Six tips for contractors with work-life balance syncing issues

Work-life balance and contractor pay rates. Not immediate bedfellows, but the latter can adversely affect the former, and unfortunately at the worst of times -- just after you’ve gone the extra mile for your client to secure a rate rise.

Even at the best of times, contractors can feel an expectation that the work they do MUST be totally reflective of their daily rate, with not-so-great implications for work-life balance, writes contractor life coach Shwezin Win, founder of Win at Life.

Higher rate-higher expectation vicious circle = work-life balance at risk

Worse still, that expectation can really start to weigh down heavily when contractors secure an even higher rate, because they think the client will now have higher expectations on what can be delivered. The higher rate-higher expectation vicious circle, so-to-speak.

Do they REALLY expect you to work that invariably hot, long bank holiday weekend in August, to get the value for the extra money they’re now paying you?!

As Bill Gates says, your life isn’t a one-act play

There is a trick to not giving every one of your waking moments to a client who’s now paying you more (and remember contractors, rates like most pay rises tend to increase for work done not for work to be done). Put simply, that trick is realising that work-life balance is not a liner journey.

We go through ups and downs in our life’s need. At points our personal life needs to take priority and at times, your professional life must be the dominant focus. As Microsoft founder Bill Gates told some graduates last month: “Your life isn’t a one-act play.”

I’d say contractors and other business soloists probably have more flexibility than most, as to when the dial needs to be switched from personal life to professional life (and vice versa).

But it’s nonetheless critical that you find ways to manage the imbalance in life, rather than just chasing the work-life balance like it’s the Holy Grail. When working work-life balance through with my self-employed clients, a range of tools and techniques I share are honed to bring clarity to inform the correct move forward. 

Six tips for contractors with work-life balance syncing issues

Here are just six of them -- six tips for contractors with work-life balance syncing issues.

1. Identify the imbalance

Where’s the imbalance coming from?

What’s causing you the stress; is it ONLY the new premium on your rate you’re trying to live up to?

While trying to not get yourself too worked up, and calmly if you can, spend some time thinking about the imbalance and learning about how it is impacting you.

How is it making you feel? Are you feeling frustrated or resentful? Or, as some contractors occasionally say, is the imbalance a potential motivation, even exciting?

When you obtain a greater awareness of the source of the issue, you have a point of focus, which you can deal with. This is often the hardest part or the most overlooked. In our busy lives, we don’t spend enough time exploring the causes -- we spend too much time trying to juggle and keep all the balls in the air.  We don’t know which of those balls, if it falls, will break and will be irreparable.

2. Reprioritise

We live in a world where despite the current cost-of-living crisis, we are all constantly ‘adding.’

We add to our lives all the things we want to do. When covid hit and we were all in lockdown, when everything that we knew was taken away, did you build back from scratch?  Did you rationalise everything and focus only putting back into your life the things that you really missed? So, ask yourself, what’s really important to you?  What are you willing to sacrifice and for how long? What would be your top choices for ‘the shelf’?

3. Run a ‘What’s missing?’ audit

Sometimes with contractors, the imbalance is not from what’s in their life, but what’s not in it!

I run an exercise with my clients, where we look at the parts of your life and the level of satisfaction in each part. When clients see this and talk it through, we can identify what’s missing; which part of their life is not the way they want it to be.

Are you missing time for yourself? Time with friends? Time with the family? Are you missing opportunities to develop yourself? Learn something new? Achieve something? Are you missing a place or location which is restorative for you, or which has special meaning?

4. Outsource

Next, look at the support around you and create a list of possible choices to help you take a load off.

Or, as many in the tech sector like to ask, professionally speaking -- what could be outsourced?

What could your day-to-day or week do without, to firm up the 'life'-part of 'work-life' balance? Who could help you with your outsourcing? What would you need in order to outsource?

5. Make the change

Make a decision to do something differently.

It might be that you need to change your expectations of yourself or others, or that you need to make some choices to ensure the imbalance doesn’t turn into overwhelm or burnout.

6. Review and learn

Whether you make a change or decide to live with the imbalance, revisit these questions in a few weeks’ or months’ time.

Do you still feel the same? Has your action helped you manage the imbalance? What would you like to do differently?

Final thoughts (from the Microsoft man who regrets being anti-work-life balance)

As Gates recognises our lives aren’t linear, and so our work-life balance can’t be linear either. I’d go as far as to wager that despite being wedded to the world of software, the Microsoft founder probably recognises there isn’t a one-time fix -- when things get out of sync.

But speaking to those graduates last month, at Northern Arizona University, Gates did explicitly address work-life balance. And he couldn’t have said it stronger terms.

“My last piece of advice is the one I could have used the most. [Editor’s Note: Shwezin’s emphasis] It took me a long time to learn. And it is this: You are not a slacker if you cut yourself some slack.

“When I was your age, I didn’t believe in vacations. I didn’t believe in weekends. I pushed everyone around me to work very long hours. In the early days of Microsoft, my office overlooked the parking lot -- and I would keep track of who was leaving early and staying late.

“But as I got older -- and especially once I became a father-- I realised there is more to life than work. Don’t wait as long as I did to learn this lesson. Take time to nurture your relationships, to celebrate your successes, and to recover from your losses.

“Take a break when you need to. Take it easy on the people around you when they need it, too. And before you begin the next stage of your lives, take a moment and have some fun. Tonight, this weekend, this summer, whenever. You deserve it.”

If the issues raised in this article resonate with you, and you’d like some support to ‘win at life’ by managing a work-life imbalance – due to contractor pay issues or not, book a FREE discovery call via my website

Monday 5th Jun 2023
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Written by Shwezin Win

Shwezin Win is a fully qualified and experienced Personal Performance Coach. She has worked for over 20 years in small and major businesses within retail and marketing. She has held senior positions, managed large teams and worked for many years within IT/transformational projects, which is how she has had the experience of working with so many contractors. She set up Win at life to help as many people as possible to thrive rather than survive.

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