Indeed, freelancing poses a challenge on us all as regards time management. I admit it took me a while to realize that the hardest part of working from home is not depriving yourself from face-to-face communication with colleagues (that we can sort it out in lots of different, personally fulfilling ways)—the hardest part is learning to consciously manage your own time in order to be truly productive and happy about your job.
Now, I’ve met some freelancers who clearly associate freelancing with working weekends not as a choice in itself, but rather as if working Saturdays and Sundays were some sort of inherent con to the whole concept of being a freelancer:
‘So most Sundays, it’s the same old story,’ a freelance translator colleague explained to me once. ‘My parents want us to go visit them.’ She was married. ‘But I always tell them, “I can’t. I’m a freelancer. I just have to work weekends.”.’
She wasn’t showing off, she actually meant it. To her, freelancing involved working weekends. Period.
Sure, I also work certain weekends, but seriously, all of them?
So then I started thinking: why do we work weekends?
1. Extra money (a.k.a., you need to do so): While I hate to honor financial goals with number one, many freelancers will confidently claim the first and perhaps the only reason why they choose to work on a Saturday or Sunday or both is the extra money they can make. While other freelancers are taking some time off, there’s always a client who needs a rush job and offers tons of work on a Friday evening because they have to get things done by Sunday EOD or Monday SOB. So the only way to handle such a tight deadline is… working your way through the weekend.
2. Extra pleasure (a.k.a., you just can’t help it): For workaholics like myself, it’s almost impossible to take both Saturday and Sunday 100% off everything that is business-related. Especially when you’re an active entrepreneur and/or multi-tasker aiming to keep up with your multiple blogs, side projects and social networks, you may find it rather hard to unplug completely. From this perspective, work can take any form, from billing clients, cleaning your spam folder and writing an article for an upcoming blog post, to going through your marketing plan, drafting a speech for an upcoming conference or updating your website. You may enjoy it just as much as—or even more than—your regular weekday jobs, but it’s still work.
3. Productivity at its peak: Some people feel they are more productive at weekends. They strategically combine family/friends time and/or sleeping late and/or coffee at a nice Starbucks-like place with work. So while they don’t take the weekend off, they still get to socialize in between tasks.
4. Mocking routine: Some freelancers feel more confident when they work weekends because they know there’s an idle Monday or Tuesday waiting for them to catch up with their dolce far niente just round the corner.
5. Poor time management over the workweek: If this is true for you, I hope it's not constantly true. We’ve all missed a trick predicting just how much time a project or task would take to complete. So when you thought you’d finish by Friday EOD, but for whatever reasons it’s Friday evening and there’s still a long way to go before you complete that project that is due on Monday SOB, you have no choice but to adapt to contingencies and yes, work work work on Saturday and/or Sunday.
6. Avoiding unbearable family occasions: There’s not much to add here. If you’ve ever used work as an excuse, I bet you’ll know.
7. [Readers’ miscellaneous contributions. Wink.]
If you do a quick Google search with the key words ‘working weekends’, it’s surprising just how most results on the first page seem biased toward encouraging you to actually work both Saturday and Sunday due to the allegedly many benefits this approach has to reduce stress over the workweek. I’m not sure how I can argue with statistics, though—right now I’m writing this article over a national holiday, but still. The point is, if you are a freelancer working weekends, it should be you to make that choice and you to acknowledge it as your own decision.
In other words, whatever our reason for working weekends, instead of just blaming the freelance approach to work and pretending that it’s only natural that a freelancer should be sweating blood every Sunday in a month, I think it’s important that we make our own choice and acknowledge it as such.
The reason why we can literally choose to skip Mondays and begin our workweek on Tuesdays, or take Fridays off and work weekends to make up for it, is not just because we’re freelancers, but because we are the active managers of our time. We have the power to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when that e-mail lands in our inbox on a Friday at 9 p.m. or on a Saturday at 2 p.m.—or even on a Sunday at… 4 a.m.
So whatever the reason behind our choice, it is we who are in charge of making the decision. Therefore working weekends shouldn’t be seen by freelancers as an unavoidable matter: it’s something we can and have to deal with. Call it a weekly dilemma if you will; you still have to deal with it and make a choice, your own choice.