When working from home, it’s important to stay focused, remain on task, and not get distracted by how many Oreos might be left in the pantry.
One of the many comments I get from people when they find out I work from home is, “How can you get anything done?” Well, I admit there is a great deal of procrastination involved, and I have pulled a couple of late nights trying to finish everything because I wasted time earlier in the day, but that’s why it’s so important to make a schedule.
A schedule can be anything from a couple of sticky notes plastered on the computer screen, to a tricked-out Excel sheet with highlighting and different font colors. Choose whatever method works best for you (just don’t waste too much time on it!), and stick to it. Depending on how hectic your daily life is, you may have to make a few adjustments throughout the week. But that’s one of the best things about freelancing: you have the freedom to do that! Not working from 9 to 5 means you can work from 8 to 4, or 12 to 9! As long you are doing the best work you possibly can, and turning everything in on time, you can choose your own hours.
When you’re first starting out, it’s best to stick as close to your schedule as possible, in order to get a feel for how long it takes you to work on things. When I first started editing, it would take me about a half hour to do one page, or 300 words. I was unsure of my abilities, and had to keep looking up style guides. Now I’m much more experienced, and 300 words usually only takes me about 10 minutes to copyedit. As time goes on, you may have many different projects from many different clients to juggle, so you should also incorporate a calendar into your schedule, so you know what is due when. For example, say you have two articles due for Client A, and four for Client B. The former must be turned in by Tuesday, and the latter by Thursday. Today is Monday. Obviously, you should do the ones due on Tuesday first, but don’t forget to make time for the four on Thursday, especially since much of your time on Monday will be finishing up the Tuesday ones. It sounds a little complicated, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
I’ll be making more posts on how to manage your projects in the future, but right now, focus on making time for everything. Do you work best in the morning or at night? Do you have another job that you have to go to everyday? School? Are there chores that must be done? Gotta walk the dog? And don’t forget that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Add a little fun time, too, especially if you’re a writer – reading is just as important.
For me, with my home duties, I find it easiest to stick to a roughly 9 to 5 schedule, as I don’t like working at night or on weekends. I make sure my clients know this, too, and I only accept such jobs in an emergency (a client has a last minute presentation due immediately in the morning, etc.). If you have a flexible payment plan, you can even charge extra for jobs that are outside your normal hours. Overall, act like your freelancing home job is just like a “real” office job. It will help you stay focused and sane, and leave you with time for yourself, as well.
Here is a typical workday schedule for me. Yours will likely be very different, but this should serve as a good example:
7.00-8.00 – Take the kids to school
8.00-11.30 – Work
11.30-12.00 – Exercise
12.00-12.30 – Lunch
12.30-14.00 – Work
14.00-15.00 – Pick up kids from school
15.00-15.30 – Clean
15.30-18.00 – Work
18.00-20.00 – Dinner/Family time
20.00-22.00 – TV/Video games
22.00-00.00 – Read
Bear in mind that this changes a lot. Sometimes, I don’t have that much work in the afternoons, leaving me time to work on my own projects (like this blog!). Other times, I do have work, but I have to help the kids with their homework or take them to extracurricular activities. Remember, besides your family, your job is the most important thing you need to be spending time on. If you missed a few hours of work earlier, that probably means no TV time later on. It can be hard, but you need to be flexible and also assertive with your time management. Luckily, none of this is set in stone, and you can move things around if you need to. If it’s work time, work. If work time was taken up by something important, make time later on, and then work. Letting yourself get distracted, and spreading all your projects all over the place will just leave you feeling stressed and confused.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, start simple by making little lists of what you need to do today, and get started as soon as possible. You’ll eventually get a feel of how long it takes you to do certain tasks, and how your normal life affects your work, if at all. You’ll have a schedule perfectly tailored to your needs in no time!
Freelancers, what does your daily schedule look like? Do you usually stick to it, or does it change often? Sound off in the comments below!