Why It's Important for Freelancers to Keep Normal Business Hours

The word “freelancer” has a bit of a stigma attached to it for the people outside of the freelance world. There’s a number of misconceptions about what kind of people we are and kind of business we do. True, I don’t have a time clock to punch when I start my work day and I don’t even own a pair of panty hose, but I am not just a free-agent design nomad. I’m a business owner! My business may only have one employee (that one being me,) but that makes it no less a business.

Starting out, it can be difficult to wrap your head around this and really embrace it. Being a “free agent” is so much easier, you are still like you used to be when you were an employee, only now – your clients are your boss! Right? WRONG! I think this attitude can be detrimental to a one-person business and as I’ve come to terms with my own entrepreneurship I’ve learned a lot about being a business owner and not just a freelancer.

Something I see as an important part of defining your operation as a real BUSINESS? Setting normal business hours.


I know! One of the benefits of being an independent professional means you DON’T have to do a typical 9 to 5 day — but it is still very important to have regularly scheduled business hours. Depending on your clients needs and your industry you can set these to be the most productive for your business.

We do have more freedom to modify our schedules when things come up or if you just need to take an extended lunch on a random Wednesday. What’s important that your clients have a frame of reference to know when they can get a hold of you. I keep pretty typical hours in my studio of Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm. The reason I chose this because most of my clients work traditional hours and I want to be available to them when it’s going to be of the most benefit to them.

You don’t have to think of this as being at the mercy of your clients sleep cycle. Setting a regular schedule can be liberating! If you have set hours of operation – this frees you from feeling obligated to jump on the random email question you might receive from a client at 2am on a Saturday night. Your clients accept this, because they view you as any other business.  We all know that if we want to talk to our dentist, we call during his office hours. We don’t show up at the yoga studio at 2am and wonder why all the lights are out! Businesses have normal hours of operation, so set some for yours! Of course, I work outside of my business hours — I just can’t help myself! But, having that guidelines sets boundaries for both you and your clients.

What are your hours of operation? Why did you set the hours you have?

19 Comments

  1. No set hours as of yet, but I do try to take all client calls during the day on my lunchbreak from my FT job – to at least ‘appear’ to have hours :)

    As for working hours I try to get up early and spend a few hours in the morning working on freelance projects instead of pulling late nights.

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  3. Niki –
    It’s definitely more of a challenge when you’re also juggling a “9to5”!

  4. I try to stick to 9-3 to make me available for clients. (not including a quick lunch break. I then stop at around 3 to pick up my daughter at school, homework, dinner prep, etc.) I also pick back up for a couple of hours after everyone’s in bed.
    Lately, though, a lot of my work has been on-site, so I just carb up in the morning and work straight through. :)

  5. Brian Sakowicz says:

    When I work my PT job and get a call on the cell, I will generally excuse myself then return it pretty quickly. On days working in the home office, I’m always answering the calls.

  6. I currently don’t have any set office hours. However, after these pass couple of months I feel like I should. Although I been told that being a freelancer you are always on call.

  7. […] Why It’s Important for Freelancers to Keep Normal Business Hours | CMD+SHIFT DESIGN BLOG: Seattle … (tags: freelance biz) […]

  8. Thanks for this article. I really need that reminder every so often. It is difficult being a freelancer and a “people pleaser”.
    I try to maintain normal working hours, which on an average tends to be 10-6 M-F but it is really hard to keep that schedule. Especially because one of my clients is a non-profit that does most of their work on the weekends, requesting my assistance at that point too…

  9. I try to adopt a pretty structured approach usually 11 – 6/7 Monday to Friday with a 1 hour lunch break but with the beauty of freelancing I can chop and change and where I need to work at the weekend.

  10. I agree that most people probably work better with a set schedule and one that’s been planned the previous day at that. I feel like I’m all over the place if I don’t sit down and concentrate on what it is I want to get done. Also, sleeping at random hours isn’t something I recommend. =P

    I’m only tampering with freelancing right now but when I really get going I’ll want a more solid schedule to fit around school and a job when I get another one. Time management is just one of those things that improves overtime, similar to managing money I suppose.

    I think a schedule is key to consistency and it probably just makes your business look better if it has a consistent schedule.

  11. I totally end up working weekends or late nights too! It’s just good to have a time where you’re not obligated… we all need break, it makes us work better when we get back!

  12. I have yet to set a strong boundary with work hours and clients. I try and stay open from 8-8 and this seems to be a huge convenience for my clients. I will not pick up the phone on the weekends and If I do it comes with a larger (rush) price.

    Maintaining healthy hours for your freelance business is the hardest aspect to grasp but it will earn you respect from your clients and will make you work more efficiently during these precious business hours.

    1. What’s helped a lot with not being tempted to take office calls on the weekends is using the “do not disturb” settings on Google Voice!

  13. For me it’s a bit more complicated I’m based in Israel and have clients in the USA, Uk and of course in Israel

  14. My office hours are Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. I take phone calls and return emails during my set hours but not before/after or on weekends. The hours I work on projects vary though–I often work evenings and weekends–but it’s a relief to shut down Thunderbird at 5:00pm on Friday and know that any responses can wait until Monday morning. I have to make exceptions of course (emergencies, server upgrades on Saturday nights) but otherwise it keeps me sane.

  15. As far as clients know, I work 9-5 Monday-Friday, but I usually end up tying up lose ends on the weekend or working on personal projects. I’ve been working for an online company as an independent contractor for awhile now and my “boss” there knows I’m willing to work on the weekends, but doesn’t take advantage of that fact. Sometimes I’ll need to take a day off during the week and if that’s the case I’ll try to work during the week.

  16. Me and the husband have a tendency to go to bed in the early morning hours (2-3 am) so my hours during Monday – Friday are 1pm to 7pm. Yeah those aren’t a lot of hours for a freelancer but I also have a part time job that I must dedicate a few hours to everyday.

    I understand the need to have hours that almost match up with clients but I can’t get myself to go to bed early enough for that!!

    As far working weekends and nights, I don’t do it at all. My brain shuts down when it comes to work during the evenings and weekends. I just can’t get myself motivated enough to work during those times. Of course, if I have a deadline coming up soon, I’ll definitely get motivated.

  17. Ah the constant struggle for maintaining normal working hours…

    I just moved to Vancouver from Toronto, and it is difficult because I am not a morning person, and it is 3 hrs earlier here. So if I start at 9am, its already noon there. (most of my clients are still Toronto based)

    So far it hasn’t been a huge issue, but I’m definitely struggling to find a balance, as the last few days/weeks have been more like 9-11pm with a break for lunch and dinner. Yikes, not healthy!

    I think I might have to aim to maintain a 8-6 or 9-6 workday, with occasional work on the weekends… i’ll let you know how that works out, haha.

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