The Way We Work
November 9, 2010 by Tamara Rice

The thing about being an independent contractor is that there’s so much … independence. While freedom is definitely a perk of the job, it shouldn’t translate into a lack of self-discipline. In fact, if you haven’t got the motivation to be disciplined in your work, there’s a good chance career contractor success will slip through your fingers.

Why setting routine work hours for yourself can be the best thing you ever do as a contractor:

  • Respect. You — and those around you — are more likely to respect your work time when it is specific and routine.
  • Priorities. If you only work when you get around to it, you aren’t likely to get around to it as often as you should. Make it a priority.
  • Work/Life Balance. Know when you’ve had enough for a day by determining your hours in advance. Manage your work, so it doesn’t manage you.
  • Productivity. Regular working hours are the enemy of procrastination. For some of us, they are the only way to conquer it.
  • Reliability. Those who employ you should know when you’re working and when you’re available to chat. To live out this contracting best practice, you have to have a routine.
  • Freedom. Having regular work hours allows you the mental freedom to enjoy personal time without guilt — even when you are enjoying it ten feet away from your office.

Here’s how to set and keep those scheduled working hours:

work hours clock1. Customize. Set hours that are realistic and fit your individual lifestyle. If your work hours need to be built around your children and their schedules, so be it.

2. Communicate. Put your work hours in your email signature and on your outgoing voicemail message. Make sure new employers are aware of your working hours, and that you let all employers know when vacations or other interruptions to your usual routine will change your work schedule.

3. Accommodate. Be flexible for your employers. If you work at odd times (e.g., night) or are in a drastically different time zone from your client, we advise you to have specific times during traditional work hours that you are at least available for your employer’s calls, otherwise communication may get difficult.

4. Enforce. Protect your work hours from well-meaning neighbors, family and life in general. For example, don’t let doctor appointments and errands creep into work hours. Likewise, don’t allow your work time to shift outside scheduled hours — and into your personal time with family and friends.

5. Utilize. Keep your work hours. Don’t get into the habit of ignoring them or you will fall behind — and both your work and your personal life will suffer.

work hours sign in the skyDon’t think of setting work hours as putting limits on your freedom. Think of it as a step toward concentrated creativity and productivity in your working hours and mental and emotional freedom in your non-working time.

Do you prefer to have regular work hours or do you play each day by ear? Let us know why you’ve chosen the work style you have and how it’s going for you in the comments below.

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.