One question I have been asked a few times recently is “what is your average working day like?” And I have to say – there is no such thing for me.
There are many self-employed folk who like to have one or two main clients and work solely on that contract until it ends then start the next. My reality has been that I can have anything up to about four contracts and numerous smaller freelance tasks at various stages at any one time.
For example, at the moment I have:
- One eLearning project in scoping and consultancy stages – writing proposals, forming guidelines and a project plan.
- A second phase of an ongoing project for a customer I have worked with for a year now – moving 60+ hours of training online.
- A short eLearning project as a tester for a new company that is interested in more long-term work.
- A freelance job to design a logo.
Plus, my self-initiated tasks – business and non-business related:
- My own course(s) in development
- A mentorship programme
- 10 courses I have started or registered for and need to start/complete
- A secret crochet project
- Writing a book(!)
- Crochet for a charity
- Christmas presents to make in epoxy resin
- Website amends and a portfolio to update
- Case studies of two recent projects in progress
This is the reason that post-its, calendars and sticky whiteboard sheets rule my life. I cannot function without any one of these things.
I have to-do lists which tell me what I need to do today, some for the week, longer-term big jobs, longer-term non-urgent, home jobs, work-related but not urgent jobs, jobs I have asked Graham to do and that he will need prompting (or he says nagging) about at least a dozen times before action is taken.
In honesty, my to-do lists can bloody well stress me out. But as I often say, “if it ain’t on a list, it don’t get done”. And that is so true.
But back to the question posed.
Generally, with some of my bigger clients I will work on them for a full day at a time, maybe even a full week sometimes. BUT within that day I may still have any combination of:
- calls scheduled in to catch up with clients
- planning to do
- feedback to chase
- invoices to sort
- mentorship group calls to take
- webinars to listen to
- networking meetings
- info to sort to pass onto my VA
Though this can be a logistical nightmare, and in order to get the full amount of hours in for the customer I need to work quite late, and/or work through lunch, I love this variety. It keeps me interested and engaged as I don’t get that fatigue I used to feel just looking at one topic all day every day. Plus, the calls with customers and networks are great for getting to speak to a human and inject a bit of life back into yourself.
When working from home alone, it can become very easy to spend a whole week working and not speak to anyone!
A typical non-typical day
My not so typical day can look something like this:
7.30: Drag my carcass out of bed with protests and get ready
8 – 8.15: Head downstairs and say hello to the bunnies whilst my brew stews. Eat breakfast whilst loitering in the kitchen/garden
8.30 – 9: Look at the schedule for the day and tasks to be completed – Google calendar, to-do lists and whiteboard sheets. Plus, any admin type bits that just need sorting, or email to reply to that didn’t get done the day before
9 -11.00: Work on client project A (with a webinar or podcast on in the background)
11.00 -12.00: Call with network/client B, etc
12.00 – 1.00: Some attempt at finding time for lunch and cleaning the bunnies’ hutch. Sometimes read for 20 minutes on a non-chaotic day.
1 – 3.30: Client A project
3.30 – 4: Call from Client C to pick my brains
4 – 5.30: Carry on with Client A project
5.30 – 5.45: Sort to-do list and tasks for next day, and/or the evening
5.45 – 6.30: Pilates class
6.30 – 7.30: Tea, pester Graham
7.30 – 9.30: Social media, developing resources, blog posts, reading, or watching my latest trashy Netflix series
9.30: Put bunnies to bed, maybe curl up with a book and wine/gin/Prosecco
10.30: Crash in bed
These times can vary wildly, especially as one of my main clients is based in Finland and so are 2 hours ahead. So, I can occasionally be expected on calls anything from 7am to 9am with the start of their workday.
On another day I may be working on different clients every hour, and maybe even some of my own stuff during the day (ah, bliss). Then maybe I have my writing accountability group in the evening or crack on with one of my many craft projects. I like these days as a LOT gets ticked off the to-do lists.
Pros and cons of a non-typical day
Timesheets and tracking
Toggl, Google, physical diary, spreadsheets, customer timesheets, post-its, notepads.
It may sound chaotic but at the end of every day I make sure the times I have worked on each project is up to date in Google, and at the end of the week, put into the customers’ timesheets and Toggl.
And they all match. It’s quite a feat of chaotic engineering.
Yes, it would be much easier to just use one platform – say Toggl – but for someone as eternally forgetful and number dyslexic as me, I forget to start the damn thing or to stop it. Whereas with writing, for some reason I remember to note it down. And with continually going into Google calendar anyway, I generally always remember to record it there too.
Perennially busy, multi-tasking and context switching
It can be exhausting and very time-consuming.
Just keeping track of all the emails from multiple clients and networks alone can take a lot of time.
Then when you factor in that each one uses a different conferencing software, sometimes I have to work on their laptops, and each has a separate email address and calendar, things can get very tricky.
So, I try to add everything to my Google calendar as a central base and have a set time (usually first thing then again at some point mid-afternoon where I check all the laptops/email accounts).
Occasionally there can be the odd conflict in scheduling or email missed but on the whole, I seem to have it down to an art.
But I defo need a bigger L shaped desk.
Schedule conflicts/deadline conflicts
Having multiple clients has generally worked well so far and everything has slotted together nicely. But there has been the odd time where I have had to really push myself to inhuman limits to make sure everything gets done, when you get the inevitable shifting of deadlines and end up with some clashing.
I don’t get drawn into that rut of feeling like every day is the same, which is a big bonus for me as I can easily get fed up of looking at the same thing.
Plus, it is particularly great at the moment with lockdown, when this had the potential to become hugely significant with every day feeling the same and not much else going on in life.
So, to put it simply, it’s not for everyone but it works for me.
You just have to find your rhythm, favourite methods of recording and automating processes (something I could still do better), and be a bit of a scheduling ninja.
It can sometimes make life more difficult than it needs to be, but it also gives the security of knowing that if you lost one client, the end of the world is not imminent.