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I'm having trouble balancing freelancing work with family. My wife thinks that just because I work at home that this means I'm available for home stuff at any hour, which creates problems in my relationship.

How can I make her understand (perhaps through some article or something) that freelancers must follow work schedules just like anybody else?

  • 1
    Don't work at home. I work in a co-working office, it's a great productive space to be in, plus loads of networking/collaboration opportunities. – aphextwig Oct 20 '17 at 8:58

10 Answers 10

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It sounds like your wife may be a bit bored. She obviously wants to spend some time with you, but you also need to be able to focus on your work so that you get paid.

One possible solution, one that may possibly get her excited, is to give her something important to do. While she may not be a web designer or a programmer or have the skills to do whatever it is that you do for a living, there's generally a lot of administrative type work that goes along with freelancing, such as taxes, putting together invoices, tracking expenses, etc. So you can possibly save yourself some time that you would otherwise spend on these activities by delegating them to her.

The advantage of this solution is that you get to spend time together while you work, make her feel like she's an important part of the process, and get done with your work even earlier so that you can then spend more quality time together. Everybody wins. Of course, you still need be clear that you need to be able to focus if you're working on a challenging problem.

  • This is a beautiful answer – jsedano Jul 17 '13 at 14:59
  • +1 for smart thinking – Arjang Jul 19 '13 at 23:52
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Articles?

Just talk to her.

You need to set some base rules - things like working hours, when you can and cannot be interrupted and for what reasons you can.

It is simple enough - if you are unable to complete your work, you will not get paid. And without money... well...

I am sure she will understand this.

If your contracts have them, the payment milestones / deadline / penalty sections can be quite effective in explaining how interruptions mean missing milestones / deadlines and can cause a penalty .

15

The same problem here. However it is not a problem any more due to a mutual understanding and my better planning. Let me explain it to you.

The hardest part is to "make them understand" that it is a job and you have to work it regardless of the fact that you are sitting in your living room. And if you don't earn money or the job gets cancelled, will they say OK or will they blame you :).

The solution which works best for me is an everyday solution: compromise.

  • Set work hours like any other business. If it's 4 hours a day, then make it 4, not 5
  • If she wants you two to go shopping, do not say NO all the time. Like any job, sometimes leave work and go with her
  • Compensate with time: tell her that you have to stick to the schedule today and tomorrow, but you will be hers the next 2 days
  • Do not make yourself into a freelancing slave. If you work all the time, the money you earn will be useless then. Do some work and enjoy spending money
  • Make her know that you are earning this money for a reason, like new TV, new kitchen appliance, etc. If you spend this money on drink and yourself only, then she does not notice that you two have more money from your freelancing
  • Make plans: we need $1000 for some trip. You work and save money for that trip. When she sees that your freelancing covers the costs, she and other people will treat this as a real job

All these have made my life easier. As I said, I worked a lot and did not have time to enjoy the money I made. After 6 months, I started being sick of freelancing. Now I tell myself that I work 4 hours a day, and I stick to it. Sometimes, but really sometimes, I work more and that is really rare.

In the end, I earn almost the same as when I worked all the time, I enjoy the money I earn and I am not neglecting my marriage.

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If you have a separate workspace with a door, signal with the door.

  • Door open: I'm working but you can interrupt occasionally for a question.
  • Door ajar: Please hold stuff for later but you can interrupt me if it's necessary.
  • Door closed: I need to concentrate; interrupt me if there's blood or fire.

No door? Some people have successfully used a distinctive hat to mean "don't interrupt me just now".

But yeah, it starts with an understanding and agreement that this is my job; when I'm at work, I have to work like anyone else (only I have a way better boss!), but since I'm home and I'm really glad you're in my life, I'll try not to be (too) hard about it when I can, and still get my work done.

