Owning Your Own Business: The Free-time Myth

If you are a solopreneur, a freelancer, or in any role where you are your own boss or work independently, you have most likely heard something like, “You work from home (or for yourself) so you can … [fill in request to run an errand, hang out, or whatever].” Odds are that not only have you heard this, but also you’ve heard it numerous times – usually from friends and family.

This can be frustrating. What many 9-to-5ers don’t realize is that as a freelancer, business owner, or solopreneur, you often have more than one “job.” Typically, in addition to your “main” position as a service provider, you also have to fill the duties of:

  • CEO, CFO, and entire management team
  • Salesperson
  • Customer service representative
  • Marketing director
  • Secretary/personal assistant
  • Bookkeeper
  • Webmaster
  • Quality assurance manager
  • Intern/gopher
  • Cleaning staff

In some cases, you can outsource some of your duties, but you are ultimately responsible for the success (or failure) of your business. Owning your own business means putting in the hours of an entire company and often “free time” seems like a myth.

One of the bonuses of working independently is the ability to create a flexible schedule – giving you the opportunity to:

  • Work out when the gym is less crowded;
  • Visit a loved one (whether in the hospital, at home, or wherever);
  • Have a fun day (aka a rare “day off”);
  • Take a much-needed nap because you were working until the wee hours of the morning;
  • Get your teeth cleaned, visit the doctor, or take care of other health-related appointments;
  • Run errands you need to get done;
  • Do whatever you want.

Balance in life isn't always easy

Trying to find balance isn't always easy

Seeing you alter your schedule can send the wrong message to others, especially when they don’t realize that you need to put in extra time and plan ahead to make up for this “time off.”

Also, many times, even when you are technically not working, you are still preoccupied with the business’s needs and you make sure you check in throughout this “free time.”

As a big fan of finding balance, I often try to incorporate non-work related time into my week. It can be difficult, but it’s necessary to remain sane and to keep my business running at top speed. I also have to find ways to “lock up my office” and be able to enjoy my time without worrying about the business. This is sometimes easier said than done.

However, I have found that if I plan accordingly (and make sure I turn off my phone and email alerts), I can take a break from work and enjoy some “free time.” What others may not understand is for me to be able to truly enjoy these non-working moments, I cannot always just stop working in the middle of my day because you want me to do something. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t get a paycheck unless I complete all of the work I need to do – including all of those extra duties that I have.

Have you faced similar issues? How do you incorporate “free time” into your week? How do you address people who do not understand why you can’t just drop everything for them?

4 comments on this post.
  1. Art Remnet:

    Awesome post Amy. Thanks for sharing for what most of the small business/home office/entrepreneurs do hear all the time.

    It is an interesting time in the evolution of the Western economy. An economy which has continually expanded and grown for the better part of 80 years. It has run it’s course and along with it will go the 9-5 job and the one career working lifetime.

    As things change and the virtual company, free lancers. and consultants get more common, the “grass is always greener” mentality we humans have locked in our DNA will likely cause this comment/request to be heard even more frequently. At least until the tipping point is reached. Then most everyone will have lived out life or know someone who is. It will be then that “they” will understand exactly what you are saying and we live everyday.

    It’s just like the comments I hear from people when I am on the road more than I’m at home: “Oh, you’re so lucky to be able to travel all over and have everything paid for….” or my personal favorite: “Wow you must have a ton of air miles!” followed by either ” It must be nice to be able to fly where ever whenever for free” or “Do you have any extra miles that you can give me?”

    First, being on the road for work a lot sucks. It is not fun, nor it is what I would rather to be doing. Seriously (but I’m working on that). Second, travel is likely the very last thing I want to do when I am not working BECAUSE I’ve been on the road so much.

    So, I guess all that to say, I just smile and say “no sorry my schedule won’t allow me to do that” and think to myself “Wow you STILL don’t get it do you!!?!?!” And then move on with my day. :-)

  2. Amy Teeple:

    Thanks for your comment Art.

    Many times I find myself saying things like, “Well, I actually have a deadline that I have to meet,” or “I am booked with meetings this week.” Of course there are those rare occasions that I can say, “Sure, I’d love to meet you for coffee (or whatever).”

    I completely understand your traveling comments. My wife travels for work and although she enjoys travel, she typically doesn’t want to go anywhere extra since it seems like a treat to sleep in her own bed.

    We just need to all stand our ground … until everyone else does get it. :-)

  3. Sarah:

    Amy,
    I was just pondering this: The misperception that since you work at home, you must be living it up. Truth is I am. But the other truth is it doesn’t come easy and requires lots of discipline and strategy.

    Similarly, I think there’s a very real danger for many of us WAH folks to start off with dreams of living a more wholesome life since we work at home but then getting so swamped in our biz that we lose track of taking advantage of our flexibility and control over our schedule.

  4. Amy Teeple:

    Hi Sarah.

    I completely agree. I will admit that there are moments when I think about trading in my always-on self-employment lifestyle for the simplicity of a 9-to-5 job. But then – after a few seconds – I remember all of the things I love about working from home: no traffic, “casual every days,” the ability to travel and still work, and so much more. It’s at those moments that I step back and make sure I schedule some down time for myself.