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How Gig Workers Divide Work and Leisure

By Daniel Bukszpan

  • PUBLISHED December 27
  • |

More than one third of the workforce now makes its living in the gig economy. That number’s only going to go up, because gig work offers workers independence and allows employers to hire people on an as-needed basis. 
The downside of gig work is that it can be unreliable, so many workers say yes to everything they’re offered, sometimes without thinking of the toll it may take on their personal lives. 
The following strategies, outlined by gig workers themselves, show that it’s possible to make a living in the gig economy and maintain a work-life balance, as long as you follow a few simple rules.


Set Your Hours, and Stick to Them
The gig economy is attractive if you have a busy personal life, but both can get away from you if you don’t stick to a regular program. So schedule work around your personal responsibilities, not the other way around.

“There is always more available work when freelancing, but it’s critical to set hours and try to stick to those hours whenever possible,” says Ben Bloch, executive consultant and CMO of the marketing company Bloch Strategy.

If you have kids, maintaining a schedule may actually be pretty easy. Just set your work hours around commitments like dropping them off, picking them up and helping them with their homework, and you’ll find that a much more reliable way of doing things than only seeing to those responsibilities when your work is finished.


Use a Calendar, All the Time, for Everything
You know that computer that’s your lifeline to work, family and social media? Chances are it has a calendar app, and if it doesn’t, web browsers provide them for free. So use a calendar. It’s easier than trying to remember everything, and more organized than writing everything on sticky notes and takeout napkins.

“I have a calendar function where I send a link to clients and they can schedule their own meetings with me, but only during the times I have listed as available,” says Debra Boggs, co-founder of D&S Professional Coaching.


Your Couch Is Not an Office
Maintaining a boundary between work and life is essential, so keep a separate, dedicated workspace, that’s solely for work. If you don’t have the square footage at home, rent outside space, or share it with another gig worker. And remember, just because you work on a laptop doesn’t mean it should go wherever you go.

“I keep my computer where it belongs—in my home office,” says CarolAnne Hardy of the digital marketing firm The Advisor’s Voice.


Take a Vacation
As a gig worker, there’s no such thing as a paid vacation. That’s why you’ll need to plan ahead, so that you have the time off blocked out and enough money saved up to pay for it. Taking a much-needed breather is essential to making sure being a gig worker fits into your life.

As a freelancer, you’ll need to let multiple bosses and companies know that you’ll be taking time off—even if you’re only taking a day or two to yourself. Sending individual calendar invitations to all your employers will help you keep track of which ones you’ve alerted and which ones still need a heads-up. And remember, it’s never too early to let them know.


Stick to Your Vacation
Just because you have a few hours between the beach and dinner with family, that doesn’t mean you should fill that leisure time with answering emails. To avoid the temptation, you may want to simply leave your laptop at home when you’re packing up your duffle bag.

If you are concerned that your inbox will be full and unmanageable when you get back to your home office, schedule in a buffer day after your trip so that you can sit down for a few hours and start reading all your outstanding messages. The day will also help shift your brain from vacation mode back into work mode.


Daniel Bukszpan is freelance writer who has written for Fortune, CNBC, Condé Nast Traveler and many more.


Gig workers don’t just have to set their own schedules—they often need to set up their own retirement accounts without the help of a company 401(k). Get tips to stay on track for retirement.

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