Planning Your Week As a Freelancer (Not 9-5)
If you've made the transition from being an employee to being self-employed, you've probably picked up a lot of the templates that you saw applied to work and then just put them into your business... even though the reason that you probably went out on your own is to have greater flexibility and freedom.
So I'm going to show you how I plan my week out, even though I do not work Monday to Friday, 9-5... because that doesn't work for me!
I am in the middle of packing, and my home office is a bit of a bomb site (which you'll see in my video!). I am moving from Toowoomba to Brisbane very soon, because my partner has taken an amazing job in Brisbane. And my partner, bless him, is also why I can't work Monday to Friday, 9-5! He works in hospitality and if I worked those hours and those days, we would literally never see each other.
So I have developed my completely unique-to-me work week, and this blog is going to show you how and why you should do the same thing, instead of just applying a template that says that you should work certain hours or certain days. One of the main reasons to get out of this habit of Monday to Friday, 9-5 thinking is because business is not about trading time for money. That's not scalable. If you can shift your thinking from trading time for money, from trading money for results, then you can have a lot more flexibility. But pricing strategies are a different video and blog! That's not what we're talking about here. Today we are talking about how to plan a really productive non-conventional week.
When do you have the most energy?
The first step is to notice when you have the most energy. Keep a log of the tasks you are doing, what sort of time it is, and how you feel. If you do this for two to three weeks, pretty consistently, you will start to see patterns and trends.
You can start to actually see that you're truly unproductive in the morning. You might think you know that, but what does morning mean? Is that until 10 o'clock, is that until midday? Is that until 8:00pm?! Knowing when you actually have the most energy and you are at your most creative and productive is really important. What this means is that if you can see that you have a massive creative spark between 8-10pm at night, why would you not make the most of that? If you can, because it fits around the rest of your lifestyle, why would you not pump out some really great work at that time? Just because it's nighttime doesn't mean that you shouldn't do that. It doesn't have to be a boundary. Also: forget what is a weekday and what is a weekend.
It's about knowing what's best for you. I'm not talking about working on weekends or evenings because you have so much work to do that it simply doesn't fit into standard work days. What I'm talking about is actually restructuring your workday altogether.
It's still really important to have boundaries in your work days.
So if you say that you work from 8-10pm, because that's when you are really creative, then don't let that become 2:00am. That is how you will burn out. So I'm definitely talking about still having boundaries to when you work so you can keep track of things and it doesn't become just one amorphous blob of always being on.
Time-block first things first
Once you actually have an idea of when you can be working and when you are doing your best, it's time to start time blocking these things into your calendar.
In my video, I should you what my calendar looks like.
You might think that this is an insane amount of things to have in a calendar, but bear with me, because what this exercise does is actually just to make sure that you have enough time in your weeks to do the things that you want to do. You don't have to actually have this structure in your calendar full-time. I just find it handy to do in the calendar to move things around and then kind of set and forget.
You should always, always, as with everything, start with first things first. You probably know that analogy of you have big rocks, you have small rocks and you have sand, and you have a jar. And if you put all of the sand in the jar first, then none of the rocks will fit. But if you start by putting the big rocks in the jar and then the small rocks, then you can fill the rest up with sand cbeause it takes up all of the cracks and crevices, then everything fits. So your first things are your big rocks.
What is actually really important that you want to fit into your week? This could be exercise, it could be date nights, it could be kids' soccer practice or volunteering. It could be the days that you work on your business, not in your business.
Block these times out in your calendar first. This can require a bit of juggling if you have partners, if you have kids, if you have lots of obligations. But it's also maybe a good chance to filter through some of those obligations and work out what are the main things that you actually do really want to fit into your week. So once you have life's big rocks in your calendar, then you can start just thinking about work and start to think about what's actually going to work here.
Assess your client contact hours
If you have lots of contact hours with your clients, then you need to probably have some time during the hours of 9-5 when you talk to them. But that does not mean that you have to talk to them any time that they feel like it. Limiting your contact hours with your clients is actually going to change your week. It might change your life. It definitely changed mine.
Remember that you can actually renegotiate some of these things. So let's say that you have a client who – at the moment – you work with on a Wednesday, and – at the moment – they can contact you anytime in a Wednesday that suits them. Now, if you are going through this process and you work out that that probably doesn't suit you very well, then you can try at least to renegotiate that with.
After doing this exercise, you may find that you actually have fewer work hours in your week than would be ideal. You might find things are starting to get a little tight in your calendar. I personally think that that's a really good thing because it forces you to decide what you're going to either delete altogether, delegate to somebody else, or automate to reduce the number of hours that it takes you to do.
I think the important thing to remember is to experiment. These commitments or time-blocks are not set in stone. Nothing here is set in stone. It's about using a couple of weeks or a couple of months to try something else out. Does it work for me to have an extra couple of hours in the evening where I come back to things? Does it work if I have a slower morning and I don't actually sit down until 10 or 12?
Thinking about what is going to work for you and then designing your week around it – instead of just picking up this template of Monday to Friday, 9-5 – that's actually just what I want you to think about. Stop bullying yourself into thinking that if you're not at your desk by nine or you're not at your desk by eight, then you're not working hard enough!
This is all about creating the life and the lifestyle that works for you. Otherwise, why would you be in business?
Communicate new boundaries to loved ones
The final point that I wanna make on this is to remember to articulate your boundaries to your loved ones. So yes, of course you've articulated your boundaries to your clients, but it's also important that your family and friends know your availability.
So if you work on Saturdays, you will find that you have to retrain your loved ones to not just like pop round on a Saturday or to invite you out for a big boozy night on a Friday because you do need to work the next day. You will find that you need to retrain and just lay out some boundaries with those people who have otherwise expected you to be available.
You can just say to them, "Hey, I'm just letting you know that Saturday is now just a regular workday for me. So I can't come out on a Friday night." Or, "Tuesdays are not a good day for you to drop in any more, as it's now a work day for me."
But always give them the alternative. "But Mondays are totally free for me. I'd love to see you on a Monday" or, "I can't go out on a Friday night, but I would love to hang out and have brunch on Sunday instead."
So there you have it. That is how I plan my non-conventional freelance work. I:
- discovered my energy levels at different points in the day
- plotted out my "big rocks" in my calendar first
- plotted out client commitments around my energy and big rocks
- experimented for a few weeks and made some tweaks
- articulated new boundaries to loved ones