Freelancers – Do you give yourself time to sit back and think?

Sitting by a lake and thinkingAs freelancers we like to keep busy.

In fact, if we’re not busy we start to feel nervous. After all, “empty” time is unbillable time.

Beyond that, sitting around and doing nothing is something we have always been told is bad.

Staring out of the window and daydreaming at school was bad.

Failing to keep your head down and looking busy as an employee was bad.

From an early age we have been conditioned to believe that during our work hours we should always keep busy. To do otherwise brands us as slackers.

As someone early on in your freelance career, this might mean filling the empty spaces between billable hours with time spent on updating your LinkedIn profile, sending out tweets, reading more articles and posts, downloading and reading more PDFs…and so on.

As an experienced freelancer, you might do the same as the newbies, but you might also take on one or two extra clients, just to be on the safe side. To fill the gaps in your week. To make sure you are always busy.

I know freelancers who have filled every spare hour with projects from truly horrible clients, just so they could say they were always busy.

To admit that we aren’t busy all the time is almost…well, it’s almost admitting we are failures.

I get it. Been there.

But it’s a bad way to work.

To be successful and happy as a freelancer, you should do the opposite.

You should welcome “empty time”. In fact, you should schedule for it. Create it. Insist on it.

Why? Because this empty time isn’t empty at all. It’s the time you take to think about your business. To think about your work and the clients you are working with.

Think about whether you are working with the right kinds of clients – clients who can help and inspire you to do the kind of work that makes you shine, and smile.

This empty time is the time you use to plan, to strategize.

You need this time to give you space to think. To daydream even.

If you don’t, you’ll get stuck in a rut. You’ll be busy all the time, often working on projects you don’t enjoy. Your life will be no different from that of an employee stuck in a cubicle and feeling miserable from 9 to 5.

My advice is to carve out some free time each week. Each day even.

Use this time to think.

Turn off your phone and computer. Turn off and tune out of the daily schedule. Create a little distance.

Think about a future that allows you to do your very best work. Think about the kinds of clients and projects that will bring out the best in you. Improve you. Stretch you. Delight you.

Success isn’t about being busy every minute of the day.

Success is about doing work that gets you out of bed each morning with a smile on your face.

And to get there, you need to clear away some of the clutter and noise, give yourself space to think, and plan for a better future.


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2 thoughts on “Freelancers – Do you give yourself time to sit back and think?

  1. So true, it’s so important to take real breaks, instead of just switching tabs to a game or silly website. Getting up, stretching, taking a walk – it’s so easy to get immersed in a blog post or piece of copy, but I find it impossible to make any progress if I hadn’t taken a good breather in a while!

  2. This critical downtime is important to learn early, and schedule in. It is NOT a waste of time. But, until we learn to value and believe it ourselves, we won’t do it. Sometimes we have to “crash and burn” before we will take downtime seriously. BTDT…. which is why I’m just now reading this article, over five months late! It’s the first downtime I have had in over a year. This has not been a good thing. I’m following this great advice from now on. Downtime is precious. Schedule it!!!

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