How to build your ideal freelance schedule
One of this most difficult parts of doing freelance work, for me, has been the inconsistent schedule. Meetings, photoshoots, and to dos always seem to be swirling around in my head. I'm someone who enjoys spontaneity but thrives off of structure and routine.
After 6 difficult yet rewarding months of full time freelance work, I'm finally getting to a place where I feel a little more grounded. I'm actually doing this. Each week I feel slightly more stable and sure of myself. And I think one of the main reasons for this is that I've figured out how to maintain a somewhat consistent schedule for my professional life.
Let's talk about some of the challenges that come with building a freelance schedule:
No one tells you when to wake up, start working, or stop working
When working from home, distractions abound
When running a B2C business, most clients are only available for meetings/photoshoots/etc. during evenings and weekends
Some weeks you're overwhelmed with work, some are spent trying to keep yourself busy
Loneliness strikes when working alone every day
Everything can feel out of your control and unpredictable.
I have struggled a lot with the overwhelming lack of predictability, but I've learned a few things in my short 6 months of this lifestyle, and I'd love for you to benefit from them.
Decide what is in your control and take control of those things.
Some days I have a meeting at 8am, some days I don't need to put real cloths on until - well, until the next morning. But that doesn't mean I don't wake up at the same time and have the same morning routine every day! Grab ahold of everything that you can to make each day somewhat consistent. Here's what that looks like for me:
Wake up at the same time every day
Maintain the same morning routine, regardless of what my day looks like
Put on real clothes and brush my teeth and hair every morning
Plan ahead for my lunches. Gather a lunch the night before, regardless of if I'll be at home or out and about during lunchtime. This way, I don't have to think about it in the middle of the work day.
Have a consistent nightly schedule and go to bed at roughly the same time every night
Another thing that is in your control is scheduling meetings, etc. with your clients. Maybe this looks like working every other Saturday, or maybe you set aside one or two evenings a week for involvement with people outside the "normal 9-5". Just remember, these are general guidelines to try to set up and stick to, but it's not the end of the world if you have to break your homemade schedule.
Hold everything else with a lose grip.
The truth is, a lot of your schedule will remain out of your control, and that's okay! Clients have last-minute needs, or sometimes they cancel a project last minute. But that's what you signed up for when you decided to do freelance work, so just take a deep breath and control what you can, try to let go of what you can't.
To do lists are your friend.
Sometimes all the random to-dos of my business overwhelm me and stifle my creativity. I'll start to work on a creative project, only to be bombarded with mental stressors like "Is this really the best use of my time? Did I email that client back? Did I record my hours for that other client?".
But what has helped me is to make many to do lists. Start with creating your yearly or quarterly goals. Then, at the beginning of each month, decide how you'll break that down into monthly goals. Every week, make a list of the big things you want to accomplish that week, then each morning, look at your weekly goals and schedule for the day and decide what needs to go on your to do list.
Have a running list of work you can do for yourself in slow times.
Some weeks I have very little paid work, and this use to give me huge anxiety. What's helped a lot for me is to have ongoing projects I can work on that are an efficient and effective use of my down time. For example, I can plan out the month's blog posts, I can update my website, I can watch how-to videos on Skillshare, etc.
Who knows, maybe your personality is very different from mine and these tools won't apply to you very well, or maybe you're in the same both I was 5 months ago and are in need of any advice you can take. Either way, I hope you at least enjoyed my ridiculous photos!