Life as a freelancer isn’t always on an even keel.
You’ll have periods where the work dribbles in (or even stops for a bit), and then you’ll have times when the work is flooding in and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get it done.
And while others around you might say ‘don’t take it on’ or ‘tell them you’re too busy’, you know there will be times when the work won’t be so plentiful, so you elect to make hay while the sun shines.
But in the meantime, how do you juggle it all, particularly when you have a family and a life outside of writing?
Plan, plan, plan
I’ve just come out of one of the busiest periods I’ve ever had. In a nutshell, I have written 35 articles over three weeks — 30 of them were part of a big project for a leading health fund. In that time, I still had to find time for my other clients, my family, my training, social life and writing my novel. (Did you know I’m working on my first one?).
One of the best pieces of advice I can offer you is to plan out your week before it begins. I have this amazing planner I use every week, and I write everything on it — training sessions, kids’ activities, medical appointments, deadlines, reminders, social activities and what bills are due that week. My life is that planner. And the great thing about it, is that I can see my week at a glance.
Colour code and write ‘to-do’ lists
I like colour. It brightens my day, but it also helps me see how my week is panning out. Work time is assigned a colour, as is deadlines, kids’/social activities, training and household chores. I also write to-do lists and tick off or cross off my tasks as I get them done. Not only does it feel good, but it tells me whether I have attended to that task or not.
We all have the same amount of time, so why do some people get so much done and others don’t? It’s because they prioritise their time. Focus on the things that are important (e.g. working on your projects, feeding the kids) and letting some of the other things go for a few days (e.g. ironing, housework). Those things will always be there, but when you have deadlines looming over your head, you really need to work on those first. And be disciplined when it comes to social media. You may need to use it for your business, but schedule time for that. Don’t let it suck your day away.
Make time for you
When you’re snowed under, you may feel tempted to keep ploughing on just to get the work done. You’ll skip lunch (and maybe dinner), and will only leave your desk for a bathroom break. But if you make time for yourself and schedule breaks (and eat lunch and dinner), you will be more productive. If you are a regular exerciser, keep that up. Exercising is a great way to clear your head, de-stress and recharge your batteries. And don’t forget to take regular breaks away from your computer to avoid headaches and neck problems.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
You know, there’s a bit of an assumption that freelancers have all the time in the world because we work from home and are ‘flexible’. While flexibility is great, too much flexing will leave you with too little time to get your work done. During busy periods, be prepared to say ‘no’ to that coffee date, or shopping with your friends. Get your work done first, and use social activities as a reward for when it’s done.
Ask for help
Sometimes, it’s just impossible to keep doing everything you usually do, and complete your writing projects on time. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your partner or kids to hang out washing, chop the veggies for dinner or clean the bathrooms. Ask a friend to bring your kids home from school so you get another precious hour of writing time. Ask someone else to cook your meal for you (aka take-away). Whatever help you can get, make the most of it. It will help you stay calmer and more productive. And you know it’s only for a short time.
Take time off
When your project is finally completed, and your client has signed off on it, take some time off. It may be a day, a couple of days or a week — depending upon how long your busy stint has been. Don’t be tempted to keep going, or you will run the risk of burning out. Get away from the computer and your phone and re-engage in the world around you. Go for a walk, go shopping, or just sit and read your book. Everyone needs a break from work — even us freelancers.
And on that note, my final task on my ‘to-do’ list has been ticked off. So it’s time for me to shut down the computer and take my book outside.
If you would like to engage me for one of your projects (after my break), then please contact me.