Managing My Freelance Schedule: Ballast Notes
For my fellow freelancers and small business owners, our lives can be a bit of a mystery. Quite often, friends or family members that since I'm a freelancer, I only work odd hours, or that I'm only working for myself while searching for another job. And because fellow freelancers and biz owners also work solo, it can be hard to peek into what others' schedules look like.
Below, I'm going to outline what my average day looks like, as well as some tips I have for anyone working for themselves, on a freelance schedule, from home, or is simply curious about what in the world solo workers do all day.
Is this average day my everyday? Definitely not. There's plenty of days that are busier for client work, more focused on my business work, or are later or earlier starts.
7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.: Wake up, change and get ready for the day.
8:30 - 9:30 a.m.: Do yoga and/or work out with free weights, meditate and/or journal, and eat breakfast before sitting down to check any necessary emails.
9:30 - 11 a.m.: I use the start of my day to either a) do administrative client work like sending out proposals and contracts, and/or b) work on my own admin work, such as blogging, website updates, or social media scheduling.
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: This when when I generally start on creative client work. I'll sketch out client logos, start putting together the beginning stages of editorial projects, and will do any sort of research in this time frame. I also love to schedule phone calls in this time block.
12:30 - 1 p.m.: Make lunch, eat, and usually take this time to scroll through social media. Although I'll usually be answering emails as they come in during my morning work time, I usually make sure I've responded to everything at this point so I can dive into afternoon work.
1 - 5 p.m.: This is when the bulk of client work happens. Most days I focus on one or two client projects during this time, diving deep into the creative work. I usually take a couple 5-10 minute breaks and stretches, but this is generally when I'm most focused and can get the most done.
5 - 6:30 p.m.: Depending on how much of a groove I'm in with client work, I finish up anywhere between 5:30 and 7 p.m. I always make sure to take a once-over of my emails as I wrap up, and send off any client work that I need to. Depending on the day, I sometimes will do a little personal or admin work as I wrap up the day, as well.
- Roll with the punches. Some days will be busier with client work, some will be lighter. There will be days where're you're distracted or sick, or have to drop everything to take your cat to the vet (personal experience, obviously). You have to be okay with flexible and knowing that not every day will be perfect.
- Create a morning routine to put yourself into work headspace. There were so many days starting out where I would roll out of bed at 8:30, brush my teeth, and try to start working by 9 a.m. Spoiler alert: that didn't work for me. I meditate, do a bit of yoga, eat a (real) breakfast, change, and journal each morning before I start working, and am usually awake for two full hours before starting work. It's super important to make sure you're ready to go so you're as productive as possible.
- Set aside once-a-week days for finances/invoicing, scheduling social media, blogging and taking stock of your weekly schedule. For me, that's Friday, Friday, Wednesday and Sunday evening, respectively. It's huge to set these (and any other weekly tasks that might be relevant to you) aside to a specific date and time of day, so that you're able to set that routine and get in a good headspace.
- Time yourself. I've always been efficient (see more below), but was shocked by what my hourly fee turned out to be when I timed my first branding project. Especially when you're first starting out, it's huge to figure out how long it takes you to do something so you can price yourself accordingly and manage your time.
- Have a dedicated work space. I feel silly having a "work computer" and "personal computer," but it's made a huge difference for me. Even though my home office is realistically just a corner of my living room (#NYCproblems), I don't sit at my desk or use my computer unless I'm working on work projects. It really helps break up my mindset between tasks.
- Don't always feel defined by working eight hours a day. This was a huge sticking point for me that took me awhile to get over. There's nothing about an eight hour a day work schedule that is necessary for you if you don't like it; I've always prided myself on being efficient, and it's one of the reasons I hated having a normal full-time job. Although eight hours is a good place to start, you may find that something may work better for you. No one is chaining you to your desk, and if you feel like your work is done in six hours, that's totally cool. You do you.
- Create a schedule that works for you. You may be an early bird or a night owl, or you might have a hobby or family needs that shape your schedule. For me, I like to start working around 9:30 a.m. because although I'm definitely not a morning person, I want to be able to wrap up work in time for any evening activities or meeting up with friends. I also like having the flexibility to start a little earlier or work a little later if I need to run errands or want to go to the gym in the middle of the day. This is the schedule that works for me, but you can make one that's unique as you.
What are some of your tips for managing your own freelance or business owner schedule? I'd love to hear them below.