It's often advised that if you're not very self-disciplined as a person, then you won't be cut out for freelancing. However, even if you're not able to create a plan or schedule for yourself and stick to it, this doesn't mean you can never be a freelancer.
In fact, since self-discipline is such a valuable trait – both in terms of your career and your life in general – freelancing could be exactly what you need in order to excel. Taking on more responsibility in terms of how you work can be a great lesson in how to become more disciplined.
This is because discipline is a virtue that can be cultivated. Some people may be more disciplined than others, but no one is incapable of becoming disciplined.
Setting a schedule and sticking to it
When you're a full-time employee at a company, your schedule is set for you. You know when work starts, when lunch is and when work finishes. Your daily duties are assigned to you.
On the one hand, this is a blessing, since it instils routine in your life that you can easily get to grips with. On the other hand, this is a curse, since you lose autonomy over how you work.
You may be more productive in the evenings, which means a 9-to-5 won't suit your proclivities. Or you may prefer to work in solitude, in which case the office environment may sap your energy reserves.
This is why many people decide to leave their 9-to-5 in pursuit of freelancing. However, when you start freelancing, you may find that without a schedule your tasks become a bit all over the place and overwhelming.
It's important to pay attention to what needs prioritising, how long tasks take to complete and to divide your day up so that you don't end up overworking, or slacking.
In addition, a schedule acts as a blueprint, as a cue, for what you need to do. Without that, you may become more susceptible to the dreaded enemy of freelancing – procrastination.
Some freelancers may stick to their schedule more easily than others. Don't beat yourself up if you find yourself getting distracted, even if it happens a lot. If you're working online, then you are always just one click away from Facebook or YouTube.
You may check Facebook at your office job as well, but since you know that if you get caught slacking too often, then your boss is going to have something to say about it. When you're freelancing, you're your own boss. So you need to create the incentive to stay disciplined, whether that's through understanding the importance of producing quality work for clients or by reminding yourself of your long-term career goals.
Let your schedule evolve
Sticking to a schedule is important. And so is letting your schedule evolve in accordance with the rest of your life. It's all well and good being religiously committed to your schedule, but if it turns out your schedule isn't maximizing your productivity – or if it's draining the life out of you, whether from overwork or neglect of your hobbies and relationships – then it's time to rethink how you spend your time working.
Freelancing is often touted as the best way to achieve work-life balance. This is true only to the extent that you, as an individual, can find that proper balance between your career and your other interests and activities.
At least with a 9-to-5, you know when you have time to spend time with your friends, family, and partner. When you're freelancing, you need to schedule this time for yourself. It may sound kind of calculated to create specific time slots in your schedule for socialising or your hobbies, but it really is the easiest way to ensure that you don't end up sacrificing your general well-being in the name of work.
Work-life balance and well-being do not have to be juxtaposed, as they often are. While neither are goals that you necessarily achieve and keep as ‘perfect' constants, achieving work-life balance as far as possible will help you feel more satisfied in life.
Conversely, doing your best to look after your mental health can lead to improvements in your career, personal projects, and relationships. When you’re freelancing, you may start placing a higher priority on both your work-life balance and your well-being. But you need to develop discipline in order to strive towards them.
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