How do you manage your time and priorities as work ebbs and flows during your life as a freelancer? What do you do with your days between big jobs? What portion of your time is spent on paying work, managing your business (taxes, bills, sending invoices, etc.), personal/professional development, trying to find more work, networking, etc.? Do you deal with deluges and droughts, or is your work more steady and consistent, and how much control do you have about this situation? What do you do during lulls? How long did it take you to become comfortable with your workload after you became a freelancer?
After more than a decade as a reporter and editor at print newspapers, I quit my job in March
to become a freelance journalist, and it's mostly been awesome. I've got a good reputation, a lot of friends in the business in this region, and a decent professional network. As a result, I've found it easy to make enough money to get by. I'm bringing home less than half what I earned before I quit, but it's enough. I don't need much and I'm the happiest I've been in years.
My patchwork of income includes about a full week each month working in a physical newsroom, at most 1-2 in-depth written stories each month, and maybe another 4-6 quick-hit reporting assignments per month. I wind up working about one 40-hour week each month, and then only having having maybe 10-15 hours of work to do the other weeks. Every now and then I get a bigger assignment that will keep me pretty busy for more than a week at a time, but mostly I have a ton of time on my hands.
For a while, I coped with this free time by seeking out ways to fill it -- I spent the summer on an amateur athletic team that required 10-15 hours/week of commitment and putting in full days volunteering at a local museum. But those commitments left me over-scheduled when crunch times came along, and made it hard to accept certain jobs, and so I've pulled back some. Instead I'm trying to channel my energy into creative personal projects -- a book I'd like to write and a blog related to my reporting work and my personal interests. But I'm also reading a lot for fun, going for long walks, watching many, many hours of Netflix.
I haven't figured out how to balance my workload, and how to know how much down time is normal/healthy vs. how much is a sign that I'm slacking and should be doing more. How do you handle this? What blogs do you read that give you insight into your lifestyle? What books and articles do you recommend? How do you, personally, balance your own freelance life? Did it take you a while to find this balance, or to accept a lack of balance? How did you achieve zen?