Set Your Work Hours in Stone

Officially, one of the benefits of working as a freelance writer is that you have a more flexible schedule. It’s true, to an extent: if you need to drop everything and go deal with an emergency, there’s certainly no boss to tell you otherwise. On the other side of the coin, though, you have to be the inflexible one when it comes to your schedule — without a boss to tell you to focus on your work, it can be very tempting to slack off.

Setting office hours and sticking to them is necessary if you want to keep moving forward as a freelance writer. It’s nice if you can be incredibly productive during each and every one of those hours, but, even if you can’t, just having them can help.

…Even When You Don’t Have Work

It’s rare that an employer will let you leave early because you have already completed all the work he has for you. At the very least, he’ll have you get a head start on tomorrow’s work. If you can treat yourself the same way, you can actually do some great things for your freelance career. Completed all your work for today? There are tons of steps you can take to get ahead:

  • Work ahead on assignments you already have — turning in assignments early rarely does anything but endear you to editors and clients.
  • Send out query letters or work on your marketing. Just because you have plenty of work right now doesn’t mean that you won’t want more work in a couple of weeks.
  • Create your own project. Want to eventually earn money off of a blog or a project of your own? Put the time in ahead of time and you can reach that goal.

But Don’t Stay Late

It’s not impossible for a freelance writer to go too far in the other direction — a problem I occasionally suffer from myself. Even when I’m not up against a deadline, I find it tempting to keep working even after my official work hours end. But when you do creative work, like writing, you absolutely have to take time to recharge your creative batteries. Too many late nights spent on getting ahead of the game can eventually burn you out.

It’s important to take your work hours seriously, both in terms of staying on the clock when you might have finished the day’s writing and in terms of leaving the office at the end of the day.

Do you already have office hours set? How do you make sure you stick to them?





10 responses
  1. Carson Brackney Avatar

    My love of flexibility (one of the main reasons I’m working for myself) has kept me from establishing “standard hours”.

    I see the advantages and wouldn’t think about disagreeing with the idea that setting hours can work. However, I prefer to do things on my own terms and own schedule.

    That means I’ll often find myself getting up super-early or working late into the night. I’ll go through high-intensity weeks in order to free up time for afternoon Royals games and day trips for Crawford Co. fried chicken.

    I like the idea of consistency, but I love the reality of flexibility.


  2. Chris Mower Avatar

    I have the terrible habit of working too long… even when it’s not necessary. I enjoy working, but if you do it too much, it can wear you down.
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..Your Way is the Best Way =-.

  3. Deb Ng Avatar

    Because I’m ADD, it’s best for me to have special “focusing time.” I find that I respect my time and my work more when I have specific business hours. That isn’t to say I can’t be flexible, because I do find time to take walks or take my son to the lake or something. But, it works best for me to work the same hours each day. It also means other people respect my time more because they don’t say, “Oh Deb will do it, she’s home all day.” Rather they say, “Oh this is Deb’s working time, I’ll ask her after dinner.”

  4. Phil Avatar

    I don’t have standard hours, too many clients in different time zones. But I will indeed finish at a certain time when I have other things planned (e.g., bowling night). Client doesn’t need to know it’s a personal committment, I just say I’m booked at such and such time.

  5. Trina L. Grant Avatar

    I am currently trying to convince myself and everyone around me I really do have working hours, which they need to respect. To that end, after reading this post, I decided to make myself an hours sign. My family is pretty used to my lists, signs and other written material meant to get their attention, so they’ll get it, even though they won’t abide. Anyway, my sign looks really nice and professional (to have come straight out of my very own printer), and it has my logo on it. I’m going to use it as a strict reminder for myself as well, “You only have [this long] to get this done. Move it, sister.”
    .-= Trina L. Grant´s last blog ..Professional Networking a Modern Marketing Solution =-.

    1. Thursday Bram Avatar

      I really like the idea of making a sign for office hours — my family has a habit of wandering through my office, asking when I’ll be done every 15 minutes (or at least it seems that way).
      .-= Thursday Bram´s last blog ..Constructively Productive: Teaming Up With Other Freelancers =-.

  6. allena Avatar

    yeah my pacific coast interviewees blow my 9a-3p hours out of the water sometimes. Dislike! And don’t even get me started on summer 🙁 (kids).
    .-= allena´s last blog ..What Folio Says About Working at Home =-.

  7. Beth Avatar

    I find it necessary to establish quitting time, or else I’ll stay at my computer until 7pm or later. What seems to work best for me is to assign a time block to each of my daily tasks. Instead of looking my at to-do list and wondering where to start, I know that from, say, 10-11am, I am working on a press release for a client. From 11-12 I work on a newsletter for another client, etc. Assigning a specific time to each task really helps me stay on track. Of course, flexibility is great, too. That same worth ethic helped me finish all my work so I could take Friday off last week.

  8. Andy Hayes Avatar

    Sounds great, but I am also with Chris and Thursday in overworking….this is one of the major problems of working at home (and having a small flat without an office) – it’s hard to separate work-time and fun-time.
    .-= Andy Hayes´s last blog ..Bath: England’s Loveliest Town? =-.

  9. Rachel Avatar

    I always try to write at the same time each day, but they are flexible if something comes up. I never write on the weekends or evenings. I think I would never stop writing if I didn’t force myself to take those breaks!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..April Earnings Update =-.

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