Saturday, March 3, 2012

Are You on Schedule?

Freelancing means you are your own boss, on your own schedule and doing what you what when you want it. The issue, however, is too many freelancers take this very concept a little too literally. They miss deadlines, do things last minute and procrastinate to the point where they are working 12 hour days or even 18 hour days to make sure stuff gets done. Why? Because they are not on a schedule.

The Schedule Factor
A schedule is extremely important for a freelancer. Whether you do graphic designing, writing or editing, you need to have a daily schedule and organization so you know what needs to be done and you work on it bit by bit just like you would in a real office with a boss breathing down your neck. Sure you are your own boss, but if you are not productive, then you might as well go back and work for the man at this point -- because you aren't making money efficiently your way.

How to Create a Freelance at Home Schedule
If you are freelancing from home, you need a schedule. The good news is, this doesn't have to be 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. You can do whatever works for you, but also keep in mind you have clients.

Step One: Make a list of your clients and their normal operation hours. While some work typical office hours, others may be in a different country. Make notes of who may overlap your "awake" hours. It is important to have working hours when your clients do so that you can contact them with questions, issues, etc.

Step Two: Write down your assignments or projects. If you do not have a list of what you are doing and when it is due, you already have a severe organization issue. Sticky notes, by the way, do not count for organization. You should be using a spreadsheet or Access document. I will provide a template in a follow-up post for you all to use.

Step Three: Ask yourself when you want to work. What do you have going on that may effect your schedule? For example, I have a three year old and a husband with a weird work schedule. Therefore, certain days of the week I can work more than others. Chunk together time where you can get solid work in and note times where it is "iffy" as to what can be accomplished.

You should have a schedule for each day of the week you are working and that schedule should include when you start, when you have time to contact clients, when you will be working straight and when you will take a lunch -- just like a real job. If you want a three hour lunch break, schedule it in. That's what is great about this, but the bottom line is, you need to schedule it in.

Step Four: Write it down and print it out! Once you have your schedule, type it up and print it out. This should be next to your workspace as a reminder. Try out your new schedule for a week or so and make adjustments where necessary. The good news about being your own boss is you have that luxury.

A schedule when you are working from home as a freelance writer is extremely important. This ensures you stay on task and don't miss out on working on a job to go shopping (or golfing...). The bottom line in freelancing from home is TIME IS MONEY. Your time is now money. No one is paying you hourly and you are in charge. You need to get work done and get it done efficiently and within a timely manner in order to make it worth your while.

Do I Really Need a Schedule?
Some people hate the idea of a schedule. In my experience these are also the freelancers from home that never make any money -- just saying. But if you are really questioning whether or not you need a schedule, ask yourself this:

  • Do you work on a project with equal chunks of time each day so that it is not rushed nor pushed to a 12 hour day last minute?
  • Do you find yourself working longer some days to catch up?
  • Do you find that you are frequently late or turning in poor quality work?
If you even answer "yes" to one of those, you need a schedule. 

You will be surprised at just how more efficient you are at freelancing from home with a schedule and how much more money you make just by creating a schedule.

A Real Freelancers Schedule
People are always asking me what my schedule is. Since I run a copywriting business and write for clients myself, mine is quite hectic and days are filled with a lot to do. The great thing, however, is I rarely work a 40 hour week and still make $4,000 per month (profit). Why? Because I'm organized.

Monday: 10am-2pm
Tuesday: 7am-4pm
Wednesday: 7am-2pm
Thursday: 7am-4pm
Friday: 7am-1pm
Saturday/Sunday: Off (unless I want to work extra)
*I do a working lunch. Meaning I eat while working.

I work around a three year old, a pregnancy, family/friends and a husband who is a firefighter. I still take care of the house, do the shopping, spend time with my son, write my own blogs for fun and relax. But during those work hours I'm all business. I work, work, work. The rest of the time is my time, while that time is work time.

Your Schedule Can Change and It Should
Life changes, things happen and your schedule is not the same every day. When my son was first born I had hour long chunks of work time, but still made it happen. Even if you work one hour in the morning, two mid-day and three at night several days per  week on a scheduled basis, you are more efficient. Create a schedule that works for you. Reassess your schedule weekly or monthly depending on your situation. I know mine changes monthly and when our second child is born it will change quite severely, but no matter what is going on, I will have a written schedule of some kind. I will know what hours I work, even if I'm working 20 minute chunks between a waking baby.

A schedule almost psychs your mind into "work mode" and you will see a difference instantly just by having one.

If You Are Too Lazy to Follow a Schedule, You Need a Career Change
I have had people say it is too impossible to follow a schedule. They can't do it or refuse to do it. If you cannot self-motivate and self-discipline to follow a simple schedule that YOU create, then YOU need to not work for yourself. Some people find this to be harsh, but in my 10 years experience as a freelance writer I can tell you that those very individuals with this mentality I have met in the past, never made it anywhere past entry level and $3 articles. Interesting isn't it?

Schedules. They are not the enemy -- they are what helps you make money in the freelance writing industry.

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