I’ve been working a lot more lately. I realized at a certain point that I was no longer having the freelancer issue of not enough work. I’ve had plenty of work to be doing (yay!) but I have been struggling to find the time to do it. I’d gotten so used to only having 10-15 hours of work a week that I had filled up my time with other things. So when I started getting 20 or 30 or sometimes even 40 hours worth of work a week, I found myself starting to fall behind, and straight up missing out on money that could be earned. That was the worst part – knowing that I could be earning more money, and I just… wasn’t.
But why? I’ve been so worried about money for years, and for the first time ever, I can earn as much as I have time to. I don’t have a huge emotional attachment to money or define my success by it, but I do recognize its value in the things it allows me to do (or the things it prevents me from doing when I don’t have it.)
So really, it was coming down to how I was using my time. That elusive resource. I needed to find more of it to devote to work and earning. But where?
I started paying a lot of attention to exactly what I was doing every day, and how much time each activity actually took. Like budgeting or dieting, finding more time meant some lifestyle changes. I had to sacrifice some things (midday yoga or guitar breaks) and just go of others (my neat-freak tendencies.) For a couple of weeks (and sometimes still) I wonder how normal people possibly work a 40-hour week and still have clean clothes in their closet, fresh produce in their kitchen, a current oil change in their car, and get to the gym 3+ days a week. Without that extra 5 hours a day, when do people do these things? Being a grown-up is hard.
I’m still working on finding the balance. I’m learning to plan more, so I only have to go grocery shopping once a week, only do laundry one night a week without running out of clothes by Wednesday, (no, I do not have a large wardrobe,) and I haven’t really gotten on a solid new gym schedule. But I have added 6 hours a week to the amount of time I’m billing, and that’s awesome.
Perhaps the biggest shift I made was giving up on trying to work at home. I used to love working from home and always wondered what other freelancers were talking about when they said that they couldn’t do it. But when I started paying attention to my time, I realized that as much as I loved the ability to go meditate or play my guitar or squeeze in that load of laundry, those were the things that distracted me. Then I read an article about how people in an office setting lose 15 minutes of productivity for every 1 minute they stop to say “hi” to someone, because of the time it takes them to get back into the groove of working. I realized I was probably losing hours every day going in and out of the work groove. Not to mention the hours lost by just wanting to tidy up my work environment instead of working in it.
So I have started to establish a steady rotation of coffee shops (hello Rooster & Moon!) and coworking spaces (Creative Density, whatup?) that I visit every week. I also realized that the hour I used to spend going home to make a sandwich instead of buying one was actually resulting in a net loss of money. For the first time in my life, I’m earning enough that it is more reasonable for me to buy a sandwich and work through lunch than it is to stop what I’m doing to make one.
Is this what success feels like?
For the moment, for me, it is.
How do you balance your time? Freelancers, what are your tips for finding the time to work?