How to Build a Harmonious Week as a Freelance Creative | Photo of a shelf with houseplants | natashadenness.co.uk

Finding my feet as a freelance creative

It took me a long time to figure out how to approach life as a freelance creative. This is because I thought my freelance work would look and feel like my previous nine to five, and if I wasn’t at my desk during the traditional office hours I wasn’t doing a proper job!

I left my job in August 2015. At the time, I was the Alumni Relations Manager at an Oxford University College, a post I had held for seven years. When I started working freelance I couldn’t wait to get stuck in, and for the first six months, I worked every day – including weekends! This was fun to begin with but not sustainable and as a result, my work-life balance disappeared.

To get things back on track, I decided to implement a routine, after all, I’d thrived for 20 years on stability and I was sure it was all I needed. I got up early, went for a walk or run and made sure I was at my desk at 9am each day.

This structure worked when it came to completing administrative tasks – accounts, emails, planning etc. But when I had to style and take photographs, write or do anything creative, it took me a long time to warm up and find my creative flow. I was getting my work done but it felt like something was missing – pretty ironic after spending my entire career yearning for a more creative job!

How to Build a Harmonious Week as a Freelance Creative | Photo of a living room | natashadenness.co.uk

Investing in coaching

I began to wonder how other creative freelancers managed their time. I reflected on my time as an art student and I connected with other creative business owners to find out what worked for them. Each had different strategies ranging from not doing anything creative before midday, to simply pushing through the warming up phase. One friend even told me that he works freelance because he hates structure, this allows him to work in the evenings and into the night.

In January, I booked a session with my coach to see if he could help. We looked at my current reality, reflected on what had worked in the past and I completed the wheel of life exercise to address all areas of my life.

After looking at my working week, I noticed I’d drawn a line between work and life. This had worked in my previous jobs because there was a clear distinction however, creativity isn’t a job for me, it’s a fundamental part of who I am.

My coach helped me to see that it wasn’t about making clear-cut distinctions or setting specific work times, but about creating when it felt right and being a little more open and receptive to new ways of working. Allowing my life and work to strengthen and complement each another.

‘Creative isn’t the way I think, it’s the way I like to live.’ Paul Sandip

A moment of clarity

Despite thinking my only issue was structure, I also identified that I was lonely in my work. Having managed and worked alongside teams of people for 20 years, I was missing the connection – office banter, putting the world to rights over a morning cuppa and having people to share my ideas with. My current work wasn’t enough for me and as a Myers Briggs ENFJ personality type, my drive to support people and encourage their growth was no longer being fulfilled. It was an insightful couple of hours!

Embracing change

Nine months on and I’m approaching things very differently. I’m easier on myself, I don’t force my creativity and as a coach, I’m able to use my gifts and put my experience to good use. There’s a harmonious balance and on the days when I’m not meeting clients, I tend to catch up with a fellow freelancer or work in a cafe – friendly banter box ticked!

On occasion, it still feels a little odd to have so much freedom but I’m guessing it takes time to change the habit of a lifetime and the ingrained expectation of what a job and work should look like. I’ve learnt that if things aren’t working it’s okay to make changes or ask for help because nothing is set in stone and most things can be tweaked or changed.

‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’ Socrates

If you’d like to redefine your working week, here’s a little exercise you could try. In addition to this, you may wish to complete the wheel of life exercise for an even greater insight – many helpful examples can be found online.

How to Build a Harmonious Week as a Freelance Creative | Photo of a desk| natashadenness.co.uk

Building a week that works for you..

Reflect

~ What does your working week look like?
~ Does it work for you? If not, why do you think this is?
~ Is there too much/little of anything?
~ How does your working week make you feel?

Consider

~ What is preventing you from creating your ideal working week?
~ Have you tried to make changes? If so, what did you learn from them?
~ Can you recall a time when things worked well? If so, what were you doing differently?
~ Is anything missing?

