When I began writing 20 years ago – or more appropriately ghostwriting back then – I could find 10 or so hours in my week, beyond my “real job,” to write. Some days I would wake up an hour early, and other days I would wait until the kids went to sleep. I even wrote while watching television. However, as the years went by, the family grew, as did time constraints. That 8 hours of sleep I may have gotten in college was whittled down to 7, then 6, and sometimes 5 or 4. Time was suddenly not only difficult to find, but often impossible.
Like many part-time writers, I craved to work from home. My clients had been asking for more of my time, and the conversation of working full-time was common with clients, family, and frequently internalized. Eventually, the time came and I stepped into the role of a full-time writer.
I thought life as a writer would be easier. I would have an entire 24 hours to play with the kids, help with the house, run errands, sleep a full night’s rest, watch my favorite TV shows, and… Oh wait, I need to write too.
Working in an office setting most of my life it was natural to transition what I knew of business into my writing business. However, along the way I realized this thought was a quickly disregarded learning experience. Then, of course, was the family, and the traditional 9-5 mentality that comes with work. I’ve written a bit about scheduling work life at home. While it seems scheduling work from home would be easy considering you used to work for a company – it is not.
You have two ideas to keep in mind when scheduling work at home:
- If you work for another company, your work schedule dictates your personal life. It does not matter how good your company is at helping you manage your work-life balance, your work schedule will always prevail. The work needs to get done, and people depend on you to complete your work within a timeline.
- If you work from home, your family dictates your work schedule. In theory closing a door and telling your family not to enter between your work time will work. However, in reality, it rarely does. Your children don’t care what you do for a living. To your children, you are a professional dad.
Once you understand the difference between these two concepts you will begin to understand that you cannot approach working from home in the same way as you would working for another company.
The last thing to keep in mind is that you cannot – without great effort – change either of these variables. The reasons you likely want to work from home are the same reasons that will change your working dynamics.
Not understanding this approach is one reason many writers fail and end up going back to working for a company. Let’s face it, the work is out there. With a little digging and developing a client base, working from home can be realistically achieved in 6-12 months. Don’t let a stubborn approach to your work schedule cause you to fail. Working from home is more about managing flexibility as much as it is finding clients, paying taxes, and setting up a work-space.
I’ll give you an example of my own schedule flexibility. A few years ago my family moved from Minneapolis to Brentwood, CA. In Minneapolis, I woke up around 5:00 a.m. and worked until about 2:00 p.m. with some time off in the middle to pick up/drop off kids, and run errands. Otherwise, my schedule was consistent. My fiance who works from home for a company had standard hours.
However, my fiance works for a large company, so when we moved to Brentwood our time zone changed her hours to 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. So how does this affect my schedule? I worked 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and then in the afternoon from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. I also tend to be flexible with those hours if needed. However, I did attempt to get a minimum of 8 hours a day on the weekdays, and at least 4 hours a day on the weekends.
What I find helpful is waking up early – sometimes as early as 3:00 a.m. – so that most of my work is done before my family is awake. Another motivator for me is to start every morning with “me time.” This is time spent on my personal projects. I might write a blog post or work on one of my novels or just read. Many freelance writers, and I would say especially ghostwriters, become resentful of their work because they don’t spend time on their own projects. This allocated me time time only be an hour each day, but it helps me focus and still be proud of the work I do.
Everyone has a different family dynamic which affects their ability to work from home. However, it is important to recognize the two differences mentioned above about working from home or working for another company. Most writers who work from home need to adjust their schedule according to family and also be willing to be flexible. If you don’t allow for flexibility you will find yourself stressed, over/under-worked, and looking for a new company to work for before you’ve given your full-time freelance lifestyle a chance.
*Since my original writing of this post my family has once again moved across country. We no live in Arkansas. One thing I find great about working as an at-home freelance writer is my work load doesn’t change due to location. Though, now with my kids in school, my hours have once again changed. I typically wake up at 3:30 a.m. with a break from 7-8:30 to get the kids to school, and then work again until about 2:30/3:00. The reason I mention this is, again, to reiterate that family dictates the time of a work at home writer and it is important to embrace these changes rather than fight them.