The following post is an excerpt from my new e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer. The three volumes in the series are designed to be easy-to-use, practical guides to getting your freelance e-Learning career off the ground. Learn more here!
One of my favorite parts of writing the Succeeding as an e-Learning Freelancer series has been the opportunity to individually scrutinize each of the different things I do. But recently, I realized that while I’ve written a lot about many different topics as separate ideas, I haven’t spent a lot of time discussing how all of the various aspects of my freelance life work together in the context of an average day. So for this post, I’d like to share my own version of what my day-to-day life is like as an e-Learning freelancer.
One big caveat: as most freelancers will tell you, when you’re working for yourself, every day can be different. So in some sense, there is no “normal” day for e-Learning freelancers—but just because it’s not the same each day doesn’t mean freelance life has to be chaotic! Rather, as a freelancer, your time management skills will play an incredibly important role in terms of how productive, and ultimately how happy, you are. Your challenge will be in creating a structure for your daily professional life that keeps you flexible while always moving you forward.
With that in mind, here’s how I structure my time, and how that typically plays out.
Playing with Blocks
The first big hurdle I faced as an e-Learning freelancer was learning how to manage my time, and learning to make time to get what I wanted to get done, instead of only for what needed to get done.
I started out by only focusing on work that was urgent or directly in front of me, and not much else. At that point, I felt justified prioritizing things that were directly tied to revenue, because in my mind, getting paid was my priority (which wasn’t a bad thing; I just made the mistake of making it my only priority). I was so good at keeping myself busy handling ground-level details and covering last-minute minutiae that I rarely had time to think about the big picture of my career. But that was OK, I told myself, because I was still making money.
I used that justification to postpone a lot of other work I needed to get done, like writing professional goals, networking, and even reviewing my business finances. Making money was great, but I still found myself stressed out a lot of the time, because I was running into the consequences of deprioritizing important non-project work. If a big project ended, I would suddenly find myself in a panic because I didn’t have any new work lined up; if I was in the middle of multiple projects, I often forgot to eat lunch or get any exercise. Writing it now, it sounds obviously unhealthy, but at the time, it just felt like I was doing the right thing by focusing on money.
Eventually, it hit me: if I never set aside time to work on my long-term goals, I would never reach them. Sounds like common sense, right? I can tell you from experience how easy it is to downplay or put off “big picture” work. Knowing what you want your life to look like and actually taking steps towards getting there are two very different things! As I looked back on all the previous months in my calendar, I saw that I had been holding myself back by only working on my short-term tasks and never investing specific time in my future.
[This topic continues in my e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer.]