How to Define Your Office Hours

When you just start building something it takes all your effort and time, both physically and mentally. But developing work/life integration is key to sustaining your freelance career.

When I started out as a freelance marketing consultant, I allowed myself to be completely accessible to my clients around the clock.

But now that I have multiple clients, I’ve had to re-think this approach. Just as your day job has hours, I think it’s important to define your office hours for your side gig.

Over the past two months, I’ve acquired a few more clients for See Girl Work Marketing & Branding. From consulting to writing to creative services, each client requires a different type of service.

I want to give each of them my best work, support and 100 % of my efforts. But I know in order to make this business work for me and be lucrative, I’ll need to have more than three or four clients and become involved in more complex projects.

But in order to do that, I’ll need to stay really organized, streamlined and efficient.

I figure now is the best time to put some processes and practices into place. Even though I only have a handful of clients, I believe that now is the best time to get administrative details and processes into place.

For many years, I managed really large teams of people both in-house and contracted professionals. The marketing campaigns and projects were often complex and straddled multiple time zones, multiple agencies and lots of moving parts. I had to manage timelines like a magician. I know what it takes to run a tight team with many balls in the air.

I also know how important it is to set boundaries, set guidelines and manage expectations. It is vital for me to maintain client relationships through being available. I want the best for my clients.

But, as a freelance marketer, it’s also vital to have enough room in order to continue to grow the business.

I still need to make time to pitch for new clients, write freelance articles, curate blog posts, network and not to mention go to work, church, the gym and spend time with my family.

In addition to laying out a few ground rules in my client welcome kit, I’m using the tips below in order to further define my new office hours.

freelance office hours
1. Client Phone Calls and Emails

I’ve started adhering to some processes when it comes to client phone calls and emailespecially since I am still managing a full-time job.

Client phone calls have to be scheduled in advance. Quick “yes” or “no” emails are okay, but if I need to research or write more than a sentence in order to respond to you effectively, I won’t be able to respond until I am officially working on your business.

2. Text Messaging

I previously accommodated text messaging with my clients, but I’m starting to slowly curb this out. The reason is, for the most part, I work by the hour.

If I spend an hour texting with you back and forth on whatever idea you want my consultation on, I might get so caught up in collaborating with you via text, that I forget to clock the time.

Plus we’ll both get used to the idea that I’m accessible around the clock. I’d rather schedule a phone call or email you back at a time when I know I’m working on your business and it works for both you as my client and me as a business person.

3. Invoices and Expenses

In order to be better on top of my invoices and expenses, I’ve recently signed up with FreshBooks cloud accounting software.

It has a timer, it helps me manage multiple projects under one client and it can do an estimate for me that I can then turn into an invoice.

Don’t use FreshBooks if your business is just a hobby, but if you’re generating monthly income in your freelance or small business, I’d recommend using this system to help you invoice like a boss.

Now, I only deal with all admin, billing and estimates only twice a month ─ on or around the 15th and on or around the 31st ─ which is more in keeping with my desire to define office hours. Before I would deal with this stuff on the weekends.

4. Weekly and Daily Tasks Lists

I’ve started writing everything down, creating weekly and daily to-do lists. I stick to pen and paper because writing things down helps me remember them and I don’t always want to be tied to my phone or computer.

With the exception of actual meeting appointments, scheduled phone calls or scheduled Skype calls, which I do actually have to digitally create ─ I write everything down with a pen. I have two notebooks (one for my business and one for personal life), plus a notepad for just jotting things down whenever I don’t want to forget… like a blog post idea.

5. Taking Sundays Off

Sundays are completely off. No email. It’s important to me to make time to connect again with myself at the end of a busy week.

I like going to church and spending a little time with my family. Plus, I use the evening time to re-organize myself for the week ahead and I also do all my food prep on Sundays as well.

The Take-Away

Being a freelance marketing consultant is still quite new. I know that when you just start building something it takes all your effort and time, both physically and mentally.

But the whole point of me doing this for myself is to create a life that I love and developing work/life integration is a huge part of that.

I love working and I love having this in my life. I can’t remember a time when I’ve been happier and more fulfilled. Each week is a new experience and I’m always excited to take on the day.

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