Why did you choose to become a contractor? The benefits say it all: better pay, more professional satisfaction and greater flexibility.

For many, the promise of a better work-life balance is the deciding factor in their move into contracting. And rightly so.

Much has been written about work-life balance in recent years – the benefits of it, how to achieve it, how to improve it. Contract work means you’re no longer tied to regular office hours, you work as your own boss, and can juggle work and home time to suit you.

However, the dream doesn’t always translate into reality. Many contractors find themselves working longer hours, answering emails at all hours, and always seeking out new opportunities.

Achieving a balance

Research consistently highlights the benefits of a good work-life balance to contractors. From studies confirming IT contractors are happier after leaving the world of permanent employment, to surveys revealing freelancers and contractors are confident of building better work-life balances in the future, the outlook for contractors seems good.

A LinkedIn survey from the end of last year revealed that contractors value a good work-life balance almost as highly as they do pay. Over half (57%) of respondents said a healthy balance between their personal and professional life was important, topped only by compensation and benefits (59%).

According to the survey, challenging work (41%), a strong career path (37%) and a good cultural fit (36%) were other factors contractors took into consideration before taking on a new assignment.

Tips for a good work-life balance

Work-life balance means something different to everyone; the secret is knowing when you’re becoming overworked and making changes to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand.

Here are three ways you can do that:

1 Fix your own hours

If you’re working away from the client’s office, you need to be clear about the number of hours the project requires. Working from home is an appealing option, but your work-life balance will suffer if you start losing a sense of time and spend extra hours at your desk. Fix your timeframe at the start of each project – and stick to it.

2 Switch off your email

Accessing email on your phone is convenient, but it comes at a cost: you feel the need to respond immediately. The only way to deal with this is to switch off your email alerts at certain times. If you do need to check emails outside of working hours, limit yourself to no longer than ten minutes at a time.

3 Learn to say ‘no’

Clients will always want to get as much value as they can from you. And, in their eyes, asking you to do one last thing won’t hurt because you’ll charge them for it. Learn to say no – or rather, ‘not right now’. That way, the job gets done, but without you sacrificing your time.

4 Be realistic about what you can achieve

As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos once said, work-life balance is “a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off.” Once you realise there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ work-life balance, things might get easier. Instead of striving for perfection, you need to be realistic. Some days will be more about work, while others will allow you time to focus on your personal life. And that’s OK.

Talent International’s Engage platform helps you make the most of your time by helping you manage timesheets and other admin with ease. It also helps you keep your skills up to date so we can save you time and find your next opportunity for you.

If you’re looking for a new challenge, get in touch with Talent International. We can help you find the right balance.