I’ve been freelancing for 12 years, and I regularly find that I need to switch up my workflow on occasion.
Managing your freelance workflow can be challenging due to your unorthodox schedule and other obligations. From juggling clients to managing homework when the kids get home from school, you have a lot on your plate.
And don’t even get me started on what happens to the freelance workflow once school’s out. Vacation really isn’t a true vacation when you’re a freelancer.
What’s in Your Freelance Workflow?
When working out your freelance workflow, you have a lot to consider. Some of the things that I think about as I consider my own workflow include:
I like to have recurring gigs. In fact, one of the main reasons I have been able to provide a living for my family for more than a decade is the fact that I placed a priority on nailing down recurring gigs.
This is the first consideration in my freelance workflow. Am I managing these relationships effectively? Meeting these most important deadlines?
It can be challenging because your recurring gigs might not pay as much as other projects. However, that’s the price you pay for some degree of security and certainty.
Next, you have to make sure you fit irregular projects around your recurring gigs. You want to make sure that you are on top of these projects.
While your recurring gigs often provide you with a base to pay the rent and buy the groceries, your irregular projects are what fund the retirement account and make sure the kids can participate in extracurricular activities.
It can be a challenge to fit these in, though, because you want to make sure you don’t lose your regular clients.
Finding new opportunities
Part of managing your freelance workflow also has to do with finding new opportunities. You need to make sure you answer emails from interested potential clients. Check job boards for your next gig. Keep up with social media so that you remain relevant. Post on your blog to provide information about who you are and a place for people to find you.
There’s a lot going on there.
This is an area where I struggle. I have a hard time staying on top of new opportunities. Even though I hired a virtual assistant to take care of my social media, I still have a hard time getting through the email.
I can’t even remember the last time I had time to comb through a job board.
Depending on your other gigs, you might have time to keep up with new opportunities. But as your freelance workflow changes, you might find it more and more difficult.
When you work from home, there are plenty of distractions and things standing in your way. Family obligations can make it difficult to stay on top of your workflow.
Once summer comes around, I need to be there for my son. We travel and do other things. He’s old enough now that it’s common for him to take off on bike-powered adventures with his friends, and that helps. But in the past, I had to make sure to arrange day camps and other activities in order to find dedicated time to work.
You might have other obligations, too, like babysitting a niece or nephew. Maybe your life partner has every Friday off and wants to spend it going to movies or trying new restaurants. That needs to be taken account as well.
What about what you want to do?
And, of course, the whole point of living a freelance lifestyle is to gain flexibility and freedom in your own schedule. One of the things I love most about what I do is that I have a lot of freedom.
Even though I have deadlines and obligations, a lot of the time I can move things around. I can go to lunch with a friend on a Tuesday afternoon. I can go to the spa on Thursday morning. I don’t mind working for a few hours on Saturday morning if I can do other things throughout the week.
However, it can be easy to fall into the trap of agreeing to do too much and leaving little time for yourself. It’s vital that you consider your own needs and self-care when you put together your freelance workflow.
Create a Loose Schedule
Every six months or so, I find myself re-doing my freelance workflow. The reality is that, much of the time, changing circumstances and shifting projects mean that you can’t just count on the same schedule for years and years at a time.
I try to create a broad schedule based on my projects and obligations, as well as my chronotype and when I work best.
My loose schedule revolves around the fact that I work best in the mornings. I try to do as much as possible in the morning, leaving me time later in the day to exercise, relax, and do things with my son.
My next step is to see whether or not there are some regular deadlines for gigs. Over the years, I’ve worked to shift those deadlines so they all fall on Friday. That way, I have the whole week to work on items. (And some of my clients are happy because I am getting things done “early.”)
By knowing that everything is going to be due on that one day, I can spread the work out when I have time during the rest of the week.
Similarly, I also try to keep Friday relatively open when it comes to meetings, interviews, and other items. That way, if I need to kick into high gear to finish a few things up, I can.
I like to try to reserve certain days and times for different activities. I like to reserve Tuesday and Thursday mornings for interviews whenever possible. I get them out of the way early, and then can get to work. I like to chunk time on Wednesday and Thursday for podcast recording.
These are basic rules that leave plenty of holes and flexibility for different activities.
Know Things are Bound to Change
Even as you put together your loose schedule, know things will change. It’s inevitable. You don’t have a “real” 9-to-5 job that is constant through the years. You’ve left room for change in your life. It’s exciting and offers some freedom, but it also means you have to be on your toes.
I’ve had a schedule that worked well for about seven months. Now school is out and I’ve got some travel ahead of me. That means I’ll have to change a few things.
I’ll have to shift some of my work to even earlier in the day, but I’ll also have a nice block of time that used to be given over to having breakfast with my son and seeing him off to school.
When you start seeing your schedule fall apart, it’s probably time to adjust your freelance workflow. It doesn’t hurt to review how things are going every few months, track your time, and pay attention to patterns.
That way, you can respond to changes more effectively — and maintain your income no matter what changes come your way.