The value of leisure time

Freelancing shouldn’t mean spending all your waking hours on duty, says Brian Hoff

Try to stick to a nine-to-five schedule as much as possible in your freelance routine. When I started working on my own, I tried to adhere to that schedule right from the get-go.

I aim to shut my computer down by six in the evening every day, regardless of whether I’ve actually finished all my work. Three or four times a week I might think I could finish something if I spend another hour working, but I try to make myself turn off my computer because I’m done for the day and I know that I’ll get the work finished tomorrow. And I don’t touch my computer at all during the weekend unless I absolutely need to.

I know a lot of freelancers who work when they’re on holiday. Sometimes clients expect me to do the same: “Oh, it’s not like your office is closed.” But the way I see it, I’m off work too. It all comes down to managing client expectations. If I get an email during the weekend, I’ll wait and respond on Monday morning. If a client wants me to do something when I’m about to finish work, I’ll tell them I can get to it in the morning. I don’t want to find myself in a situation where my clients are managing my whole schedule for me. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that everything you do is going to be work-related.

I also have two set times for email: early morning and the end of the day. I check messages throughout the day, but those are my reply times. If you sit and respond to all of your emails as they come in, your concentration will be broken. One email can completely distract you.

Sometimes you just need to keep people out of the loop – you really don’t need to report back to everyone about everything you’re doing every second of the day. Clients should understand that you have other clients. They may be emailing to ask if you can do something for them really quickly, but if they want to be your only client, you’ll need to significantly raise your rates.