In my short career so far as a freelancer, I’ve quickly determined two things:
- Compartmentalizing is an important skill, and
- You have to take a weekend.
Being a freelance or contract worker puts your responsibilities in sharp relief. As a writer for a company, I am responsible for the voice and correctness of my copy. I am responsible for getting it submitted or published on time. I am not responsible for committing 8 hours of my day to the company. If it takes 8 hours to do my work, so be it. But if it doesn’t, I don’t have to feel guilty about that. I also don’t have to feel guilty if an unrelated appointment takes longer than I expected, or if I meet with someone about a different project. Those are distinct time boxes, and I’m allowed to have them. My job is to do the writing, and to do it well.
When I worked full time, I hung out in our company’s internal chat and responded to things all the time. It wasn’t all necessarily work. Sometimes it was fun chit chat. It was our water cooler, and I liked socializing with my co-workers.
As a freelancer, I’m being careful to close the chat client when I’m not specifically working on a project for that company. I have to respect my own time and not let it get leached away by activities I’m not being paid for. It sounds mercenary, I know. That’s not to say I won’t chit chat on occasion but, in general, the chat is more of a working tool for me as a freelancer.
That said, when you can work whenever and wherever you want, it’s easy to fall prey to a mindset that there’s no such thing as a weekend.
When your responsibilites are task oriented, it’s easy to put them off and to do other things during the time that you would typically be working if you were a full-time employee. And then the work responsibilities leach into your social time, like the weekend.
Sure, as a freelancer you can go out to lunch, run personal errands during the day, and goof off at home. And that’s absolutely one of the benefits of freelancing! I’d just caution you to take advantage of it sparingly and with intention so that you don’t end up working when the rest of the world is playing or sleeping.
To me, a weekend is when you don’t think about work at all, or feel guilty that you’re not doing it, even if it’s only for a few hours. Without the constraints of an office schedule, maybe you want your “weekend” to be Mondays and Tuesdays. That’s fine! Just make sure you balance it out with working hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Now sure, there are seasons when we all give up time on our weekends for the sake of work. Times when there’s an event scheduled, or so much to get done that we have to hustle and put in extra hours. When it’s necessary, do the time. But when it’s not, take a break. Don’t delude yourself with a false sense of urgency. Don’t let amorphous guilt strong-arm you. Take the weekend, and compartmentalize your projects.