  • Upvote for a door thing. I haven't tried this but it sounds nice. The only issue may arise if it's summer and you don't have air-conditioning in your room :). – Peter MV Sep 12 '13 at 18:03
  • +1 for the door thing. The only problem that I can see with it is the constant interruption of getting up and adjusting the door – Hassan Al-Jeshi Feb 12 '16 at 9:20
  • For me, it comes down to which is the greater distraction. Some distraction is the trade-off for the convenience of working at home. And when I've worked in "cubicle farms" the distractions were far worse - someone dropping by to visit, or a "hallway conversation" taking place a few feet from my desk. And that's if I wasn't pixxing away a couple hours in a meeting I had no need to attend. The remaining alternatives would be the public library or a rented private office. – JRobert Feb 12 '16 at 15:05
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Agree with Oded that talking should come first. Communication.

A little story of my own FWIW. My dad kept dropping in during work hours, despite my reminding him several times that I really needed to focus on work during the day and couldn't spend a lot of time chatting.

He finally got the point after I sent him an invoice. He shows up looking for a coffee after work now, so things are shiny. (Mind you, he never paid the bill... must send him an overdue notice. (joke))

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    Hey Evan, thanks for sharing your experience. To make this sound slightly less discussion-oriented, I edited your post and made it more clear in the first paragraph what your answer to the problem was. Hope this helps! :) – jmort253 Jul 16 '13 at 2:09
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Explain her how do you work. Show her deadlines, work plans, and so on.

Good understanding of your workflow for your relatives will help to overcome such issues.

Update:

Many problems in relationships have roots in misunderstanding. Your relatives have different picture in their's mind about your work. And due to this fact they make incorrect assumptions about you and your intentions and attitude towards your relatives.

Show them what is going on in your everyday work. How do you get new customers and plan your work, how do you meet the deadlines and how do you drive your business.

And how much time does it take.

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    Welcome Rafael. This answer is a bit brief... coudl you expand in each point? – Andrew Jul 16 '13 at 18:33
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    @Andrew I updated my answer. – user521 Jul 17 '13 at 8:25
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As mentioned in other answers, she needs to understand that the work you are doing is important and directly correlates with money you bring in.

Another good thing to do is sometimes work out of home if you can at a local cafe etc - sometimes the change of scenery really helps.

  • As above... where? – Amelia Jul 16 '13 at 19:38
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    Woops, edited :). – user319940 Jul 16 '13 at 22:53
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With any type of relationship (husband/wife, client/consultant, friend/friend, etc.), communication is one of the most important aspects of your relations pip --

First of all, look at it through her eyes: assuming you're in a happy loving happy relationship, she sees that you're at home now instead of an office, you probably wants to spend more time with you. And if she's asking you to do more chores around the house, again, she sees that you're home everyday and she has to go to an office for 40 hours a week to her job. How unfair is that for her?

Secondly, don't send her articles. She's not your blog reader, she's your wife. talk to her. Make her a cup of tea and sit her down, not in a serious, you're-in-trouble kind of way, but just level with her. For the sake of your relationship and happiness, happily pick up a couple of extra chores, not a whole laundry-list (no pun intended) of stuff you have to do instead of your work. Even an hour everyday (what you probably saved from not having a commute anymore), will get a great deal done.

Sit her down tell her that if just because the physical location of where you work is different doesn't mean that the situation is any different.

Having said that, one of the main reasons that you're freelancing is that you'll be able to spend more time with your family. Because at the end of the day, why are you doing all this anyway? To live life! For this reason, embrace the distractions at a certain point and make sure you communicate with your wife.

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Agree communication is key but if would add this. Your wife needs to understand that this is not a hobby; this is how you put food on the table and a roof over your mutual heads. The issue sounds like one of lack of understanding. Being at home does not mean being available. I agree with others that setting expectations is important. I also agree that bit helps to have a separate controlled space. But a key part is that you and she's need to agree that there are work hours and non-work hours and that she needs to treat your work hours the same way she would if you worked in an office. If she wouldn't expect to be able to call you whenever if you were in an office then she should not expect it in this instance. You don't have to be mean when you share this but you do need to share it. Good luck....

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My solution was to inform her about the schedule.

Not only does this allow her to plan her own stuff, it also creates a clear boundary when I need to work or have a skype meeting or whatever.

It also removes any doubt about whether you really need to be working at that specific time.

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