I know a lot of people who have made freelancing their full-time occupation. Some do it because they like the inherent freedom while others do it because they enjoy the variations in setting, pace, or range of challenges/duties. Obviously there is a lot to consider for anyone planning on making their freelance earnings their sole income. Some of those things include insurances, benefits, retirement planning, taxes, etc.
At times the non-stop stream of work that piles up can probably be a heavy burden and even seem overbearing but unlike those who have the support and assistance of their colleagues at a firm, freelancers are in the unique position to always feel that pressure since it’s up to them to manage whatever it takes to complete the task at hand. To help ease some of the pressures that may come with this territory I’ve come up with a list of ideas that I think should be implemented or at least considered by anyone looking towards this particular lifestyle.
- Pick a set time to get up in the morning (keeps you on-task)
- Look and initially structure/analyze your day in the form of a pie chart (you’ll see why below)
- Create a work schedule (what you want to be your “normal day” – that becomes the 100% piece of your 1st pie chart…you can make other pie charts representing different samples of time such as monthly, weekly, etc. and if your daily work entails communicating with clients in different time zones or during off hours, flex your time so that you’re not taking on too much work and not enough “play” …that’s what I call “breaking/splitting the pie chart”)
- Devote some time right after your breakfast to looking over your to-do list
- Write that to-do at the end of your (in this case, previous) day while your projects and their status’ are still fresh in your head (this way you can relax your brain at night and sleep soundly, never having to remember where you want to pick up with a particular task or what you want to communicate/express to a client in a future call/email—you’ll have your list with your wording to refer to the next morning)
- Devote a portion of your day to communicating and updating clients/handling business (ie: accounting)
- See to it that you have a few moments of the day that are reserved for finding new inspiration and cultural awareness (this will help you develop your communicative/stylized skills and present a great point of relaxation—lunch or render sessions make a good time for this sort of thing)
- Allow for technical issues and problem solving/further training (this can be either on a monthly/weekly/daily basis but at least have it scheduled)
- Devote a portion of your day/week to looking for new business (unless you’re skilled enough to have representation and/or a steady flow of projects that come across your desk)
- Remember to take holidays and some vacation time so you get out (especially important if you work from home)
- If you’re in an urban setting that supports this, some freelancers have found it helpful to go to work at an office they rent just so they have a change of setting to enjoy and inspire them with their work (such spaces can sometimes be offered weekly in some cities)
- At the end of the night/week, close and lock the door to your home office and if necessary in order to resist the temptation, manage different numbers and phone greetings with the aid of Google Voice so that you aren’t tempted to re-enter and get more work done. Sure, you might make some more money, but you’re robbing your personal life to do so and later on, that will be time you cherish with your own family or for yourself; if you get into the habit of going non-stop now, chances are you will become accustomed to feeling compelled to complete that amount of work in the future
- Pick a standard bedtime so that you are fully rested for the next day’s adventures (and if you MUST work to meet a unique deadline, be sure to charge or adjust your day accordingly—your clients shouldn’t be running YOUR life! Why do you think they outsourced it to you in the first place? Yes, it might be because of your particular talents/capabilities/style, but in the end it’s because they don’t want to do it or don’t have the time to learn/invest in the resources to do it)
That brings me to a brief, but interesting note on the whole concept of freelancing. Companies–and their executives–understand the value of time; they realize you’re better off paying someone else to do the things you don’t like to do so that you can focus on the tasks you do enjoy, instead of wasting time, complaining about how much a particular job stinks or how hard it is. That way, business moves forward–on to complete a different aspect/duty and because it’s something they may be more motivated about, they will accomplish that task with a higher level of interest/quality, thus in turn making the product more sustainable/profitable. As a freelancer, that’s what you do, too. You take whatever gets subcontracted to you and bring your enthusiasm/skills to the table to render the best possible job for whoever hires you (after all, repeat business is usually rewarded to those who deliver favorable goods). And if you want a much simpler example of outsourcing from say your personal life, you probably don’t have to look any further than at your own home/apartment. Ever mow a lawn as a kid and end up paying a lawn service/neighbor later on as an adult? If not and you do it yourself, you probably enjoy mowing the grass (no offense, but many don’t and instead see it as work…those who take on this viewpoint probably pay someone else to do that task freeing up their time so they can do something else; they’ve decided it’s worth the money).
I wonder how many actually implement the thoughts I noted here on a daily basis. Of course it’s always necessary and great to love what you do, but everyone needs a breather and some down time as well. Chances are, if you’re single, you have more flexibility and freedom, thus more time to accomplish the things you task yourself with while still enjoying/balancing life—but most people will end up married or supporting/raising a family at some point in their life and a healthy lifestyle means balancing those parenting/spousal duties among those in conjunction with work. Hopefully my list here helps prepare you for a successful, pleasant, and healthy career, should you be embarking down the freelance path.