Freedom and flexibility are the two biggest draws for people looking into freelancing. But when it’s time to buckle down to work, we can get lost in the maze of all that time! Which begs the question: does a daily schedule for freelancers defeat the purpose of, well, freedom and flexibility?
Structuring your day for productivity is a lot harder than it looks. It’s a heck of a lot easier to stay on track when a boss or coworker could catch you watching cat videos! And working from home adds another layer of complexity: when does your workday actually begin and end?
If you struggle with time management in your freelance business, you are not alone! Many of us have trouble with this piece of the puzzle.
While there’s a lot of advice out there for setting the “perfect” daily schedule for freelancers, we think using a framework (rather than someone else’s agenda) is a better approach. So here are some tips for designing a perfectly free and flexible daily schedule for your freelance career.
1. Work With Your Natural Rhythms
When are YOU most focused? When do YOU produce your most creative work?
These are questions only YOU can answer. And they are important questions when thinking about your daily schedule.
The downside of having a natural rhythm is that it’s not always convenient. However, we all have certain times when we’re firing on all cylinders, and times when we’re, well, not.
We might want to be focused and creative in the afternoon so we could sleep in, or get the kids off to school, or simply ease peacefully into the workday.
Or we might prefer to be focused and creative in the morning so we could shut everything down by mid-afternoon and spend the rest of the day relaxing.
Regardless, most of us find we have a sweet spot for maximum productivity we just can’t fight against. And we need to do client work and business-building when we’re feeling fired up.
During those times when you feel most focused, avoid getting sucked into small tasks that don’t move the needle on your business. And during those less-productive times of day, work on admin tasks or answer emails.
The best daily schedule for freelancers will take into account your own individual ups and downs in energy and focus. So identify your rhythm and go from there.
2. A Daily Schedule for Freelancers Should Set Start & End Times
Whether your “office” is at home, a cafe, or the library, it’s all too easy to cross the line between work and not-work.
You might let non-work activities slip into your workday. Laundry, dishes, personal phone calls. Sure each activity might only take 10 minutes, but those chunks of time add up.
In a similar way, it’s easy to let work creep into your time off the clock. You can check your email while the oven is pre-heating, for example. But this practice is an ingredient for burnout. If work starts to feel never-ending, you’ll end up deriving less joy from your career.
Crossovers like these examples feel deceptively efficient. However, there is a cost. Task-switching requires much more energy and focus than sticking with something until you’re finished.
Which means you’re actually minimizing your brain’s ability to focus rather than maximizing your time. Task-switching tanks your productivity.
Now, sometimes you’ll have to “clock out” in the middle of the day to run an errand or go to an appointment. (Your boss will probably let you get away with it!)
Or you might have to finish up a project during your off hours if something goes awry during your workday.
The point is that a daily schedule for freelancers should have a set start time and a set end time—in addition to wiggle room.
3. Set Boundaries With Others
Sometimes, well-meaning friends and family will treat your workday as if flexibility means you have nothing to do and no schedule to follow whatsoever.
Yes, you can set your own schedule. But if you want to build your career, you’ll have to actually work!
Instead of letting friends and family dictate your schedule, consider implementing these policies as part of an effective daily schedule for freelancers:
- Silence your phone and social messaging apps during work hours.
- Only commit to favors if they don’t have to be done during your workday.
- Schedule meetups during your off hours.
- Set ground rules and expectations around when you are (and are not!) available.
This advice applies to people who live in your house, too! One freelancer we know has a policy in her home: “Don’t knock unless there’s blood!” (In other words, “I love you, but when my door is closed, don’t bother me unless it’s an emergency!”) You may have to implement a similar policy with children, significant others, and/or roommates.
When you work for yourself, you have a lot of freedom and flexibility! And at the same time, you have a real responsibility—to your clients, your business, and yourself—to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
Plan for and implement the daily schedule for freelancers that works best for you. Get your best work done during the hours that make the most sense. And then make sure to enjoy every hard-earned hour of time off.
Your turn! Which of these recommendations will you adopt for your schedule? Let us know in the comments below.