Finding Balance and Managing Time as a Freelancer
Many creative, independently-minded people find, when they finish schooling and get out into the workforce, that they do not enjoy holding a staff position at an agency or publication. These individuals may find they have a need for autonomy, or would like to work a more flexible schedule than a 9-to-5 job provides. For such a person, self-employment is often the answer to their needs and desires. Instead of going in to an office, working at the same desk all the time, and always doing the same types of projects, a freelancer enjoys the freedom of doing business on his own terms; and no one employer is there to restrict his potential creativity. Due to these perks, more professionals across a broad spectrum of industries are choosing to pursue self-employment.
Creative freedom, mobility, the ability to choose the work you will and will not do, and a flexible schedule are definite positive aspects of becoming self-employed, but many people who choose to go this route find that they don’t really know how to freelance effectively. There are many challenges to freelancing to be considered, such as networking, finding clients, and ensuring that you will be paid in a timely manner; but one of the most difficult challenges is time management.
To keep the income rolling in, freelancers need to have multiple clients for steady work. With multiple clients, though, come multiple deadlines. If you choose to work on your own schedule, you must learn how to be a freelancer and a “manager” at the same time, because nobody will be there to remind you of what work needs to be done or approaching deadlines. There are some methods you can learn to achieve efficient use of your time.
- Train the family: Time management concerns are exacerbated when you work at home and struggle to schedule family commitments around your work deadlines. Often, a freelancer’s family does not understand that even though she is at home, there are still “work times” during which she should not be disturbed. If you live with family, a part of learning how to be self employed is understanding how to “train” family members to respect your work time and space. Talk with them all together, and ask for their cooperation in creating a balance of work time and family time. Create a “work schedule” sign for the door of your work space and have a clock visible nearby, as a reminder to family members about the times you cannot be disturbed. A simple, very visible “NOW WORKING” sign can be helpful if you have small children who cannot tell time. Of course, a locked door can do the trick if nothing else does.
- Develop a written schedule: When you are self-employed, you have the luxury of choosing to work the hours that are best for your lifestyle. That said, it is very easy to put work off too long or spend too much time on social and family interactions. Developing a schedule, writing it down, and posting it in your workspace will help you to foster improved work habits and to keep your projects and deadlines in view at all times. Knowing exactly how much time you have to work each day – and seeing what is going to be due soon – will help you to avoid distraction and procrastination.
- Work during work time: The written schedule has two uses: First, to remind you of when you should be working. Second, to remind you of when you should be done. After work hours have ended, you should make it a habit to STOP checking emails, taking calls, or doing other work-related activities. If you are asking your family to respect your work time, they should be able to expect that you will do the same for their time with you.
Freelancing can be wonderfully, well, freeing. Learning how to freelance effectively and utilize your time and space efficiently will help you to enjoy that freedom without sabotaging your ability to earn the income that you need, or enjoy the benefits of the social and family time that you desire.