It’s important to figure out how you work (best); absolutely essential when you’re a freelancer and getting the work done is entirely on you.
Recently, I tried to do a timed schedule (15 minutes on this, STOP, fifteen minutes on that, STOP, fi…you get the idea). It sucked. I grew more irritable with each breath, and didn’t really FINISH anything.
I am project driven, goal oriented, and I feel most focused when there’s an off-beat rhythm to my days – as opposed to the confine of time, the tedium of routine, and the toxicity of work place politics.
Part of the reason I favour the word “freelance” over all the other ways of defining what I do – as an independent (eh), consultant (ehh), entrepreneur (erh), business (nngh) – is the “free” part of that word.
People post TGIF a lot in my social media news feed and I have to bite my tongue, because Friday is just another day on the freelance calendar… and then in another week Wednesday might be Friday – and having a Friday when everyone else is suffering through hump day might be one of the best parts of being a free-lancer.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get irritable if a client calls me on a Sunday (especially if it’s something that can hold ‘til Monday) but freelance doesn’t mean a week of Fridays – I’ve still got to get up and pitch, still have to budget my time so that I can hit multiple deadlines (if I’m lucky and the work is flowing), in fact nobody rides me harder about hitting deadlines than I do – but it means each day having a rhythm all its own.
This can confound people prone to checking for other people instead of minding their own – oh you’re always working. First of all, no I’m not. Not only do I like to finish what I have to do; like any entrepreneur, my days don’t end until the work is done because the buck stops with me. But I’m a night owl by nature so I don’t mind all-nighters. What will get me wound up is feeling overwhelmed because maybe I’m fighting the rhythm I know works for me – not focused on the task but on the sky, which just might be falling; feeling like I’m not making progress whether it’s getting the opportunities I need for things to balance out or making the necessary headway on a project; or, worst of all, feeling like I’m giving so much of my writing to client projects (or hustling client projects) that I have none left for myself.
Because my writing is the other appealing part of being “free”. I’m not interested in being the boss of anybody. I really just want to write. I hustle hard so that I can try to stay ahead of my bills, but the hustle is the vehicle (albeit a vehicle I want to keep running well), not the destination.
I do my best to balance the business of writing, with the art and craft of writing – some days better than others. I don’t lie to people about this life being a high wire act with no net.
But I think about the projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on, the paths I’ve been able to walk, the networks and the skills I’ve picked up along the way, and I can’t regret it, bruises and all. Do I have to fight to fix what doesn’t work, to figure out how to make it work better? Of course! But I want to fight that fight.
Still, if you don’t see me out and about, it’s not necessarily because I’m working all the time (though I hustle hard), nor because I’m broke (though sometimes I am, aren’t you – or is that just a freelance thing), sometimes I just don’t want to be there (I’m an introvert by nature and in or out really just comes down to the mood and the moment with me… we are who we be).
And I want to be free-lancing; to find opportunities that challenge and stimulate and pay me.
And what I’m reminded – after my little timed experiment – is that (just like I don’t make my best decisions when I feel backed in to a corner) I’m not at my most productive when I feel confined (even by time).
And that’s why I say it’s important to find out how you work best. Have you?