A few years ago, I would have told you that I live a non-traditional life. As a DJ, start-up advisor, brand consultant, and tech investor, my days are flexible and up to me: I work for myself, make my own schedule, and never have to go into an office. Now, thanks to the pandemic and Great Resignation, in which millions of people bailed out of “traditional” 9-to-5’s, my situation has started to feel more mainstream. I love that. It’s wonderful that so many people are building their own brands and discovering the benefits of being their own boss. But that freedom has a flip side, too.
Working for yourself comes with a fair amount of stress––the kind you feel when every single meeting, e-mail, text, Instagram post, meal, gig, or flight holds the potential for new business. Business you need. When your personal brand is also your livelihood, the pressure is always on; it’s difficult to turn down new opportunities and almost impossible to turn off. And let me tell you, burnout is real. After a while, I started wondering whether work-life balance is even possible when you’re self-employed––when your work is your life and you’re always on the clock?
When your personal brand is also your livelihood, the pressure is always on.
For me, the path toward resolution started with reframing the question. Once I stopped thinking about DJing or public speaking as my job and instead as things that bring me joy––the proof of my decision to live authentically and pursue my dreams––they stopped feeling like things I needed to escape. That felt good. It also felt more realistic. For a lot of freelancers and creative professionals, the notion of work-life balance can seem dated or lofty; many of us are juggling several different gigs concurrently which means the ball––or a ball––is almost always in our court. Instead of resisting that, maybe we can lean into it from a place of gratitude. For me, it looks like this: I feel blessed that so many of my personal passions overlap, that I’ve been able to turn them into income, and that I don’t have to worry about pissing off my boss if I need to go pick up my son from school.
I don’t mean to imply that everything should become work. One of the most important things you can do is bake positive rituals into every day, like cooking a beautiful meal, texting a friend, or working out. Whatever makes you feel good. My favorite ritual is walking my son to school every morning through our neighborhood in Brooklyn. On the way there, it’s bonding time; we talk about his day and how he’s feeling about it. On the way home, it’s just me and my wife so we turn it into a little date. We go get coffee. We sit down for breakfast if we have time. Sometimes, the walks are built-in therapy sessions. Other times, we go the long way home. They’re always a time to nurture and reconnect with each other, and that’s what matters. We freelancers have a tendency to get stuck in our own, isolated worlds. If you only take one point away from this post, it’s the importance of making time for human connection.
One of the most important things you can do is bake positive rituals into every day.
Finally, remember to lean on your support network. They’ll give you the sense of community that you’re missing from a traditional office. For me, it’s my wife Carolyn, who provides the balance in my life. If I'm too loose, she tightens things up, and if I'm too tight, she loosens me up. Most importantly, she reminds me that I’m part of something bigger. When you’re self-employed, you want to be all things to all people, but relationships don’t work like that. Relationships are about identifying our different strengths and weaknesses so that we can find ways to work together. It’s the same in business. Your support network––whether it’s your family, friends, partner, neighbors, or even an online community––will remind you that you may work for yourself, but you’re still part of a team.
When you’re self-employed, you want to be all things to all people, but relationships don’t work like that.
About Mick Batyske:
Mick Batyske has his feet planted at the intersection of culture + entrepreneurship. He DJs for pop culture's biggest names, speaks at events & universities around the world, collabs with your favorite brands, and invests in culture-infused consumer startups — but his most important role is father to the coolest 6-year-old on the planet.