Budgeting Your Time

Budgeting Your Time

Rob Einaudi writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.

Working freelance gives you a lot of flexibility that you don’t have in the average 9-to-5 job. As a freelancer, you can work when you want to work and you don’t have to worry about the daily commute. However, for someone making the transition from working in an office to freelancing at home, this freedom can come with a few pitfalls. In order to make the most out of eWorking, you must learn to budget your time.

Get Your Priorities Straight

Freelancers tend to be independent-minded people with other interests outside of work. Maybe you are working on a screenplay, training for a triathlon, or you want to spend more time with your family. Take the time to list your priorities. This will help you plan how to balance your work with your other interests.

Organize Your Day

Next, determine what time of day you work at your best. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Some people like to get the day’s work over early. Without a commute, you can literally start working the moment you roll out of bed. If you are at your desk with a cup of coffee by 7 or 8 a.m., you may be done with your workday by the early afternoon. Then again, some people like to take care of their personal business early in the day. So go for a bike ride or do your Tai Chi in the morning, but set a time that you MUST be at your desk. Another option is to break your workday in two, and take a two- or three- or five-hour break in the middle.

Roll With the Punches

Of course, freelance work tends to come in fits and starts. You should to be ready to work long hours when necessary. Remember, your clients judge you by the quality of your work and by your ability to meet deadlines, so delivering your work on time should always be a top priority. Be conservative in your estimates of how long it will take you to complete an assignment, and be sure you manage your client’s expectations along the way. Realize that your work may also be affected by other people’s schedules or time zones, and be ready to adjust your schedule accordingly.

Juggling Assignments

At any given time, you might have one or more long-term contracts and several short-term assignments. You need to prioritize your tasks. Use a personal organizer to schedule your tasks and appointments every day for two or more weeks in advance. You should know what you are doing when you wake up in the morning and how to pace yourself for the week. Doing so will help you avoid those stressful late nights at the end of the project.

Minimize Distractions

While many people find that they can get more done at home than they can at the office, working at home offers plenty of distractions. The dog needs to be walked, Judge Judy is on TV, the laundry is piling up, and friends always seem more inclined to call when they know you’re not at the office. Be careful, the day can get away from you. The best way to avoid distractions is to identify them: if personal phone calls are a problem, get a second phone line for business use and turn off the ringer on your personal line. If it’s the TV, cancel the cable service or lock the remote control in a drawer. Of course you should still walk your dog: use it as a much-needed break.

The Right Mindset

Short story writer John Cheever used to get dressed in a suit and tie every morning before he started his writing–it helped him get into the proper mindset. This may seem a bit extreme, but you should find something similar, like maybe a work-mode baseball cap or special eWorking slippers. You should also set up a good workspace. The laptop on the coffee table might work for some people, but having a dedicated office space is probably the best bet to help you stay focused and organized.

Utilize Your Down Time

Remember to build in some time to look for new work. If you get too focused on finishing an assignment, you may find yourself temporarily out of work when you are done. But you should also be ready to make the most of your down time when it becomes available. Have you been daydreaming of a trip to France or a drive through the wine country? Write up a mock itinerary, so when that free time pops up, you can be on your way with minimal hassle.

The Lost Weekend

You probably didn’t get into freelancing so you could work seven days a week. If you find yourself working every day or if you feel like you are always working, you need to re-assess your priorities and re-examine your work schedule. The best way to protect your free time is to protect your work time. With a little planning and some discipline, you could become the envy of your 9-to-5 friends.