One of the joys of working as a freelancer and consultant is knowing that you can work whenever you want to, right? Many of us are drawn to freelancing or consulting work because we crave a more flexible schedule and do not want to be tied down to established work hours. What many of us find out rather quickly, however, is that if we do not set some regular hours, we are working around the clock and our clients and customers assume they should have free access to us at any time of the night or day. In reality, established work hours can be beneficial for freelancers and consultants too.
Keep in mind that establishing set work hours does NOT mean that you need to work 9 – 5. For example, someone who works as a financial consultant from her West Coast home may find that she is up early (5:00 am) so she can be working when the markets open on the East Coast. This may mean that she is finished working by early afternoon. A freelance writer may find that he or she works better when the house is quite; this means working evenings or early mornings and using the rest of the day for other tasks.
Establishing work hours can also keep you from losing perspective and working too much. Likewise, many of us find that when we DON’T have to work set hours, we slack off and do not get much work done at all. Establishing hours for work can help us to stick to a schedule and create a culture of productivity where we might otherwise find excuses not to work.
When you do decide to establish work hours, decide how flexible you will in regard to taking phone calls, checking emails and other “work-related” tasks outside of those work hours. Some freelancers and consultants find that they can break up their work hours and tasks instead of working straight through for several hours. This can be a good way to stay fresh and focused and mix in other activities and errands during the day. For example, you might want to check e-mail first thing in the morning and make a work plan for the day. Then, take a break and have breakfast, exercise or run errands. You then might be back at work at 10 am and start returning calls and emails. Be sure to let those you work with know when you are working and when is the best time to reach you. This will also cut down and being contacted OUTSIDE of those established working hours.