As a freelancer, it can be difficult to know how many hours to work each day, especially if you’ve got projects piled up to the ceiling. But all work and no play makes a dull freelancer, so you need to set boundaries on how many hours you work in a day. This begs the question: what’s the best way to structure your freelance workday? Should you set specific hours or go with the flow? Let’s look at the options…
Option #1: Set specific hours
If you’re used to working in an office job with 9-5 hours or 8-4 or 10-6, it’s sometimes easier to follow the same pattern when you switch to freelancing, because you’re already in a groove.
The pros: The benefit of this system is you know how many hours you’ll work each day so you can plan both your freelance workload and your social life accordingly.
The cons: This method doesn’t offer much flexibility, especially for last-minute events or emergencies. As such, it can feel rigid like an office job if you’re not careful, so you lose one of the beauties of being a freelancer.
Pro tip: I followed this system at the start of my freelance journey because it fit the work pattern I was already accustomed to, but I quickly realised it didn’t suit my body clock at all—so if you decide to do this, make sure you figure out what hours actually suit your personal body clock.
Option #2: Go with the flow
If you don’t enjoy a rigid structure or find that your motivation and energy fluctuates throughout the day, a good option is to go with the flow. Work when you have energy and drive—and do something else when you don’t. There are no rules or set hours here, so you do what feels right for you.
The pros: It feels very liberating to work this way, and this freedom is one of the main benefits of freelancing. It enables you to take advantage of your most productive times to work solidly, rather than forcing yourself to work when you don’t want to.
The cons: There’s no guarantee that you’ll feel productive often enough to get all of your work done, so this method can see you falling behind with projects. It can be difficult to tell clients when you’ll get work back to them, and you may miss deadlines if you’re not careful.
Pro tip: I tried this system and found it worked well until I had a project I wasn’t really enjoying, as my motivation slumped. If you use this system, make sure you’re working on projects you enjoy! Then perhaps switch to a more structured system if you have projects you’re less interested in.
Option #3: Flexible flow
As you might have guessed, this system is a mixture of the previous two. You impose certain loose rules on yourself, but give yourself the freedom to adjust the days and hours to suit your freelance workload, social plans, and energy levels.
The pros: You get the best of both worlds, because you can plan your workload and social life, but also work when you feel most productive during the day and take a break when you don’t.
The cons: You can end up working some strange hours, especially if you feel most productive at midnight. This system does require more self-discipline than a complete flow, as you sometimes have to force yourself to work when you don’t really feel like it.
Pro tip: This is the system I use currently, freelancing from Monday – Friday from roughly 10am – 8pm, with the flexibility to go for long lunches, switch my working days if I have something planned during the week, and do something else if I feel demotivated or tired. To keep track of this system, it’s a good idea to use a diary and know how many hours you’re working.
The key is to figure out what works for you personally!
What system do you currently use? Would you try a different system? Comment below or get in touch.
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