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Opinion: Flexibility first: A day in the life of a freelancer

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Many employment experts are forecasting that contractors could make up a large percentage of the workforce in coming years. We’re not just talking Lyft drivers here. Many positions within a company are poised to become contracted out as work from home is becoming the norm.

Now 8.4% of people are unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many parents are juggling work with their kids’ virtual school. It’s an appealing way for both businesses and employees to work going forward. This change means there will be a large group of new startups, freelancers who must be ready to take on many responsibilities of a traditional business.

Freelance, or contract, work can be stressful to think about if you are used to the stability of regular employment. But if pandemic schedules, the job market or the quest for more flexibility has you thinking about ditching your 8-5 and daily drive, you’re not alone. I’ve been working on contract for five years. It hasn’t been all roses, but I love it.

Here’s a little about how I got started, along with tactics I’ve used to make it work for my family.

My first contract position was as a virtual assistant for the CEO of a digital marketing firm in Saudi Arabia. I eventually moved into a project manager role in the company, while taking other roles as projects demanded.

When my first child came along, being on contract allowed me to reduce my hours to what worked for my family. Soon, I took the step of branding myself with a business name. Your Digital Marketing Assistant was born.

Since then, I’ve worked on a variety of projects – from websites for local mom-and-pop shops, to working as head of communications for an international company – all on my own terms.

So what does a day look like? Waking up around 4 a.m. allows me time before the kids wake up to get large projects completed before morning snuggles. After breakfast, we may meet friends for a hike or go play in the backyard. Naptime means it’s time to work again, so I step into my office. Now that everyone else is at work, I may make some project update calls or talk to a potential client. After a few hours, I finish my workload for the day and have time to hang out before dinner.

The flexibility offered by working on contract is essential to me. I can take a child to the doctor without asking permission. If I have a headache, I can go back to bed and work later when I’ll be more productive. An out-of-state trip is on as long as internet access is available.

Being a successful (and low-stress) contractor requires a high level of organization and self-discipline. I have an email system set up so I’m usually at inbox-zero and know what needs to be done with a glance. I use a project management system to plan long projects, see my daily tasks, keep notes, track time and share dashboards with clients who want to see everything.

Contracting also requires unpaid time to run my business. I have to find new clients with online ads, networking and updating my website - then spend time on proposals and onboarding them. I have to track my expenses, invoice clients and stay up to date with SEO news and digital marketing best practices.

Over time I’ve tried new things and adapted to kids’ schedules, my husband’s workload and increased efficiency. A stand-up desk allows me to walk right up and start working and drains me less than sitting at a desk all day.

A paper schedule gives my husband and me an idea of what the week and each portion of the day holds. I rented a desk at a co-working space for a few months when my workload was high and I needed to get away from the house on a reliable basis.

The flexibility freelancing offers has allowed me to enjoy parts of my kids’ lives that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

If you find yourself freelancing, you’ll figure out a way to make it work for you, too.

Jahana Uchtman is a website designer and digital marketing consultant. She can be reached at jahana@yourdigitalmarketingassistant.com.

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