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Your Writing Business – What Are Its Hours?

freelance writing clock Deb Ng and I had a twitter exchange yesterday based on her post On Being Accessible…but Drawing the Line. It’s a meditation on how to set your own hours and how to think about when/if to contact others, and she makes points worth reading.

I was startled when she said “Fifteen or twenty years ago we’d never consider contacting a business on the weekends are during evening hours.” Although I suspect it was more like twenty or thirty years ago, she’s absolutely right. When I was a kid down towns were mostly closed on weekends. The only businesses open were bars and churches!

In fact, there were even what’s known as ‘blue laws‘ that made it illegal to open a business on Sunday in many communities, mostly designed to keep that day ‘holy.’ Fortunately those laws began to disappear in the 60s and 70s and are, for the most part, gone.

While I don’t believe in creating laws to try to enforce a day to practice religion or even to force me to rest, I have learned that it’s up to me to set my own hours and to make sure I have time to recreate or re-create myself.

In a way, Deb sounds a bit tentative, as if she’s not quite sure it’s okay to set her own hours. She’s normally not a tentative person and I expect she truly is exploring the boundaries just as she says she is.

But darn it! Each one of us has only 24 hours in a day – those hours won’t come back, and taken together those hours make up my life, and yours. They are truly the length of my days. How I spend them is, once I reached more or less adulthood is up to me. I am responsible for how I live my life. I get to choose – after all, no one else can.

Oh I can mutter that this client or this job or this work is sooooooo demanding I have no time, but that’s a lie. I’m the one who is making the decision to work the extra hours it that’s what I’m doing.


Sure, some situations, some work, some clients are more demanding than others, but ultimately I can choose to walk away. As long as I stay I need to own the fact of my choice. And yes, there are obligations to family, friends, and the bill collectors – but you know what? I could walk away from all of that too. It’s been done and will be again.

No, I’m certainly not suggesting you walk out on your work, your family and your bills. Just notice that it’s possible. Notice so you can begin to make more conscious choices about how you spend your time. There’s real freedom in realizing you are making choices. Once you realize your making choices you can decide, if you want, to change your decision, a little bit or a whole lot.

Set real hours for your writing business and time you spend on social media. Let your clients know when you’re available and when you’re not. Make sure you do get some time for yourself. You and your writing business will be better off because of it.

What hours is your writing business open?

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • I work on my freelance stuff when I take lunch at my day job, except for Fridays when I use my hour to play on the Internet. Then when I get home, I try to work for at least an hour, but I don’t always make it because the job often leaves me very tired physically. Pretty sucky for an office job.

    Unfortunately, that often means I end up working on the weekends. The more I get written during the week, the less Have-to writing I do, and the more time I have for Want-to writing like my blog or my poor languishing novel.

    It’s a lot harder when you work another full-time job. If I could set my own hours, they would be WAY more flexible.

    • I remember those days, Elizabeth… had to write in the early a.m. because jobs left me beat. I did have some success changing the starting ending hours at some jobs which helped.

  • Oh Anne, this is SO important . . . I’m glad to see you’ve started this discussion. as a coach this is one of the biggest issues I commonly help clients with . . . how to set these boundaries in a way that makes them MORE productive and happier as well.
    Personally I really had to work to strike a balance because I live in Europe and work with clients in the US, Europe and Asia . . . it’s always daytime in somebody’s reality! For the first year I was gong mad, trying to be considerate of everyone else’s time frame . . . then I melted down and realized I had to consider my own time ram FIRST and then do my best to accommodate others.
    Ultimately I decided if my clients needed my attention in ways and at times that were detrimental to me and my health and well-being, we were both better off with a different solution.
    Paula Swenson, Creative Catalyst recently posted..Everything has a Price . . .My Profile

    • Paula you and I have come to the same conclusion… it’s really okay to let certain clients go – ahh I feel a post coming on.

      Love your office!

  • You know what – I am up at 6am and I work through until 5.30pm, but if I want to go out or watch TV or see the kids or anything else – I do it. That is what email and answer phones were invented for.

    When I am out and about I use my phone to check for emails, but I don’t give out my mobile number to clients. Nothing is that important.

    Call me old fashioned, but I am freelance and self employed for the freedom it gives me. the last thing I want is to be chained to my desk…

  • This topic is one of the reasons I left the corporate world to own my own business. I was one of the last persons on the earth to get a cell phone as I fought hard against being available 24/7.

    I remember how furious I was when a consulting firm I worked for posted my personal address and phone number (and all employees’) on their global intranet.

    I rarely work a weekend and if I do, it’s typically because I choose to do so because of some time I am taking off. Work/life balance is a great buzzword, but ultimately you are the one who defines it.

    Great post, Anne.

  • Nina Lewis

    When I was younger, how I spent my time wasn’t much of an issue. My youth and naivety made me feel it really didn’t matter how I spent it because I had years and years and years of my life in front of me yet to be lived.

    Now that I’m over 50, I feel very protective of my time. As I enter my golden years, I am very aware of my choice of how I spend my time. I work harder at managing and balancing time on work, family, and leisure. (But that doesn’t mean there aren’t occasional late nights doing writing for clients when I would rather be associating with Mr. Sandman. . .)

  • Really interesting post. Since I’ll be in college classes this fall, setting hours for my business will be critical. Right now my only limitation is that I get ready for bed and stop doing client work at 9pm. Even then, I’ll still talk to people via email or twitter. I guess I have to sit down with my schedule this fall and really hash out limitations so my business and my schoolwork don’t suffer.

  • Anne,
    I have been wrestling with this issue lately. While working to develop more business and clients, yet also make time for daily writing, in addition to all of the things life throws at me I sometimes feel as if there are not enough hours in the day. What has been working for me is establishing specific times to write, specific times to complete administrative tasks, and most important, specific time to relax and do nothing! It is working for me so far as I am getting everything finished without feeling rushed like I used too. Keep the great information coming!

    Anthony

  • This is a great topic – it’s so true how X years ago we’d never have considered contacting a business over a weekend or in the evening. Now, however, we live in an environment where we have somewhat grown to expect “Open All Hours”. I think the digital era is wonderful, yet is our nemesis too. If we’re not careful, we can let work take over our lives – there’s always the tendency to check the Smart Phone for emails, twitter feeds, LinkedIn updates etc. We definitely have to set boundaries, otherwise we suffer down the line. And our families do too.
    Nicky Parry recently posted..Step 3: Time To SocializeMy Profile

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