We all know that one of the shinier attractions of freelancing is flexible working hours. Yes, there are sometimes client-instigated deadlines, meetings and time-sensitive tasks we need to deal with – but by and large, we have a workload and we can decide when to tackle it.
But sometimes, that flexibility can be a curse…
The Flexibility Curse
Yes, that flexibility is normally a blessing. But it can be a curse if you let things slide – or if clients start expecting you to be available 24/7. You can take on too much work or find deadlines for different projects are converging as they rush towards you.
The loser in all this is often Your Weekend. How much this bothers you will depend on your circumstances. But if most of your near and dear ones have one, if not both, days off at the weekend, I’m guessing you’d rather not spend every weekend working.
So here are three ways to reclaim your weekend:
Manage Client Expectations
Make your weekend availability clear to potential clients. If it’s fine for them to call you, but not to expect you to work, tell them so. If a text is fine but you don’t do Saturday meetings, mention that too. If you’re prepared to work on a Saturday and/or Sunday, but only in an emergency, make that clear – along with your rates for that work. Be upfront about your higher rates for working or being ‘on call’ at the weekend.
If established clients have always treated your weekend like working days – whether that’s your fault, their fault or a bit of both – it’s time for a polite email. Explain that you have decided to formalise your working hours and again, make it clear what they can and can’t expect from you.
Don’t Contact Clients at The Weekend
You might choose to work some weekends – to make extra cash, catch up on work or get ahead of schedule because the next week will be busy. But don’t send work out at the weekend unless you have to. And don’t contact clients at the weekend unless you must, either.
If you don’t want clients to expect work or communication from you at weekends, then make sure communication and work isn’t coming from your side. And keep weekend working a secret!
Organisation, Organisation, Organisation
Try your best to always be aware of how much work you have on, how long it will take, and what events or commitments might get in the way. Don’t just vaguely guess how long something will take or what deadline that new client wanted; go and check. Diary work in so that you can see how much of your week it will take up in real time. This will prevent you taking on more work that you simply don’t have time for.
And when you are scheduling work, always leave a little breathing space. Have you calculated you’ll have a couple of hours free on Friday afternoon? No problem. Leave them free. If by some miracle you’re right, and you do find yourself twiddling your thumbs come 4 o’clock, take the time to tidy your desk, organise next week’s work – or even get a head start on it. Next week might be manic!