital nomad lifestyle as working is.
Whether you enjoy hiking a new nature trail in your area or diving into a new book, be sure you have penciled in some “you” time every week. Stepping away from your projects for a little bit each week allows you to revisit them with a refreshed and rested perspective.
If you can’t justify giving yourself a break to better yourself, then consider that your clients deserve a well-rested, focused approach to their work.
Maintain Important Relationships
Working alone and from home can be really exciting after leaving the corporate world. There are no annoying coworkers you have to make small talk with, or fish being reheated in the microwave.
After a while, however, it can also feel like you’re really secluded.
As a digital nomad, it’s hard to grab happy hour drinks with a friend because you are in a new city–or country–by yourself and don’t want to go to the bar alone, so it’s just easier to work. But that doesn’t let you unplug, recharge and get social time.
Be sure you’re staying in touch with your friends and family members to help you feel a little less lonely. Whether that’s scheduling time to make phone calls, meeting up for drinks via FaceTime, or seeking out events in your neighborhood, be sure to focus on those meaningful relationships that make life more happy.
Make New Connections
It’s no secret that being a digital nomad can be lonely sometimes. Especially if you’re working remotely and primarily in the digital space.
The good news is that there are tons of ways you can connect with other freelancers and solopreneurs. Explore online networking groups, Facebook groups for entrepreneurs and more to begin connecting with other business owners today.
Hold yourself accountable to making new connections by scheduling this time into your calendar, just like you would a work meeting.
The Digital Nomad Lifestyle is All About Balance
There’s no denying that freelancing is on the rise. People from the United States to Germany and Australia are leaving corporate jobs and entering the freedom economy faster than ever before.
But, becoming your own boss means becoming a business owner, which comes with responsibilities you may not have considered.
You now have the challenge of managing your time so you avoid burning out from too much work and not enough self-care. The good news is that running your dream business doesn’t have to lead to burnout. Consider some of the following tips to healthier, more balanced life:
- Implementing a comprehensive freelance platform that allows you to streamline your business processes and gain a better grasp on your projects.
- Joining networking groups-on Facebook, message boards and other places online-that offer the opportunity to connect with other digital nomads and build meaningful relationships with other people in your field.
- Establishing set work hours and a consistent weekly schedule will allow you to plan your workload more effectively and allow you more free time.
Ace the digital nomad lifestyle and begin creating better work-life balance as a freelancer today by downloading our eBook about Stepping Into the World of Freelancing.
And, if you’re looking for more tips, you can review our articles on mastering better time management, avoiding common mistakes of freelancing, how automation can seriously improve your workflow and efficiency and signs that you may need a new project management tool.
At Spera, our goal is to give you the tools and resources to make your life as a freelancer easier. So, if you have issue that needs a solution, let us know. We’re here to help!