freelancers: family time vs. work time?
August 3, 2006 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Full-time freelance writers: how do you divide personal/professional time?

I imagine, when you work from home full-time, that it can be difficult to separate your personal time from your professional time. Do you have methods of demarcating time to spend with your family (or yourself) and preventing yourself from running to the computer to check up on clients/assignments every few minutes?
posted by clairezulkey to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Um, I do it by being really bad at it. No, really, maybe we have different natures, but the hard part for me is going into work mode at home, as opposed to neglecting my girlfriend after hours. See: posting on MeFi instead of writing something that pays.

Seriously, though, everone else has a ritual before starting work and after stopping work: travel, coffee, travel back home, whatever. It's a good idea for you to have something like this. I go for a morning walk, eat breakfast and then start working (other people shower and put on work clothes, but not this stinky guy). Find a TV show that starts at 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening, and plan on watching it to celebrate another day of work. And then you're home again.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:35 AM on August 3, 2006

As a former freelancer, the only useful advice I have is to make sure that you have a separate office, that your (separate) business phone only rings in there, and that the office has a door that closes and locks. Physical separation is the best way to achieve other kinds of separation.

Working at home is great. Living at work is more challenging. Good luck!
posted by j-dawg at 8:39 AM on August 3, 2006

I work as a freelance writer, and I would agree with j-dawg. Get either a seperate office or a way to block off the section of your house where you work (I use our spare bedroom). Then get a seperate phone line for business and don't answer it out of hours. Check messages when you need to, but don't always be jumping to answer messages if clients call you out of hours. Remember that you deserve to have a life.

You do need to be flexible, though: I sometimes work evenings and weekends as deadlines require, but I usually try and give myself a day or so off after I finish a big project.
posted by baggers at 8:52 AM on August 3, 2006

how do you divide personal/professional time?

Wait, you can do that???

Like baggers said, it's kind of project-dependent. But I have to say, having worked from home as a writer for the last 7 years, that my personal/professional boundary is more of a permeable membrane. Sometimes it feels like I'm working around the clock; other times I'm stymied by personal/home-life obligations that make it seem like my work is forever on hold. I have a semblance of a routine, but because I also have two young children and a spouse who works 80+ hours a week, not to mention the ebb and flow of the freelance life, it's not something that's necessarily static.

During the school year, my kid-free work life begins around 9-9:30, and I have until 12:45 to get concentrated work done. (This will improve this fall, when my youngest will be in preschool until 2:30.) Generally, between 1 and 6 is running around/picking up kids/dealing with family stuff time, so if I'm doing any work then, it's keeping up with emails or just noting stuff to get to later. Then once the kids are asleep, my second shift begins, and I get more work done between about 8:30 and 11:30 at night -- later if I'm busier or have a deadline to meet, earlier if I'm dead on my feet.

In some ways, even though I have chafed against the constriction of this kid-determined schedule, it's been good: knowing I only have about three hours a day to get the quality stuff done has been motivating probably more often than it's been frustrating. (I wrote my first book during eight weeks of those three-hour increments, while my oldest was in summer pre-school and my youngest was in utero.) My point being that setting aside a block of time to tackle the bulk of your work each day might be a good idea -- I know pre-kids I could while away a whole day on musing or talking myself out of ideas.

So I get the "big stuff" done in the mornings, and the "little stuff" (research, brainstorming, emailing, networking, book pr, etc.) in the afternoon/evening, when I'm imminently (and predictably) interruptable.

The drawback of the working from home is the "always on" thing. I've tried to cut down on that over the last six months or so, by NOT taking on that second shift if I don't have to -- no emails, no working into the dead of night, no always being online -- and trying instead to funnel it all in to the time I have, when I can. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't, but I definitely feel less stressed when I'm able to shut the laptop at night and be "off work."
posted by mothershock at 9:21 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

As a former freelancer - and now a full-time journo, I have to agree that having a space that is exclusively work and another that is exclusively home is incredibly important. If you're working from home, try to make certain rooms off-limits during your 'working or finding work hours'. If you're working in an office, make sure that you are able to be comfortable.

Readymade Magazine did a feature on tiny home offices a few issues ago. Po Bronson's was this spectacularly small closet with a chair, and couple of boards for his laptop, and a lamp.

The thing everyone told me to do, but I didn't until I was actually full-time in this job, was to get a dedicated voicemail system for work-related activities.
posted by parmanparman at 11:40 AM on August 3, 2006

As others have noted, it's best to develop a routine. Up at 7, for example, write from 8-12, lunch, workout, then do the routine and less-creative stuff after that.

I've been a self-employed writer (business and marketing stuff, not fiction) full-time for five years. I confess my schedule is far more, um, varied than what I've described, but having some sort of routine is helpful. If only because breaking is is so wickedly delicious. ;-)
posted by wordwhiz at 3:34 PM on August 4, 2006

« Older What are our rights regarding the software we...   |   It's jus' 'rokes, yo. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.