If you’ve been freelancing for very long, you already understand the importance of scheduling your time effectively.

Clients want more output for every dollar freelancer vacationthat they pay you. You want more profit for every braincell you utilize. Therefore, intelligent time management is key.

But what about family time, fitness, weekends, and vacations? Speaking from experience, I would argue that scheduling this time is as important (if not more so) than your client time.

In this article, I’ll share my tips for scheduling “fun time.”

Your Family Needs You

With thousands of job opportunities on the Upwork marketplace, it’s quite tempting to just work all the time. When I first started working online, my financial situation was less desirable than it is now. Therefore, I fell into the trap of working seven days a week. This only lasted a few months before I felt totally burnt out. (It’s no wonder that God rested on the 7th day!)

Soon into my freelancing career, I decided that working on Sundays would need to stop. If I wanted to be both effective and efficient, giving myself time off was certainly a priority. From that day forward, I made the investment in my family to never work again on Sunday.

So, if you were to send me a calendar invite for Sunday, I would politely decline the invitation and ask for a different time and date. Very few things can’t wait until Monday.

Your family also needs you to set boundaries for yourself during the workweek. I have set a hard stop for myself of 5:30 pm each work day. I do my best to not break this rule, but sometimes I do fail. If I’m going to be running a little late, I try to let my wife know in advance.

If you want your home to be an enjoyable workspace, it’s very important that you schedule your family time. Your spouse and children want to spend time with you, so setting predictable work patterns is advisable.

Your Doctor Wants You To Exercise

In my last physical, my doctor asked about my exercise regimen. I was honest and said that it was hit-or-miss. Some days, if the weather was nice enough, I might find time to go for a brief jog. In reality, I was only exercising once or twice per week. My doctor didn’t care for this answer, and he recommended that I invest in my own health by exercising daily.

Upon this advice, my brain began to spin. How would I be able to fit regular exercise into an already-packed day? Also, how would I be able to exercise if the weather is bad at least 100 days per year?

For the later question, I shopped around
online and found an awesome solution: a treadmill (pictured right). I did quite a bit of research, and I believe I’ve found the best entry-level treadmill for the money: the Weslo Cadence G 5.9 treadmill. For about $300, you really can’t go wrong. I’ve used it every day for 6 months now, and it’s been great so far! (Click the image of the treadmill to view it on the Amazon marketplace. Please read our disclosure for products we recommend on this blog, as we may receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase!)

The former question was a bit trickier. My weekday schedule was already packed from about 7:15 am until 5:30 pm. How would I find time for my new exercise routine? The answer was quite simple: wake up a little earlier. Instead of rolling out of bed at 7 am and starting work by 7:15, I now get up around 6:15 am and start working by 6:30. I take a break at 7:30, which gives me plenty of time to eat breakfast with the family, take a brief jog, and take a shower. I’m usually back at my desk by 8:10 – altogether about a 40 minute break. In doing so, I am enhancing my health and also getting more quality time with the family.

The Beach is Calling You

I love going on vacations. Like many Midwesterners, our family enjoys traveling to the Florida coast each year for some fun in the sun. Not only is it a great family experience, it can also be a time to re-charge your freelancing battery.

I’ll admit that early in my freelancing career, however, we didn’t have the budget to go on a week-long Floridian vacation. Even in the thin years, I’ve always tried to get away for at least a day or two and get my mind off work. If you’re looking for some budget-friendly options, you might consider these vacation (or mini-vacation) ideas:

  • Go camping at a state park
  • Visit a friend or family member in a different city
  • Travel with your brother’s family and split the cost
  • Visit a client and deduct some of your travel expenses

For me, the biggest challenge about taking time off is overcoming the awareness of its “true cost.” For example, we’re planning our next vacation right now. Here’s a rough breakdown of the budget:

  • Hotel: $800
  • Gas: $300
  • Rental Car: $250
  • Food: $400
  • Total: $1,750

Not too bad, right? A week on the beach for less than $2,000 sounds reasonable. But, keep in mind that we freelancers get paid for what we do. “Paid time off” is only for salaried employees. Let’s assume my hourly rate is $50. Let’s also assume I will not work any hours (unlikely) while on vacation. Losing 40 hours of billable time just cost me $2,000. So, therefore, the “true cost” of my vacation is actually about $3,750.

Offsetting the Cost of Time Off

To offset the “true cost,” I have been working on developing income streams that are not entirely dependent upon my billable hours. Examples include:

  • Selling my book to aspiring freelancers
  • Adding subcontractors to my team who I can keep busy while gone
  • Building affiliate relationships for client referrals

While these additional income streams are only a fraction of my billable potential, they do add up to a noticeable amount. Thus far, they seem to be viable options for making freelancer vacations more possible. What ways can you offset the “true cost” of time off?

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and Entrepreneur.com.

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