We are obsessed by time and expressions using the term are omnipresent.
It’s a matter of time.
Time is of the essence.
There’s no time like the present.
We have a complex relationship with time and, what’s more, the clock never seems to tick at the same rate – time slows down when we are waiting for a bus or queuing up at the bank, but wizzes by as we enjoy a refreshing apéro with friends (“Is the that time?”).
Since I’ve been freelancing, time has started to take on new and surprising forms. Work-life boundaries are broken and a new set of rules are in play.
1.) More hours doesn’t mean more work
In France, as in many countries, productivity is still often measured in terms of the number of hours you work. If you arrive late or leave early it means you aren’t pulling your weight. This concept is completely turned on its head in the world of freelancing where efficiency is all about your output and what you can achieve in a set time.
If I shut myself in my office or the library, I can work uninterrupted for 3, 4 or even 5 hours without stopping. I manage to get twice or three times as much done as I did in my previous office job where meetings, colleagues and other distractions ate into my time.
2.) My hours are numbered
Many friends and acquaintances ask me how, as a freelancer, I manage to resist the temptation to stay in bed all day watching films and TV series. The answer is very simple. I have clients who give me deadlines. If I am efficient, I can finish a text in 2 hours, if I’m inefficient it will take me 4 hours or more. In both cases I’m (nearly always) paid the same.
My time has gained weight as freelancer. I count the hours I work as any time wasted at work is free time I have to give up. Days where everything takes a bit longer than usual or I make time-consuming mistakes generate an overwhelming feeling of time wasting.
3.) Work hours fill the week (and weekend)
Although I do my best to keep evenings and weekends free to stay in sync with my friends and activities, it’s not always possible. Work time creeps into the creaks left by eating, socialising and doing sport. On the flip side, I can use any free time I do have in the week to get administrative tasks done or go running. I used to feel a little guilty about this… but not anymore!
When I have a couple of quiet days in between projects, I make the most of going to exhibitions, reading or even doing a little housework. But, when I’m busy at work, it’s heads down for as long as it takes.
The French are attached to their work-life balance, especially their long holidays. Freelancing doesn’t offer this kind of security and « stable » time, and you’re paid more to be available when others aren’t (weekends, bank holidays etc.). But, ultimately it’s up to you to decide how you spend your time, when and how often you go on holiday and what time you want to get up.
Your time becomes your own (more or less).