Jan 3, 2018. This was the day I started working for myself. I had recently left a job where I was doing work that left me feeling unsatisfied and uninspired, and while I was there, had been slowly building up a freelance client roster for services that included but weren’t totally limited to: copywriting.
Writing is one of those things that I love. It feeds my soul in a way that I never really knew it could. Obviously, certain types of writing do this more than others. But more often than not, if I’m able to craft a narrative and tell a story — around a brand, influencer, or otherwise — I’ll be a happy camper.
Working for myself was exciting, to start. That penultimate moment going off on my own filled with trepidation, incumbent anxiety, and wholesome depictions of what I thought working for myself would feel like.
And yet… I sit here in my kitchen, with a sports bra on and workout shorts. My hair is in a bun and nobody sits with me. I’ve been up since 8am. If I don’t workout right away, I’ll normally workout at 4:30 or 5:30pm, once my brain is fried. I’ll make coffee as soon as I wake up, some iteration of eggs, and open my laptop.
It is here that I sit for the rest of the day. Sometimes, I’ll move to the couch. Other times, I’ll go to a coffee shop for a change of scenery, but writing, in all of its glory is a very singular activity. It doesn’t require collaboration. And when you’re not in an office, you realize that you’ve taken for granted the five minutes of respite that engaging with a coworker gives you.
The thing about that work-life balance that freelancers are notorious for, is that you never really know when you’re off. Like you might just always be checking email or pitching new clients.
When you work from home there are things you need to consider. We all have 24 hours in a day. Subtract 8 for sleep and we’re left with 16. But then we have three meals — one hour for each meal. So we really have 13 hours. But then, if you subtract time for working out, watching Netflix, whatever “me time” entails (another 3 hours give or take), you really have 10 hours in the day to work.
10 hours of work is a lot of time. And when you’re met with that vast display of time without the structure of a 9-5 where 8 of those hours are allotted for, you can go a little stir crazy.
Realistically, when I’m eating breakfast and opening my laptop to work, that hour for eating is combined with an hour of work. And maybe we get 7 hours of sleep instead of 8. And so on and so forth.
So when you do have this massive loom of time standing in front of you, there are ways to maximize it.
See below a list of time management skills to acquire when you work for yourself. Because balancing work with life with fun is a difficult feat… one that we shouldn’t minimize. (Maybe I’m going to have to crack this illustrious code and stick to it to know how I really feel about a freelance work structure.)
Wake up every morning like you’re going to work —
Don’t skip that 7am yoga class just because you have nowhere to be later. Set your alarm early. Get ready. And then prepare yourself for the rest of the day.
Don’t “work” while you eat —
Close the laptop. Grab a book. Or just stare out your window. I’ve stopped bringing my laptop to the kitchen table after I wake up. You have to give your mind just as much time as the rest of your body to prepare. Breakfast can do without. So can lunch. So can dinner.
Your Google Calendar is your BFF —
I never really used it other than for meetings when I had a full-time job, but now it helps me delineate my entire to-do list. Whatever I need to do that day I put in my calendar — and the beautiful part is things can be moved around at will. It sets a baseline structure for me, while still giving me the freedom to enjoy “no set boundaries.”
Set work hours —
If you like having a 9-5 schedule, set 9-5 as your work day. Maybe you prefer waking up at 6am, or working from 7-11am and then again from 3-6pm. Whatever they may be, find hours that work for you and then make those your set work hours every day. This will give you time to work on things that make you money. And then, if you’re anything like me and you always have two to three other projects you’re working on, that extra time can be allotted for those other pursuits.
Make an effort to get out of the house —
Phone calls are great, but it’s always better to meet in person. Meet friends for lunch or happy hour. Human connection is so important and something that I greatly miss on a day-to-day basis (even with a boyfriend, friends, and a roommate). You don’t realize how lonely it can be until you’re actually alone.
A change of scenery is important but not totally necessary —
I went through this a little bit — telling myself I needed to get out of the house and work from a coffee shop. But ultimately, what you experience is the same feeling of being alone. And instead, you’re paying $5 for a cup of coffee, holding your pee too long for fear of someone taking your laptop, and paying for parking. Do what you can from the space you feel most comfortable. More often than not, the space isn’t the problem if you’re feeling restless.
Photo credit: Youheum Son.
Nicole Best is a freelance copywriter and published author living in Los Angeles. Her book of poetry on modern dating and culture can be found at independent bookstores locally and in San Francisco. She’s also currently a student at the Uprights Citizen Brigade, where she’s learning to write sketch comedy shows. You can follow her on Instagram at @nikkiibest or follow her poetry at @haikantwithyou.