The Human Freelancer

Happy and honest self-employment for conscientious newcomers

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When you’re running under your own steam, trying to earn a crust amongst all the other businessy-shit you’ve got to do, you very rapidly appreciate how much of your time is actually applied, constructive work.

Or rather, how very little.

Your average person probably puts a working day at around 7 hours (or 8 if you’re a lunch-at-desk drone). Yet when you’re more attuned to how you spend your time, you soon discover that if you manage 4 hours of applied work, you’ve had a very productive day.

Why? Time spent on billable work for clients is time when stuff gets done, because you’re getting paid for it and don’t like letting clients down. But everything else isn’t – it’s a sequence of distracting, disjointed clerical tasks like writing emails, organising your work-flow and promoting yourself in irreverent freelance blogs that no one will ever read. Or it’s ambling personal projects which are, quite rightly, slow-burners.

Freelance work tends to be more creatively demanding too. It’s mentally exhausting and therefore not sustainable to work intensely, for 7 hours solid.

So what I’m saying is don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been at it all day long and only managed maybe two or three hours’ worth of work. That’s why our rates are higher than someone doing it full-time – to compensate for the fact that there’s so much us freelancers have to do that isn’t well-paid.

Some days it’s hard to get motivated at all, if you’re burned out from the day before or (like me) Monday is a day of protest. I often know by mid-morning whether it’s going to be a productive day or not, and I’ve just learned to go with that. If you’re trying to force productivity, you’re not enjoying yourself – which doesn’t sound like the Human Freelance way.

My advice is to arrange your time so you have days when you focus your efforts on either big lumps of work, or lots of little unrelated administrative bits. Never both on the same day – your concentration won’t like that. Also, don’t forget to set aside days when you don’t do very much at all, or do things completely unrelated to freelancing.

If you really want a nice warm, tingly feeling, try setting your mind to maybe one or two large chunks of work (or one big, troublesome task that you’ve been avoiding for ages). Then have other days when you work on tiny bundles of necessary shit that needs to get done, like posting letters or laminating your hoop, which helps you move closer to a milestone.

Self-awareness comes into this too (surprisingly for this blog) – your present mood and how you work both affect when and where you should work, and indeed what you should be working on at a specific time. Do you need peace and quiet to access your innermost artistic demons? Or do you prefer the bounty of distractions afforded by a community of like-minded freelancers at a coworking space to cheer your Tuesdays?

I’ll leave it with you. This note should’ve ended 5 paragraphs ago.

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Self-help business books perpetuate the myth that success is relentless growth and more of everything means progress. They preach about bookkeeping and market research: things you might need to do of course. But let’s face it they’re fucking boring.

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