• Community, Lifestyle

Don't ask me if I work a 40-hour workweek

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

As freelancers we get a lot of annoying questions. Don’t you miss being around people? How do you stay motivated? Uh, the bills on my coffee table that won’t pay themselves, duh.

And then there’s my least favorite of all: Do you work 40 hours a week?

The technical answer to this question is that I’m not really sure. I charge some clients at an hourly rate, others project-based. It’s also difficult to track when I might work a few hours in the morning, and then take a break for a workout, lunch and errands, before returning to work much later in the day. Sometimes I work at two in the morning. Some days I feel like I’m working from sunrise to sunset, and others I practically take off.

But I also don’t think I should have to answer this question. Why should the number of hours I work determine whether or not I’m working hard enough?

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Somewhere along the line, the corporate world collectively agreed that the standard for full-time work is 40 hours per week. And because of this standard, I spent everyday of my former job sitting in a cubicle for eight painful hours, despite the fact that I rarely had eight hours worth of work to fill the time with.

It never seemed fair to me. What if I’m more efficient than my co-workers? If I can take a day’s work and complete it in five hours instead of eight, why can’t I be rewarded with an early dismissal? Why shouldn’t I get paid more for productivity than my neighbor who works at a sloth-like pace and spends the entire day g-chatting her boyfriend?

The 40-hour requirements of my job actually turned me into a bad employee. I spent hours every day surfing the Internet, playing “Words with Friends” on my phone and going on coffee breaks, even though I don’t drink coffee. On particularly bad days, a few coworkers and I would get our coffee with a side of whiskey at the Irish Pub down the block. I even had a secret spot for cat naps.

This was one of the main reasons I left that job and took the leap into freelancing. I work because I need money to live, but I prefer to maximize my leisure time, enjoying the short life I have as much as possible. My former job left me feeling like I was wasting precious time. Freelancing on the other hand, gave me the opportunity to make my own rules. The first one I implemented was to not measure my success by the number of hours I worked.

Now two year’s later, it is the week’s when I meet my goals in well under 40 hours, that I am the most proud, and most happy.

So, here are some alternative questions you can ask me and other freelancers:

  • Are your clients happy with your work?
  • How many of your clients have recommended you to new, potential clients?
  • Are you making enough money to pay the bills and live the life you desire?
  • Are you more satisfied with this freelance path than the one you left behind?
  • Would you recommend I try freelancing?

My answers: Yes, several, and then some, definitely, absolutely.

Jess Lander's favorite place to freelance is poolside. She lives in the Bay Area and specializes in writing, social media and all forms of content marketing.