Dream

~ What would your ideal working week look and feel like?
~ Would you like more/less of anything?
~ Would you like things to be added/removed?
~ Does your ideal week align with your values and lifestyle?

Create and grow

Hopefully, the questions will help you to identify some key messages and with this insight, you can begin to build your week. Feel free to try things and experiment until you find what works for you. It’s good to remember that creating new ways of working and forming habits can take time, so be patient and gentle with yourself along the way.

If you’re planning to modify your weekly routine I wish you the very best of luck. And if you would like to explore this with a coach, please get in touch.

Further reading

The simple working habits of creative people
Useful tips from 12 successful creative business owners
Simple everyday rituals to support your creative work and life

We all experience life differently, so please feel free to take the ideas that resonate with you. Thank you, as always, for stopping by. I hope you have a wonderful day. Until next time, I’ll see you over on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

31 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Lazy Daisy jones 29th September 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Ahhh Natasha as someone new to a freelance life, your post is very timely and full of reassurance for me , thank you I will take a quiet moment soon to answer these questions and hopefully find my way !
    Best Ashley x

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 7:50 am - Reply

      You’re welcome! I’m sure you’ll take to it like a duck to water, I’m a creature of habit so it was a challenge for me! Thanks for stopping by and good luck with this exciting new chapter in your life. :)

  2. Avatar
    Jasmin von der Katz 29th September 2017 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Hi Tash, let me add one more thing as a fellow creative freelancer (for 20 years next april): It is okay not to do anything. Like in anything. Because you won’t stop being creative, on the contrary, there will be way more creativity after the calm :*
    xoxo, Jasz

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Jasz, that’s a great tip. I’ve been switching off during the holidays but I probably need to do it a little more often. Thank you for the reminder! Congratulations on 20 years of freelance life! I hope all is good with you. :)

  3. Avatar
    Sue 29th September 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply

    This is the third time in as many days I’ve heard about the podcast you mention.
    I love hearing about your journey Natasha

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Sue. I recommend The Lively Show – one of my favourites!

  4. Avatar
    fashionforlunch 29th September 2017 at 11:34 am - Reply

    I love doing this post and I’ve bookedmarked it so I can come back to it and really explore all the questions and things to think about when I have a notebook and more time / clarity!!!!! Thank you so Much and I’m so proud of you for this new direction!

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for your support, Kirsty! I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. I hope you have a gorgeous weekend!

  5. Avatar
    lucy 29th September 2017 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Being open is never easy but it’s good you were because it’ll help/encourage lots of people. I certainly would recommend you as a coach – you are very dedicated and easy to talk to. X

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Lucy – that’s very kind of you. I hope you have a fabulous weekend. :)

  6. Avatar
    Hannah 29th September 2017 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    I can relate to this so much and even felt like this last week. I must listen to my own advice and yours too. Freelancing is so different to the normal working world.

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Hannah. Freelance life can be a bit of a challenge at times, can’t it? I hope you manage to get things back on track and you have a lovely weekend.

  7. Avatar
    kate 29th September 2017 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    Such a fab post Natasha, and I can relate to so much of this! It’s so important to understand your best way of working and play to that, instead of trying to confirm to standard ‘work rules’ – although that’s a tough mantra to follow! I agree on the need for colleagues though – sometimes go stir crazy at home on my own (often talking back to the radio, lol), hence why I frequent coffee shops so much, just for the human interaction! x

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Kate. That’s so true, I think my biggest lesson has been to accept that there are no rules to working freelance! I hope you have a lovely weekend. :)

  8. Avatar
    Cristina 29th September 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Excellent post Natasha! I did the same mistake of approaching my freelance work as a 9-5 job but that lasted very little! A loose structure and going with the flow works best for me :) have a lovely weekend x

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Cristina. I’m sure it’s a common mistake when approaching freelancing. We should have known better than to think creativity would conform to regular office hours – it’s too much of a rebel! ;)

