Contracting Life

How to stop working stupid hours as a contractor or freelancer

It’s one of the most common complaints the Kingsbridge team hears from contractors and freelancers: “I went self-employed so I…

Author Photo by Kingsbridge

It’s one of the most common complaints the Kingsbridge team hears from contractors and freelancers: “I went self-employed so I could be in control of my hours, but I’m working more than ever!” And it’s often true: contractors and freelancers regularly tell us that they’re up late most nights, working weekends, never taking holidays and generally ending up suffering burnout.

But how do you stop working stupid hours? A big part of it is identifying why you’re working such long hours all the time and see what needs to change.

Here are some of the more common ones that we hear from clients.

Are you underselling yourself?

If you are charging a day rate (or hourly rate for freelancers) that’s too small then that could be a contributing factor to long hours, in that you have to take on a lot of work in order to make enough money.

If you feel this describes you, take a look at your rates and think about whether or not they’re appropriate for your experience, skillset, and location. If not, then give yourself a pay rise.

Do you procrastinate?

When you’re self-employed, there’s no one breathing down your neck to ensure you get your work done. Unfortunately, if you have a tendency to procrastinate then this can be a problem which can result in all-nighters as you attempt to meet a deadline.

Take a look at your daily working practices, if you spend a lot of your time browsing the internet, watching TV, or finding non-work tasks that simply need doing then take a look at productivity apps that can help you rein yourself in.

Are you saying yes too much?

Particularly when you start out as a contractor or freelancer, it can be tempting to say yes to every job that comes your way. After all, who knows when the next one will come along? This can be a hard habit to break though and it often causes people to work more hours than is healthy. Instead, start saying no to jobs you don’t have time for and that would push you over your limits.

Tell clients with new assignments that you’re not available right now and tell them when you could start the task instead. If they need it doing right away, perhaps refer them to a suitable alternative who you trust to do a good job. That way, the client is still happy and you get to go to bed.

Do you feel like you have to “hustle”?

Sometimes, contractors and freelancer work non-stop because they feel that’s what they should be doing thanks to the “hustle” culture that’s so prevalent on LinkedIn and other online communities. Unless you really want to do this, there is no requirement to, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.

You certainly shouldn’t allow guilt to be keeping your working into the wee small hours. Instead, take time at the end of the day to reflect on what you’ve achieved and appreciate the great job you’re doing.

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