Thanks to chum Cathy Miller for reviewing Marketing 365 over on her Simply Stated Business blog! I appreciate the review!
How was the weekend? Mine was a mixture of lethargy and laziness - in general, pretty darned good. We had his office party on Saturday where I had the chance to really chat up some of his coworkers and their spouses. A really nice time. Yesterday, some errands, a little thinking about doing some painting in the bedroom, but a lot of avoiding it. We did get out to Washington Memorial Chapel in the park for a program on music in the time of George Washington. Nice, but a little to "precious" as he put it with too much theater interspersed with too little music. We crept out in the middle.
This week I have two articles to finish, more marketing to conduct, and I meeting at a client location tomorrow. I also have a play date with Jenn Mattern, and I intend to go no matter what writing emergency arises. I don't mind emergency work, but there are times when it's okay for me to be unavailable.
We touched on it briefly last week. How free are our freelance careers? Sure, we have flexibility in clients, projects, and hours, but are we somehow out of balance? At the beginning of my full-time freelance career, I remember working when the work was there and just puttering about when it wasn't. Those of you who have been doing this a while can guess where that led - eleventh-hour panic when I realized there were no checks coming in and no work lined up for the next month. I had to resort to temp agency work on one occasion. That's when I adopted my "market when you're busy" approach.
However, that scare can lead to an even scarier situation - having more work than you have hours in a week. That's happened to me, but I'm pretty adamant about not working weekends, so only on rare occasion would I put in time on a Saturday and only if the project deadline were ridiculously short. So how do we balance?
That depends on your goals. My goals are free weekends with no computer. I'd much rather be spending time with the husband than with an article interview or an editing job. If you prefer working all evening and keeping your days free, or taking Mondays off, etc., what will you need to get there? No matter what your goals, start here:
Learn to schedule. I nearly typed "learn to juggle" because that's what you have to do to guard that time off. Start with deadlines. Prioritize from there, and make sure that other phases of your projects - like interviews and client calls - are worked into that priority list. For example, when I get an article assignment, I send out the interview requests the same day. I may be working on other things, but it takes just five minutes to answer an interview subject and get the interview on the calendar.
Think like you're out. If you're used to weekends off, it seems to be easier to associate that time with no work. However, if you've decided Mondays and Tuesdays are your days, it's very easy to answer those client emails when you're supposed to be relaxing. Put up an "away" message if you must and definitely let all clients you're working with know you take those days off. It wouldn't hurt to let them know it's because you work on weekends when the interruptions are minimal. It sounds efficient.
Don't chain yourself to the work space. This is one of my biggest problems. I'll sit here from 8 to 5 every day even when I'm not working. If you've done the work, done the marketing, and really have nothing left to do, it's okay to walk away from the computer. Really. You're not a paid employee and no one is watching you and judging. You work hard. Give yourself a break (note to self: heed your own advice).
If you must, block the time off. As much as I don't like the "orderly" nature of it, I do schedule time off, even if it's in just my head. Normally, I keep quiet about my whereabouts, especially on a Friday. It's not uncommon for clients to disappear on Fridays, too. However, if I'm taking off a Tuesday, I'm apt to mention it, but only to those clients I'm working with currently.
Give yourself permission to relax. You are the biggest obstacle to getting free time into your schedule. If you're working too hard, maybe it's time to raise those rates? Still, even at higher prices, your skills are in demand. It's okay to say "My time is already booked that day, but I can get to it the next day."
How do you put the "free"dom back in freelance?