One of the lures of freelancing is the ability to work from home at pretty much whenever times you want. You don’t have to get in your car and drive through traffic to sit in a cubicle from 9 to 5 everyday.
You can watch your favourite movies to 3 in the morning if you want, sleep in then get up whenever you want to stroll over to the ole desk and start when you are ready. However this can backfire on you in terms of your business and clients.
After working from home for more than 5 years its taken me a lot of time to learn how to work from home. Its so easy to start late, get distracted, have a nap, go for a coffee with friends, take a 2 hour lunch and work late into the evenings.
OFFICE HOURS GIVE YOU STRUCTURE
Yes I see the irony – you don’t want that structured 9 to 5 cubicle mentality otherwise you’d just stay in that corporate gig. What Im suggesting is that you set a structure that balances your wants/needs and your clients wants/needs.
Let’s say you are a night hawk (I’m actually a morning person-don’t hate me). You could structure your hours as 10am-6pm or 11am-7pm.
Maybe your target market is extremely busy during the day and is better suited to after 5 work. Maybe you become most productive or most creative in the afternoon/evening. If these line up – then great.
If you have given yourself specific office hours what you need to do next is publish them and stick to them. This lets your target customers know when to contact you and also important – when not to contact you. Do you really want to take phone calls on Sundays or Mondays at 11pm?
Once you establish your structured hours clients will tend to respect those hours and not expect you to be answering their calls/emails at 11pm.
I already touched on a hot topic for freelancers. If you don’t have set hours to work its ultra easy to run errands, take long naps, procrastinate, clean the house etc.
By telling yourself and everyone else – I will work today between this time and that time – you should comitt to that. Dirty dishes in the sink – nope, do them after 5pm. Friend wants to go for coffee? (sure – but you only get an hour for lunch), awesome movie on today at 2pm – Nope – PVR it to watch AFTER work.
Do I practice what I preach? Mostly. I do have set office hours 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday. I do alter them slightly from time to time to catch up on project work or do some bookkeeping etc. BUT I do tend to follow a strict 35 hours per week. So If I decide to take a extra half hour for lunch I will make that up at the end of the day or tomorrow. Of course I don’t publize that to anyone.
Having set office times helps immensily in keeping you productive and minimizing those distractions.
PRODUCE BETTER QUALITY WORK
I know that I am most productive and creative in the morning vs the afternoon. Because I know this about myself I will take advantage of this and do creative work in the mornings. In the afternoons my energy level drops significantly – then I will change my work to focus on less creative tasks – pay bills, bookeeping, updating things. etc.
Once you have set your office hours you can them structure your day around what suits you best. Maybe you get your energy in the afternoons, so you can schedule your client calls then or your design work. The point is that once you have set office hours you can then refine them in terms of what tasks you can do when. That not only allows you to produce better quality work – but you also become more efficient.