One of the hardest parts of freelancing/being self-employed is time management. After all, you have a boss who's understanding of all your needs — you!
When I first moved to Denver and was freelancing full-time, I was a mess. Going from a predictable schedule with set parameters to having absolutely no structure at all sent my anxiety into overdrive. I was getting gigs, but I made the mistake of not giving myself the patience and focus I deserved. Ultimately, I ended up getting a 9–5 because the unpredictability and lack of structure were giving me imposter syndrome. I didn't maintain the belief that I could make freelancing work. (Sidenote: for the freelancers out there, The International Freelancer is a treasure trove of resources.)
Looking back, I can see that what hindered me the most was trying to split my attention too many different ways. Instead of spending a full eight hours writing and pitching articles, I was spending most of the day scouring job boards. I was going to the gym for three-hour workouts whenever I felt like leaving the house, which sometimes happened to be in the middle of a work day. I was sleeping in until 9 am and losing a good three to four hour block of time that could have been used for writing. I also spent a large portion of my day cooking meals and cleaning my apartment.
This is not to say that all those things were a waste of time. The real issue here was that I didn't schedule allotted time for each task.
Creating a schedule ahead of time optimizes the precious time you have.
You have more time than you think you do! And just because you're working for yourself doesn't mean (unfortunately) that you get all the personal luxuries of doing what you want, when you want all the time. Not in the first few years, at least! You're still working, and you're working a job that a lot of people want, so you have to hustle.
Wondering where to begin with mapping out a daily/weekly/monthly schedule? Read on.
Step 1: I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts — take a day to time how long it takes you to do regular tasks. How long does it take you to clean your kitchen? Get ready in the morning? Write a 1000 words? Research pitches/agents/novel info?
Step 2: Schedule your week. Schedule how long you're going to work and when, but also schedule your non-work hours. Instead of letting yourself fall down a cleaning k-hole, set a block of time to clean that fits into your schedule. Do the same for your exercise, cooking/eating and breaks. Set limits on how much time you spend on each task. It seems tedious at first, but over time, you'll get into a routine that comes naturally.
Step 3: Monitor your time. When you're taking a break, scrolling on social media, etc., it's easy to lose track of. Set alarms to make sure you're staying on schedule.
Step 4: It's okay to be flexible, but don't let your fun and work time bleed into each other. Set boundaries. Have your scheduled work hours, and stick to them. After your work day, stop working. Give yourself time off. Trust me — if you don't, you can end up working around the clock, and your clients will come to expect that of you. Set their expectations to align from the beginning with what YOU want your work day to look like. Remember — you're the boss!
Step 5: Getting your footing is a process. Be patient with yourself, and take time to know your limits. You may learn that you can't get work done at home, or that you need to hide your phone while you're working. You're going to learn a lot when you first get started, and you're going to learn it the hard way. That's okay! One of the perks of being self-employed is that you don't have a mean boss telling you that you're hot garbage. Don't be that mean boss! You're doing great.
I honestly think that organization can make (or break) the level of success you attain in your career. I hope these five tips help you sort things out as you start your magical journey to being your own boss!
And as always, if you have something to add, comment below or tweet me @estochen!