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3 Smart Schedules to Help You Take Control of Your Freelance Life

One of the perks most of us envision for our lives as freelancers is the freedom to work where we want, when we want.

I’m guessing you’ve daydreamed more than once about closing your laptop on a Tuesday afternoon because it’s a great day for a bike ride, or taking off a random Thursday because your best friend stopped into town or your kids’ school called a snow day.

Working for yourself means you are in charge of your time. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Here are 3 smart schedules to ensure you are happy and productive in your freelance business.

Then we actually start the self-employed life and realize that setting our own schedules isn’t so easy. With client deadlines and expectations to live up to, many freelancers end up working the same 9-5 hours they were so eager to escape—and plenty of us go back to work at night or on the weekends!

You can do better than that. Try one of these alternative schedules to take control of your freelance life and break away from the 9-5 mindset.

1. Split Shift

“Split shift” is a term Laura Vanderkam uses in her bestselling book, I Know How She Does It. In this model, workers literally divide their workday in half so they can spend the middle of their day focusing on other things and get back to work later that night.

For example, maybe you’d tackle important client work early in the day when you’re fresh, working from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Then you’d enjoy a free afternoon to do whatever your heart desires. If you’re location independent, this is your chance to explore whichever city you’re in this week.

If you’ve got kids, you can pick them up from school or take them on an afternoon playdate. Heck, maybe you just don’t like working in the afternoons and want to take yourself out for a lunch date at the new restaurant across town!

Once you’ve grabbed dinner and put the kids to bed later that night, you can then head back to work for a few hours and wrap up any loose ends you didn’t get to in the morning.

Working at night may sound like a drag, but it gives you a chance to buckle down and get work done without the constant distraction of new emails. It’s also a great time to schedule calls with clients in opposite time zones or who are unavailable to chat during the day.

2. Front-loaded Workweek

I used to work for a company that allowed their employees to work four ten-hour workdays during the summer so they could enjoy a three-day weekend every week. I dreaded actually working those ten-hour days because I hated that job, but I love the idea when it’s applied to the freelance life!

Working longer days earlier in the week can free you up to kick off your weekend early when Friday rolls around and you’re feeling totally drained. This is a great way to take advantage of feeling refreshed and ready to go at the beginning of the week, which means you’ll use your work time more efficiently instead of frittering it away on social media.

Longer weekends also give you more opportunities to travel or make time for other activities that are hard to squeeze in during the traditional two-day weekend.

Just be sure to schedule in regular breaks throughout the day if you plan to frontload your workweek. Working for ten hours straight without time to move around and let your brain unwind isn’t healthy or productive for anyone!

3. Choose-Your-Own-Weekend

Have you ever found yourself resentful to be wrapping up a client project on a Saturday morning, only to remember that you didn’t work at all the previous Wednesday? This happens to me all the time! As freelancers, we have the benefit of making our weekend whenever we want it to be. Unless you choose not to work on Sundays for religious reasons, there’s nothing stopping you from taking your days off whenever they work best for you – not when everyone else takes them.

Maybe you’re going to a late concert or baseball game on Tuesday night and would rather take Wednesday off to recuperate than waiting until Saturday to sleep in. You could decide to take a holiday weekend from Monday through Wednesday instead of Saturday through Monday to take advantage of cheaper airfare.

Your weekend can be whenever you say it is, so don’t feel tied down to everyone else’s calendar. Get creative with your flexible schedule. You don’t need to take off the same days each week—you don’t even need to take off two days in a row! A little bit of planning ahead is all it takes to make your weekend your own.

Which schedule works best for you?

Everyone works best at different times of the day depending on their personality, their natural energy levels, and the types of clients they work with. Spend some time reflecting on when you work your best and what lifestyle you want to live.

Don’t be afraid to play around with your freelance schedule until you find the routine that works best for you! After all, that’s one of the perks of the job.

Ashley Brooks Ashley Brooks is the content marketer and strategist behind Brooks Editorial and a cohost of the Chasing Creative Podcast. She’s on a mission to help intentional creative entrepreneurs make their blogs work for them, starting with the Blogging for Business workbook a DIY resource that helps busy creatives turn their blog readers into paying customers. Ashley works from home with her toddler daughter in tow, and you can always find her with an iced mocha in hand and a spare book in her purse (just in case).

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • I think a combination of the 3 work – it just depends on the week! But you’re right, it all comes down to planning ahead. If you don’t know what your priorities are or how long they may take, you won’t be able to juggle your schedule as easily 🙂

    • My schedule definitely changes from week to week. You’re absolutely right—knowing your priorities is essential! Otherwise you’ll probably find you used your flexible time in ways that were less than productive. (At least that’s how it always goes for me if I don’t plan ahead!)

  • These are all great ideas. Working s split-shift, early in the morning then again in the evening, helps me get everything I want to get done in the day done. Having a part time job working on the weekend has been a block to me. I should see how front loading my work might help.

    • Definitely give frontloading your schedule a try! Having that extra “weekend” day will give you some down time before you jump into your PT job. We all need a chance to rest if we want to stay on top of our game with clients!

  • It’s funny to see the split shift as a recommended schedule — I’ve been doing it for years! I’m not a morning person, so I do my first shift in the late morning/early afternoon, then take a break late afternoon/early evening, usually until dinner, then work a second shift after dinner. I actually get the most work done after dinner. I used to feel guilty about not keeping a regular schedule, but this is one of the many reasons I work for myself! Plus, why not work when you actually feel like it and rest when you don’t?

    • I’ve fallen into a natural split shift rhythm since having kids. (Though if all goes well during naptime, I do sneak in a midday shift and cut out the night shift!) I used to feel so guilty about it, but when I saw it written about as a legitimate schedule, I immediately realized how silly it was to feel bad about not working 9-5. I get so much more done this way, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

  • I so needed this today! I struggle with guilt for not sticking the a 9-to-5 schedule so much… even though I started freelancing to NOT have that schedule! Haha. I’m going to try the split shift this week because I never thought about doing that.

    • The split shift is such a game-changer! I highly recommend it. Hopefully it helps you kick that guilt to the curb—no one needs that in their freelance life!

  • Love this post and this perspective! Sometimes I resent not being able to take a lengthy maternity, for example, but having the freedom to balance and schedule as I please is so, so worth it!

    • I hear ya about maternity leave! I took 6 weeks with my first, and my second is due any day now. I’ve spent *months* working my tail off and getting everything set up so I can take a full three months this time around. There were a few times I was resentful for not taking weekends off, but I reminded myself it would all be worth it once baby is here!

  • Loving these ideas, especially being able to do whatever I want during the day. I often forget how much control I have over my schedule…still stuck in employee mindset!

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