28 September 2009

The Freelance Work Schedule

by Joanna Bettelheim

Working from home on various projects affords a great deal of flexibility. But sometimes, in my obsessively-planned world, flexibility isn't what I'm looking for.

I kept pretty regular hours even after high school. They were not atypical for a college student: up until about midnight or later, sleeping through to ten and getting ready for class at eleven. Your time is basically your own to decide whether to study or write or goof, but there are still the absolutes of class time providing a rigid backbone, and eventually you fall into a pattern of dividing the hours a certain way.

Of course office life is defined by the nine to five. You know when to wake up, and you know that during the day you will be working, leaving your personal activities for after the drive home. This of course does not apply to things like Facebook, which seem to have wormed their way into the workplace as the number one time waster, causing employers to shake their heads. But basically, there are allotted hours for you and allotted hours for your work.

Working from home is very different. I suppose if I had a regular position for which I was simply working remotely it would be easier to create a work day in my living room, tackling the same eight-hour workload from the comfort of my sofa. But with a myriad of things to do, writing, researching, watching old episodes of TV shows to log online, there's no set period of time I must devote to each activity. I do set my alarm in the morning, and generally wake up around 8:30 each day to start up the computer and brush my teeth, grabbing a yogurt as I open up all the windows of my browser (at two of which devoted to social networking) and get settled in for the day.

I work on my articles, adding links to whatever is going up today and adding content to others scheduled to go out later in the week. I also look up other things I could write about soon, to keep my calendar full. My goal at the moment is to publish an article every weekday, sometimes more if there's just an embarrassment of content riches. I'm also taking frequent, short breaks for walking, just a few laps around the house or the block, trying to keep a foundation of movement in my day. Then there's the job searching, which is regularly random, checking the usual sites for something new and exciting that will pay me. And of course, thinking up ideas for posts here! It's all very exciting.

Lunch takes as long as it takes, though I could probably keep that around 30 minutes if I really wanted to, and then it's the same again as the morning, only with some DVD-watching paired with furious note-taking. Plus planning for dinner, which I have taken responsibility for. My culinary skills would wow you. Did you know you have to take the plastic off of the cheese slices? Kidding.

Anyway, the mix of work and extraneous activity is relaxing, and everything gets done. The only problem comes at night, when I could be knitting (I knit!) or reading a magazine, but I still feel the urge to work, and if I'm not, I feel just a little bit guilty. Since I always can be working, it seems lazy to not be doing a little work all the time. I think this tendency is magnified just because I'm not making money, so I want to feel that I'm actually working, justifying myself and every hour of my day. Which doesn't seem very healthy. 

So I'm trying to keep regular hours for work and play. Of course I'm writing this in the evening (posting it in the morning), as I take notes on the latest Project Runway episode, which gets logged mostly on Saturdays when Lifetime deems it fit to put the episode online so I can time out the scenes. Maybe I can't schedule out my time as rigidly right now, and maybe that's a good thing. It means I can have a friend over to watch movies while I write, or nap away a headache and work later into the night. It's good to stretch my adaptability muscles every once in a while. I'll think of it as training. Wait-lifting (gotta end with a pun).


  1. My parents work from home, they own their own business. And they have a very strict routine. But of course they can take a break whenever they want or have lunch whenever or do whatever is needed at any time.

    It's nice to work from home, but it can also be dangerous when it comes to all the time you can waste. ;) Thanks for the article!

  2. Scheduling is my weakness. I seem to keep drinking coffee as a constant priority.