  9. Avatar
    Kimberly Duran 29th September 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    What a great post! I approached my working week the same when I first started freelancing and set myself quite a strict schedule which, in actuality didn’t work AT ALL for me and yet it took me nearly a year to even realise it. I have since formed my week to allow myself quite a bit of flexibility, being creative when I want to, addressing the ‘admin’ side of things when it works best for me. I love your suggestions and will definitely be doing some more reflection on this! xx

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much! It’s funny how we all seem to make the same mistake when approaching a freelance life. I wonder if it’s different if you haven’t been employed before and don’t have the same expectations? Thanks for stopping by, I hope you have a lovely weekend. :)

  10. Avatar
    Stacey Sheppard 29th September 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Some really great advice here. I had a brief stint fully freelance as it had always been my dream to work for myself from home. However, I found it a bit too lonely and I definitely need interaction with people to do my best work. Maybe one day I’ll try again. I’ll bear this in mind for sure.

    • Natasha
      Natasha 29th September 2017 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much, Stacey. That’s so interesting – it’s great that you gave it a go. Having people around makes such a difference, doesn’t it? I hope you have a fabulous weekend.

  11. Avatar
    steph_baybee 1st October 2017 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    Great post, I am on my own during the week (after school run!) so I head out for a walk with the dog and quite often I met up with a friend for a dog walk. Three things ticked off then…social, exercise, dog walked! Then In work until school pick up. Then the house is far from lonely!!

    • Natasha
      Natasha 2nd October 2017 at 11:29 am - Reply

      Thanks, Steph. That sounds perfect, especially meeting friends and getting outside. I hope you have a great week!

  12. Avatar
    Slummy single mummy 2nd October 2017 at 9:12 am - Reply

    This is a really interesting post and you feel it’s the kind of thing that should be given to everyone just starting out, so they don’t have to waste time discovering it for themselves! It seems obvious once you know – why would you opt for the freelance life and not enjoy one of the main benefits? – but it’s hard until it dawns on you! Also, is that your coffee table because I LOVE it – where is it from?

    • Natasha
      Natasha 2nd October 2017 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Jo. So true! In the beginning, I think many of us make it hard for ourselves! Thank you – my coffee table is by Ercol. I hope you have a great week.

  13. Avatar
    Alice Judge-Talbot 3rd October 2017 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    This is an incredibly timely post, Natasha. Like you I find the admin easy to bosh out but haven’t quite got my creative flow… I’ll be studying this post again over the next few weeks to work it out. Thank you!

    • Natasha
      Natasha 3rd October 2017 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Alice! I’m pleased you found the post helpful and I hope you have a great week!

  14. Avatar
    Lottie | Oyster & Pearl 7th October 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    After a conversation with a fellow freelancer yesterday where we discussed just this very issue, this is a pertinent post! She’s a couple of months into working from home while I’ve just celebrated four years since going freelance. I haven’t figured it out yet, although I know that it’s okay to admit to my guilty pleasure – watching Gilmore Girls while I do some of the more tedious, repetitive bits of my job.

    • Natasha
      Natasha 12th October 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Thanks, Lottie. Congratulations on four years of freelance life. Gilmore Girls sounds like the perfect way to get through those repetitive tasks!

  15. Avatar
    Alison @ Not Another Mummy Blog 12th October 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    What a fantastic post, Natasha. So useful to ask ourselves these questions. And it’s true that it’s tricky to get out of that “at your desk 9-5” mindset, isn’t it? Off to share this on Twitter…

    • Natasha
      Natasha 13th October 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

      Thanks so much, Alison. The ‘9-5 mindset’ is really tricky to shake off! I hope you have a great day and thanks for the Twitter share.

  16. Avatar
    Unicorn 17th February 2019 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Agree 100% – sometimes I find it hard to shut off and end up working late and weekends. I use trello to prioritise my time and efforts – my friend who is a project manager provided words of wisdom which helps me work with my clients especially when receiving briefs.

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