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using my time

Recently a stupidly obvious realization seems to have finally sunk in: if I'm going to make it as a freelancer, I need to act more business-like, meaning I need to keep a regular schedule of work hours.

One of the features of being a freelancer I have really enjoyed is having flexible work hours, being able (in general) to choose when to spend time on work. I don't have to force myself out of bed every day at 6 or 7 or even 8 am in order to keep some pre-set daytime office hours, regardless of whether I have work to do or how much I have to get done. I can do some work in the afternoon, break for hours to do other things, come back and finish the work in the evening. I can work late at night if that is easier for me, or if the client really needs to get something back in the morning, and not worry about having to get up early the next morning and go to an office. 

The drawback of having flexible work hours is that it helps to enable me to indulge some of my faults or bad habits. As I've remarked before, I loathe the process of searching for work from scratch, whether it's seeking a full-time job or just seeking new clients to give me projects, and avoid it as much as possible. Because work comes in irregularly and because I'm willing to spend whatever irregular hours are needed to get that work done, I don't have any habits or expectations of myself that I will be spending a certain amount of time every week, every day of the week, on work. I do work whenever it comes in, and when no work is coming in… I'm almost never doing anything work-related. 

Now, I've known of course that I need to spend time on business development, that is, finding more clients or sources of work. It hasn't just been an item on my monthly list of things to do for the past six months, it's something I've known that I need to be doing ever since I started freelancing. I've just largely avoided it as much as possible. "Realization" may be the wrong word, it's not that I didn't realize I had to spend time on this sort of thing. It's just that I've had the urge, the feeling of urgency, to make sure I'm spending a regular amount of time on business. I've known that I need to be doing at least 80 hours of billable work a month—which would be considered part-time work if it were a regular hourly-wage job—in order to be making ends meet.

And so this urge or feeling or realization is that I need to make sure I'm spending at least 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, on my business: doing billable client work when I have it, of course, but doing other business tasks when I don't have specific billable client work. Working some more on my CV/resume development. Getting a basic website up with my services and samples of work. Pursuing work through agencies. Even picking up again with learning how to program for the iPhone would count, as that would be a marketable skill. I've known all this, but now I'm feeling the urge to commit to it, whether I really feel like doing it or not on any given day.

Of course, it's easy to feel this way and follow through when I actually have a bunch of billable work coming in, enough that I'm doing at least 4 hours a day, as I have been for the past month. It's harder to keep following through once that billable work is done and I need to fill in that time by doing those management and development tasks that I so dislike. And it's harder to do when I'm still letting my schedule see-saw, staying up very late one night either because I have that much work to do or because I wasted too much time earlier in the day, then being faced with the choice of forcing myself out of bed at a regular time the next day or staying in bed late because I'm tired, the latter tending to cause the whole rest of the day to be a loss. So I have to get myself to spend my time more wisely and regularly, which is difficult. I now have a couple books on that very topic to read, as my friend John P just sent me a second one (thanks John!); of course, first I have to make good use of my time to read the books in order to learn how to make good use of my time…

In any case, I am trying to be more dedicated to spending a minimum 4 hours a day on work. It's tough, but it needs to be done.

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