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How To Build a Work-Life Balance When You’re Starting as a Freelance Web Developer

April 01, 2022

You’ve been working on a client’s project for the last couple of hours. It’s a section of the backend you’re struggling to fix. But you feel like you’re close. You were supposed to finish at 5:00 pm. It’s now 6:30 pm.

A thought flickers in your mind, “I should really stop working.” But you think you’ve nearly cracked it. So you turn back to your code and continue.

That is the reality for some of us — a web developer work-life balance struggle. And it’s not just the case for web developers or software engineers. You could be a writer finishing your last chapter or a CEO trying to clear down the numerous emails that have been sent to you.

It's hard to want to stop when you feel like you’re in the flow. That next feature, that next HTML webpage. It’s also hard when you’re trying to grow a business as a freelance web developer so you can enjoy the freedom it should give you, but your free time goes to working on your projects.

It’s such a different life compared to a job as a software developer, working somewhere Amazon or Microsoft, who offer a structured career path with health care benefits.

If work’s been taking up most of your time, don’t fret. We’re going to look at why a work-life balance is so important and how saying no, setting yourself a hard stop, and getting extra help will improve your work-life balance.

The Importance of a Web Developer Work-Life Balance

As you begin, everything seems ok to say yes to. Project after project is coming your way. You have the benefit of remote working.

You’re waking up early to chip away at your workload and work late into the night. It’s starting to become more than a full-time job when really you wanted it to be just part-time. And running your startup is coming at a cost.

If you don’t get the right work-life balance, it can harm your personal life.

An image of a person struggling with their work-life balance.

Your relationships between your family and friends can suffer due to the lack of time and attention you spend on them.

You can suffer burnout, not wanting to do anything, feeling unmotivated to do the simplest of tasks, not having the creative spark you used to have, which is essential for web development.

It may be hard to imagine, but spending less time working can actually make you more productive. In Iceland, the think tank Autonomy ran experiments reducing the number of working days.

In multiple businesses, they reported improvements in wellbeing and “similar levels of service provision that were maintained in participating workplaces even though fewer hours of work were required to deliver them.”

But how can you achieve that for yourself?

Web Developer Work-Life Balance

An image of a working web developer.

To help achieve a web developer work-life balance, it’s important to prevent work from taking over your time. You need to remember that YOU come first, and you need to prioritize that.

Here are three ways to improve your work-life balance as a front end developer or a full stack developer.

1. Saying No

Landing your first job is one of the best feelings. Someone has put their trust in your talents and skills to produce a website for them. And you earn money while doing something you love.

After time you get more people wanting your services, and before you know it, you don’t have the time in the day or even the week to manage it all.

That is where the power of saying no comes in. It can be easy to say yes to every project that comes your way, but when will you get the work done? By working overnight for days?

Create a filter so you know when to say yes or no to a job. Do you say yes only to certain types of companies? Say yes to jobs that pay over a certain amount? Do you say no if you have X number of jobs you’re currently working on?

These filters can prevent you from being overwhelmed and stressed and help with your web developer work-life balance.

2. Setting a Hard Stop

Being a freelance web developer means that you’re your own boss. You can plan your own work time. If you want to wake up at 10 am and start working, you can. If you’re going to take on a particular project so that you can learn a new programming language, you can.

The problem with being your own boss is there is no one closing up the office, asking you to leave. Or, if you’re a remote worker, no one is messaging you to stop working. Your web developer work-life balance isn’t being looked after by anyone other than yourself.

A image of a stop sign to symbolize the help for a web developer work-life balance.

As mentioned before, working long hours is not good for your productivity or health. It can be easy for your working hours to be over 12 hours a day. Working 12 hours a day, where are you finding time to eat healthily, exercise, and spend time with your friends?

That is why you need to set your hard stop. At a particular time of the day, or after so many hours have passed, you stop what you’re doing, put down your CSS and JavaScript, turn off your computer and go unwind.

Watch Netflix. Go rock climbing. Do some watercolor paintings.

Whatever it is, make sure it’s not work-related and gets you out of your work environment. You need to give yourself the time to recharge your batteries and reset your mind.

3. Get Some Extra Help

Another way of working on your web developer work-life balance is by getting help in your work. That could be in various ways.

A photo of a computer board symbolize the help a web developer could get from technology to help their work-life balance.

It could be outsourcing admin to someone to give you more time on the vital work.

It could be using tools such as Nexcess StoreBuilder to reach your end goals faster. Or use a service like Zapier to automate some of your work.

Related reading: 10 No-Code Tools To Improve Your Freelance Business >>

Or using frontend frameworks such as Reactjs or Angular to help speed up development.

Make a list of the actions that you carry out daily or weekly and per project so you can see what you could outsource, automate or get help with.

Final Thoughts: 3 Ways To Achieve a Healthy Web Developer Work-Life Balance

It can be easy when starting as a freelance web developer to take on as many jobs creating web applications as possible and work for as long as it takes to complete the project. Still, the reality is that it will affect your life negatively in the long run.

Just remember to take time out for yourself.

If one of your projects is to help a client build an online store, Nexcess StoreBuilder can get you up and running without writing a single line of code and using the power of WordPress.

Maddy Osman
Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman is a WordPress expert and WordCamp US speaker. She is a WordCamp Denver organizer and also operates The Blogsmith, an SEO content agency for B2B tech companies that works with clients like HubSpot, Automattic, and Sprout Social. Learn more about The Blogsmith's process and get in touch to talk content strategy: www.TheBlogsmith.com