Freelancing. For those that are aspiring to become an artistic freelancer, it sounds like the Mekka of awesomness. But once you're in the party, you realize it's not much of that at all ... and you realize it's even worse then you could imagine. And before you know it, you're soaked into the world of non-stop work.
First of all: going freelance full-time for me is one of the best decisions I could ever make. It's a choice I'm still embracing every single day and it's what kept me going until I came to the point where I decided to change my routine & write this blog so I have an even better way of developing my business and freelancing career. So thats says enough, right?
So here is a little storytime (or skip it & you can find the rest further below):
Storytime why I decided to go down this path:
After doing for a year & a bit both 2 part-time jobs at the same time(that where full-time demanding) & since a good half year growing from a small business hoping to make it to an often-asked-and-still-growing photographic studio with a lot of international clients. Things have become much more then hoped and it's been a beautiful and intense growth. One that also brought me in the past few months in a position where I felt overwhelmed, consumed by stress and pressure and noticing that I couldn't keep up with the demand. Not because of the amount of work but due to a lack of organisation and structure. In the past 1,5 months I struggled with the effects of it and it has left a deep mark on me (I had a few weeks of insomnia, sickness & simply burning out myself on an emotional, physical & mental level). I feel like I've lost a big passion in and for life and my art in general and I decided to go to the roots of the trouble instead of sitting down and crying about it. First of all: I've become an insane workaholic fueled by the expectations of others and the demand to be available 24/7 with no more then a 12 hour timespan to answer messages and emails, work has to be delivered within 48 hours and more of that. Because "thats what you always do Laura" .
I did indeed and I've been trying to keep that up. But for what purpose I asked myself? Only to deliver less than the quality I work for, only to satisfy a demand of the "now" industry with people being upset you dont answer on an email send saturday at midnight by noon the following sunday? Why do I - as freelancer - feel obligated to be 24/7 present, work myself to pieces only because I love what I do while everyone else has a weekend and they think your weekend doesn' matter because they want the files by monday morning? Why can't I have a set schedule like everyone else because in the end: I'm still doing my job & being a freelancer doesn't change that?
So I've decided to give myself a routine from now on. One inspired on the "regular" day-time jobs but fully in line with how I work best:
A freelancers 9-to-5 Inspired routine
In the past week or two I've been trying to "source" what kept me busy and stressed out and I realized it was not the amount of work; but the organisation of it all and balancing it out that was the problem. In between retouching assignments I would answer mails, make phone calls and prepare the next photoshoot. All at once in a day. I would read mails, forget to answer and end up loosing a client. On bad days I would try to work, get frustrated, do half a job & feel bad and realize I still had this mountain of administration ahead. And when I would be taking personal time with my boyfriend, I would stress out over work and not be able to enjoy the rare time we had together. Basically: I was all over the place. The idea of being a freelancer deciding "when to work" (especially now I get all of my memories on facebook" I've realized that is the problem for me.
What is my plan/what have I done so far:
A 9-to-5 job has a set amount of working days & working hours. Nobody is going to work after hours, especially if you don't get paid. You leave work & you just go home and do personal things & spend your time.
A little while ago I've announced I would have a set amount of shooting dates. I took the regular most booked days (wednesday - friday - saturday & sunday) as option for photoshoots and workshops in the studio with the other remaining days (monday - tuesday & thursday) as a non-shooting days aimed at my administrational & retouching work and online classes.
So that means out of 7 days a week, I'm available for 4 in total to organize productions, clients and workshops with the remaining three days I can spend entirely on everything else that needs to happen.
Diving those day up further, I've decided to set myself hourly limits as well:
A regular day (shooting or not): Get up between 6.00 & 7.00, eat breakfast (!), answer emails & go to the gym between 8 & 9.30 on a daily base (even if it's just 30 minutes on a bike. I have to go out of the house and move. My gym is also less than 10 minutes from me, so no excuse).
Shooting days: earliest starting hour 10/10.30 with no limitations in ending time. This can greatly vary from just a 3 hour job to a 12 hours production. If I have more time free on a shooting day, I will just continue following my schedule for a "regular" day and probably mostly focus on retouching.
Non-shooting days: be available for emails until 11.00. Close inbox. Open again for correspondence between 16.00 & 18.00 only. In between that time work on all assignments, retouching jobs, preparations for workshops and any other administrational job that requires my attention. Finish one job at a time. Don't multitask anymore.
Close a working day between 19.00 & 20.00 (unless deadlines happen, which will happen of course). Take time for personal projects, reading, meditation or cooking for the next day(s). Anything but work relation (personal or client). Take distance from all of that so my mind can settle down before bedtime. Go to bed on time.
Weekends: only answer mails on a saturday between 9.00 & 10.00. Close inbox until the next monday. Most of the times are too busy as well with clients or it's a family matter or personal time. It's also a weekend for me and usually I'm either very busy with clients or workshops. Or I will be trying to take time away from work, even just a few hours, all for myself.
The hardest for me is "taking day off" a week (the idea alone scares me to death and is filling me up with stress) so I will allow myself to take half a day at least off for anything from friends to family to gaming to personal craft projects a week. Mostly aiming at weekend(s) unless it's a very busy season.
And last but not least: I removed the email app from my phone, I don't have push notifications from any social media anymore, I close my phone when I'm having a free day so I'm unavailable for whatsapp or clients calls. When I take time free: its completely free & not being "soaked" sneakily by distractions and demands from the "now" industry and my awesome freelance job. I'm dividing my time wisely: I don't try to distract myself with "checking" social media in between, I try to focus and finish a job (or a good part) and when I take a break: its a real break. One spend doing things that fill me with personal joy or something my future self will thank me for (like working out or cooking something healthy or spending time with friends).
This is ofcourse an entire theoretical set-up with lots of moving space. When I have "normal" weeks, without workshops or travels, I want to aim and have this system as much as possible. I'm a big chaotic brain, always trying and working and doing things. It's also completely fine as I accepted thats just who I am. I cant sit still. But I do can control on what I spend my time & energy. Of course there will be days where I will be spending much more time, long nights and very long days with little sleep. It's the freelancer life after all & I love it! But for me this is the balance I have to create for myself: allow for a little bit of routine for an optimized workflow with better results for both myself & my portfolio, as my clients. Mostly that. I feel the quality of my work can be suffering and thats the last thing I want.
I can't add hours to my day but I can decide how I spend those. And for me, this feels like the best solution to all of my problems for now. And just like anything else: time will proof & tell on how to improve it or not. For now, not much can go wrong with a little organisation like this.