Why Learning to Live Without a Set Schedule is so Important
It’s a special kind of personality that thrives off of and lives for freelance work, and working as a freelance writer can be one of the most exciting and rewarding career choices around.
The independence, the freedom, and the flexibility are huge draws; but it should come as no surprise that being able to enjoy these perks demands a serious amount of work ethic. One of the most important steps to establishing a successful freelance career is being able to schedule and time manage that work ethic in the most effective way possible.
But how do you create a schedule if the workload is ever-changing, the hours aren’t set in stone, and each week looks different from the next? Learning to live without a set schedule is one of the main keys to succeeding in a field where no two work days look alike. But that’s what attracted you to freelance in the first place, right?
The Selling Points
Many writers end up pursuing the freelance path for similar reasons, the aforementioned ‘main selling points’:
You can do your work wherever you like, whether that’s at home, in a coworking space, or while travelling the world,
You are your own boss, and don’t have to struggle through the bureaucratic red tape often inherent to the infrastructure of a larger company, and
You can do your work whenever you want, and you’re not restricted by a 9-5 work week schedule.
Of course, the flip sides to these selling points are the exact same reasons others stay away: by working whenever, wherever, and however you like, you are taking on a lot more responsibility. Which is to say, at the end of the day, if something doesn’t get done on time or your client isn’t happy with the end result, there’s nobody to take the hit but you and your reputation. Part of that responsibility is making sure you enforce your own routine in the absence of an imposed one. And working as a freelance writer, which usually includes cycles of having either an insane amount of work due at once, or a more relaxed period between big projects, means any sort of work habits you have need to be flexible. That’s why one of the most important aspects of transitioning to a freelance writing career is learning to live without a set schedule.
When you don’t have to punch in, your time is entirely your own. Here are tips on learning to adjust successfully to your newfound freedom.
1. Since you can choose where you work, find a place where you are most productive and attempt to use that space for work exclusively.
If you’re going to work at home, set up a desk space that is quiet and secluded and that you will only functionally use for your freelance work. Working on your laptop in bed or on the couch can be fine for some people, but for most, trying to work in places you normally relax in will cause you to break your concentration easier and will tempt you with more frequent Netflix breaks. Other people find they need to take it one step further and find a place to do work outside of the home. If you work well with a bit of ambient noise, a nice cafe can make a good personal office. There’s also the option of paying for a desk in a community work space, an increasingly popular option as the number of freelancers expands rapidly in cities. Wherever you choose, make sure you keep focused on strictly work there.
2. Although you’re no longer restricted by 9-5 hours, set a reasonable amount of time you will devote to work every day (or night).
What time of day are you most productive? If you’re a crazy night owl who feeds on creativity after the sun goes down, this is your opportunity to take advantage of setting your own hours! If you’re most focused in the morning, get going earlier and you can be finished earlier. Same goes for the days of the week; you don’t have to restrict yourself to working that many hours Monday to Friday, you could do fewer hours everyday of the week, or go on a crazy productive binge three days in a row and then take a few days off. For contract work where you’re paid a flat sum upon completion of the project, think more in terms of tasks and goals you want to be done within a certain timeline rather than hours of labour.
3. Be flexible and have a crazy work ethic.
You should have all of your upcoming projects mapped out so you can keep track of both short term and long term goals for yourself. You might have a couple weeks where you get to take a breather, and you should enjoy that! Because soon enough you may be putting in 80 or 90 hour sleepless weeks when it comes down to crunch time on another project. Just make sure you’re not leaving stuff to the last minute too frequently, or you’re gonna wear out fast and probably not produce your best possible work. And since your reputation is everything as a freelancer, that can be a career killing mistake if repeated too many times. It’s also important to be flexible when deadlines shift and the work ethic to follow through even if changes outside of your control have left you with a lot of last minute responsibilities.
WIth all the newfound freedom going freelance full time brings, there’s also the added responsibility. Learning to be your own boss, roll with the punches, and be alright with an ever changing or non-existent schedule is key. If you can handle your new role as boss responsibly, then the perks of the job are inarguably great.