In the early days of freelancing, especially if you don’t have a family to look after, enthusiasm can drive you to work weekends and evenings to be more productive. Assuming you can work evenings and weekends, should you?
First of all, why work evenings and weekends? You may be working to catch up from leave or illness. Or you may just have a particularly heavy workload and need to to stop yourself from falling too far behind. When you think of it like that it can seem like working evenings and weekends seems like the obvious thing to do. But, before you do, consider these points.
It’s easy for clients to fail to see the sacrifice of extra time you put into a project
You may not be thanked for it
Let’s say a client wants a job finished for a certain deadline and through no fault of yours the deadline won’t be met unless you work out-of-hours. You may feel a sense of loyalty to your client and step up and sacrifice a weekend to make things happen on time. And all you want it a bit of gratitude.
I’ve found that it’s easy for clients to fail to see the sacrifice of extra time you put into the project. After all, they’re not at your desk with you’re burning the midnight oil. This makes it very difficult for them to understand and appreciate your efforts.
You set a bad precedent
Another issue is once you work one weekend or one evening a client can start expecting you to do that on a regular basis. I’ve done a weekend job as a favour before only for a client to ask for the same again weeks later. Then, not only do you not get thanked for the weekends and evenings you do work, you attract criticism for the evenings and weekends you don’t work.
There’s a reason most people only work so many hours a week: you can — and will — burn out if you do too much
You can burn out
Remember that there’s a reason most people only work so many hours a week. More hours does not necessarily mean more productivity long term. You can — and will — burn out if you do too much. Taking a break from work helps you to recharge and allows your creative thought processes to regroup. Then when you return to work you’re even more productive.
Working weekends and evenings can be useful. If I do I follow these rules:
If it is to benefit my current working situation, I don’t let the client know I am working out-of-hours. For the reasons stated above this can only cause problems.
If the client wants me to work anti-social hours to deliver a project faster then I’ll charge a premium for it. This way there is no need for gratitude since the extra effort put in is reflected in the business transaction — and a good precedent is set: special working hours call for special rates.
Finally, always allow time off to relax.