Should You Work Set Hours as a Freelancer? The Pros and Cons

One of the key advantages to working from home is that, often, you can set your own hours.

Even if you’re telecommuting to a regular 9 – 5 job, you probably have a bit of flexibility over the exact hours you work. And as a freelancer, you might well be able to work at any time of the day – or night.

So, should you have fixed “work” hours, or should your work simply fit into the ebb and flow of your life? Freelancers often have different opinions on this – so here’s a look at the pros and cons of set hours.

The Pros

Here’s what’s great about having set hours:

#1: Clients (and Friends/Family) Know When They Can Contact You

If you work with clients in traditional businesses, they probably want to reach you during office hours. You don’t necessarily have to be at your desk from 9 – 5, but you might want to have specific hours when you can always be reached (e.g. 1pm – 4pm).

On the flip side, friends and family might need to know when they should avoid contacting you. If you always work from 8am – 12 noon, you can (hopefully) encourage them not to call you during your most productive hours.

#2: You’ve Got Clear Boundaries Around Your Work

One big struggle for new freelancers is creating dividing lines between “work” and “leisure”. Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to blur the boundaries – but too much overlap can lead to you being tied to your desk, checking emails at 10pm.

Working during set hours gives you boundaries. It helps you to avoid goofing off when you should be working and allows you to relax and unwind when work’s done for the day.

#3: You Won’t Over-Pack Your Schedule

When you have set hours, it’s easy to see whether a new project will fit … or not! Set hours can prevent you from overloading yourself with too much work.

Of course, this means having a good sense of how much work you can complete per hour – so get into the habit of tracking time spent on projects, even if you’re not billing by the hour.

 

The Cons

Sometimes, set hours aren’t such a great thing:

#1: “Flexibility” Might Be Why You Started Freelancing

One of the things that I love about my work and my lifestyle is being able to take time out in the middle of the day. I might visit my Granny, go shopping while the stores aren’t too busy, or watch a movie with my husband.

If you get too rigid about your work-hours, you might feel like freelancing has become “just another job”. Some of us thrive on routine but others love freedom and spontaneity. It’s up to you to figure out a good balance.

#2: Your Set Hours May Not Suit Your Clients

Unfortunately, your perfect work hours might not match up with your clients’. I prefer to work mornings and afternoons, but I’m in the UK and time-zone issues mean that I sometimes have to do evening calls in order to connect with US and Australian clients.

Being at least a little flexible about your hours can make things easier for your clients. I’m not suggesting that you get trapped working at 7am on a Sunday – but you might want to have, say, one weekend day each month when you’ll be available for business calls if needed.

#3: Your Business Growth Might Slow Down

If you absolutely refuse to work weekends and holidays, it’s possible that you’ll lose out on clients, especially those who can’t easily contact you during their working day (perhaps you’re a life coach or personal trainer, for instance).

Some potential clients would be willing to pay a premium for a rush-job on a Sunday: you might feel that this money is worth the inconvenience of working at the weekend.

 

As you’ve probably gathered, the scales are pretty balanced! There are advantages to having set hours – but there are disadvantages too. Most freelancers will find themselves somewhere in between “rigidly set hours” and “no schedule at all”. It’s a good idea to experiment a bit to find out what works best for you.

I’d love to hear what you think about this – do you work set hours? Are you happy with your current pattern of work? The comments are open…

 Post image by Flickr user blue2likeyou


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2 Responses to “ Should You Work Set Hours as a Freelancer? The Pros and Cons ”

  1. This is an issue that I’ve struggled with for the last few years. If I were single, I would love the idea of being flexible. But it’s a different thing when I work from home – with my wife and two children in the house with me. It was frustrating to me if she would call me into the other room to help change a diaper. It was frustrating to her when she felt I should be available to be with family, but I was glued to my computer screen. The solution that’s worked for us is to establish very, very clear boundaries for “work” and “home” – not only with time but with space.
    It’s a little disappointing to have to be so uptight about it all, but the benefit to personal relationships more than makes up for it.

    • Ali Luke says:

      Thanks for commenting, Loren! Yeah, that must be a tough one … I don’t have kids (yet) but my poor husband occasionally gets frustrated with me working some odd hours.

      I’m glad you’ve managed to keep your relationship strong, even if it means having to compromise a bit on your working routine.

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