This may work well for you for a short period, especially if you love what you do but if your freelance work is starting to affect your personal life and you just cant seem to get a handle on your time, you may want to try to a few of these tips. I had to start following my own advice not too long ago, when my partner remarked that I never eat breakfast away from the computer anymore. My family and friends were both grateful when I introduced more balance between work and home, and my productivity when I did schedule time for work increased exponentially.
Keep your workspace separate from the rest of your home.
Its temping especially if you have a laptop to work out on the patio, on the sofa, even in bed. Sometimes I work from my balcony for a break, especially on a clear, cool early morning. The key is not to make a habit of it, or the entire world will become your office and you wont ever be able to leave work. Convenience can at times become a hindrance, and add to personal stress when you cant ever leave the at work mentality. It becomes hard to know when to stop.
Keep a separate room, or even just a niche in one corner of a room, as your work area; keep your computer there, your art supplies, and any other work-related materials. When you leave your work area, leave your supplies there. If you use your computer for entertainment as well, then keep your fun time strictly separated from your work time.
Mark your deadlines, and plan for them.
Very few of your clients will say oh, just get it to me when youre done, no hurry. Most will give you a set date to deliver the goods, and its either too close for comfort or so far away that youll grow lax and forgetful until the last minute. (Personal experience talking? Never!)
To make sure that youre not scrambling to finish a project in marathon 24-hour stints without sleep or any nourishment beyond coffee, make sure to mark your deadlines on a project calendar, plan out how many total hours it will take to complete each project, and budget a certain number of hours a day to work on each project. Prioritize; adjust your schedule blocks based on the deadline proximity.
Keep a schedule, and adhere to it.
When you work a nine-to-five, theres no doubt about when work starts and ends; you go into the office at a certain time, leave at a certain time, and the rest of the day and night are yours. When you work at home, its not so clean-cut. You arent punching a time-clock; its up to you to decide when you work and when you dont in order to complete your projects on time.
If your laundrys piling up, the dogs food bowl is empty, the cats litterbox is far too full, and theres a mountain of dishes taking over the kitchen, then youre not managing your time well enough. If you dont treat your freelance work like an office job and set yourself a starting and ending time, then youll end up frittering away useless idle minutes over the course of the day in random spurts of activity when you could be using that time for dozens of other activities (such as washing those stinky socks).
Remind yourself that every day you should start at a certain time and finish your planned workload at a certain time, with scheduled breaks. Quitting time is quitting time, no questions asked; youll produce better work if you stop and get some rest only to start fresh the next day.
Set yourself a time limit.
This is related to scheduling and deadlines; unless its an emergency (and if you plan well enough, those should be few and far between), dont spend more than a set number of hours per day on your work. Being a workaholic is admirable, but not exactly healthy for your body, mind, relationships, or social life.
Ignore your phone and close your browsers, your IM, and your e-mail while working.
You cant always ignore your phone, but invest in Caller ID so you know whos calling and why. If its one of your clients, pick it up, but keep the conversation strictly work-related and concise while remaining polite, accessible, and friendly. Dont waste your clients time, or your own.
Try to keep calls with your friends, family, and the dry cleaner to a minimum; Aunt Chloes arthritis can wait for your lunch break, or after closing time. Your friends and family should know what your working hours are, and respect them as much as they would if you were in a traditional office.
Ignore the temptation to play around on the internet while working on your computer. I used to think that Id be more productive if I had my e-mail automatically downloading every five minutes and my IM constantly on so that clients could reach me without calling, but I quickly found that I spent all my time chatting in IMs or reading new e-mails not just from clients, but from friends. My buddy list became my worst enemy; my e-mail client turned into my daily fixation, and it didnt help that now and then Id spend hours browsing web pages. I could pass an entire day without accomplishing a single task, completely negating my goal of productivity. It made more sense to simply shut all of that down and only check them every once in a while, so that I could work without distractions.