Maintaining Your Flexibility as a Freelancer

One of the things I love about online freelancing is the flexibility.  I can choose the projects I want to work on and have a customized schedule.  It’s this kind of freedom that entice many traditional employees to become freelancers, or at least to work from home.

But there are times when becoming a freelancer seems like a regular 9-to-5 job.  This usually happens when we pull all-nighters, do repetitive work, and can’t seem to find peace of mind during a busy week.  It’s these times that make freelancing seem so much harder than traditional employment.  The good news is that there are ways to minimize the chances of this happening, or to avoid it altogether.

Don’t overbook yourself.
While we all want to increase our income, there is such a thing as getting too much work.  If you fill every waking hour with projects, there won’t be room for any unexpected opportunities that will come along.  I generally don’t mind passing up on jobs that are similar to the ones I already have.  What I hate is the feeling that comes when an exciting project comes along but I have to decline working on it because I’ve already got my hands full.

To make sure that I have some allowance time for any new opportunities, I prepare my schedule approximately a month in advance.  This gives me an idea of what my workload is for each month and how much time I have left for new projects.  Whether it’s a month in advance or a week, it’s always a good idea to account for the time you’ll spend on your projects so that you’ll know how flexible you are.

Acquire different skills.
It’s also important to have a variety of skills – not necessarily so you could provide several services, but so you could at least have an understanding of other related fields.  This is especially important if you plan to outsource some of the work, so you’ll know what to look for when hiring a specialist in a field that isn’t your forte.

Having different skills also allows you to take advantage of multiple income streams.  You can sell additional services to existing clients and have more variety in the kind of work you do.

Stay small. What I love about solo freelancing is that it’s a small operation.  While you can still delegate to others, but the main work comes from you.  This makes it easy to adapt to changes in the industry, customized requests from your clients, Why is it easier?  Because most of what you’re changing is yourself and your own processes.  37Signals says the same thing about app development, but I think it applies to freelancers as well.

Less mass lets you change direction quickly. You can react and evolve. You can focus on the good ideas and drop the bad ones. You can listen and respond to your customers. You can integrate new technologies now instead of later. Source: “Getting Real” by 37Signals

True, you can still start a business, but know that the larger your business becomes, the harder it will be to maintain flexibility.

If the variety of your schedule and your work is what drew you to freelancing, you should do everything you can to maintain your flexibility.  By keeping your schedule a bit loose, learning new skills, and making yourself adaptable, you’re actually choosing to experience the freedoms that are often promised to freelancers everywhere.

How do you make sure your schedule is flexible?  How do you adapt to the changes in your career?