One of the first challenges I faced as a freelancer was how to structure my day. I’ve spent all of my working life, in one way or another, tied to primary school life: there have been clear start and end times, and there’s never been any flexibility. If I wanted to go for a run, I’d do it before work. If I wanted to go swimming or shopping, or pop to the bank, I’d do it after work. Now I don’t have to do that: any of those things can happen in the middle of the day, if I like. And I do like. I love an empty swimming pool or a quiet towpath, and so I’ve been structuring my day, by and large, in two shifts: I work in the morning; I have a long break in the middle of the day; and then I work again until about 7pm. It’s one of my favourite things about my new life, and if I have to go back to normal work day structure, I’ll really miss it.
I actually thought that the tricky thing about structuring my own work day would be making myself do the work. The reality is, I’m too anxious not to have a strong work ethic, and so I have no trouble with this at all… my problem is not working. I’m pretty good at making sure I have one day off a week (usually!) but rarely do I feel like I can justify more than this. Balance is something I have to strive for going forwards. It’s tricky here at the beginning of the journey though: while I’m still trying to build up work and earn enough to get by in the process, I feel that I should be working all the time. Even my big break in the middle of the day feels over-indulgent sometimes, even though I know I’m clocking enough hours throughout the day.
The other element I struggle with is balancing projects. It’s quite helpful that I have a set editing commitment Monday to Thursday, and this is a job that requires a defined amount of time. But other projects, I struggle to timetable efficiently. How much time a day should I give this project? Would it be better to spend two solid days on that one? Am I spending too much time on this job? When I was at school, if a thing didn’t get done within the working day, it would simply have to be picked up again the next day. This doesn’t always work out in my new life: now, if something doesn’t get finished in the time I put aside for it, it’s on me, and it has an impact on other projects. Luckily, my work ethic means that it’s only me that suffers when I get it wrong. I will always deliver on time. I just might miss out on an evening or have to work solidly all weekend to achieve it. I hope this is something I’ll get better at going forwards.
Apart from when it doesn’t work and I have to abandon all my plans to hit a deadline, I strive for this by implementing certain rules for myself: I have to stop by 7pm; I have to go out in the world every day; I have to exercise every day: these are the ways I protect my physical and mental health and aim to draw the line between work and life. But it doesn’t work if I haven’t balanced the projects well. Hopefully, as I move forwards, I’ll begin to get a better feel for how long a job will take me and how best to fit the pieces of the day together to complete the puzzle. But for now, this is a work in progress, and one of the biggest challenges I face as I begin my freelance journey.