When I first started freelancing after leaving my full-time job – I didn’t keep a routine at all. I was enjoying the freedom! But what I soon realized was that routine is important for all jobs, including a freelancer.

The first thing I did was I began putting on shoes again. Next, I began taking breakfast at a normal time. Today, I have a really set routine. Of course, there’s lots of leeway. For instance, if I get in late the night before, I’ll sleep late so I still get my eight hours. But overall I keep a pretty normal schedule. Though it’s easy to follow a schedule when I’m the one setting the rules. So don’t think of a schedule as a bad thing. Maybe it was when you were salaried but as a freelancer – it’s your personal guide to success.

Determine How Much You Want to Work

How many hours per day/week would you like to work? The is important. The more hours you put in, generally the more money you make. Keep in mind that you may want to work 11 hours/day if you’re early in your career. But overtime, you can ratchet it back as your dollars per hour increase and as you become more productive with your time.

Determine How You Function Best in All Aspects of Your Day

This part is really fun. I want you to think about all aspects of your day. Then let them pretty organically flow into a schedule. For me, I brush my teeth and do all of that first thing when I wake up. That’s how I prefer it. Then I begin working. I enjoy cooking a large breakfast so I allow time for that. I’m also more productive when I take a 15-minute morning break. I’m also more productive when I have a proper lunch. So I usually take a full hour to cook something tasty and listen to an audio book.

Get Specific on What You Do During Your ‘Work’ Time

Telling yourself that you’re working isn’t good enough. If you want to adhere to a proper schedule, you need to break it down. When will you check email? When will you plan? When will you do a certain type of work? Outlining this is great because it keeps you from spending too much time on one area and not enough time on the next. For me, I’ve noticed it’s easiest when all hours have a goal. It’s especially handy because I often find myself with my nose too close to the grindstone. Meaning, I forget to take time and focus on the larger picture.

Successful People Keep Schedules

Successful people must keep a schedule. It’s because they are so busy. Do you want to be successful? Then you may as well act like it now.

Schedules are great as well because you can use them for record keeping. Let’s say you earned $50,000 at your old job. You begin freelancing and you have matched that $50,000. Feels pretty great. But if you’re working twice as many hours – your time is actually worth far less. So it’s time to measure your hours. All aspects of your life will improve as a result.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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