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Should Freelance Writers Work Overtime?

Read Time: 3 min

Do you ever put in long hours, working overtime? Are you strictly against working overtime as a freelance writer? There are good cases both for and against these late nights, working weekends, or whatever kind of overtime schedule you might have. Today I'd like to share a few thoughts on when I work overtime, when I think it's smart to work extra hours, and why I think overtime for client work is usually a bad idea.

New Freelance Writers

When you're just getting started in your freelance writing career, it's not uncommon to put in long hours. And this is one of those cases where I think working overtime makes sense, even if you aren't directly paid for it.

New freelance writers usually don't have a writer platform yet. They probably don't have a huge network of colleagues and prospects they can tap for their initial gigs. And they likely don't have a huge database of prospects they want to pitch yet.

When you're new, there's always more marketing to be done because you have to establish your base client list. But at the same time, you need enough billable hours to meet your income goals. Sometimes the only way to satisfy both sides of that startup equation is to work extra hours early on. Just try not to let that continue for too long. If you do, you risk burnout. Believe me. I've been there. And it's not pretty.

Project Excitement

There's one more time when I think it's perfectly alright to work overtime as a writer. That's when you're truly excited about a project you're working on, and you feel motivated to keep going. If your muse strikes, take advantage.

You can turn that time into overtime hours. But you don't have to. You can simply work late on that day, and take extra time off the following day.

For me, this doesn't happen with client projects because I have a strict rule about overtime hours on client work. But it does happen with my own projects -- like new site launches or a book.

It's why I've been putting in overtime hours lately on a few evenings and Fridays, when I'm generally off. In my case, that time is going to new blog development on a few sites I'm preparing for launch.

It's been so long since I last had the ambition to dive into development work due to illness and general life stresses, so I'm taking advantage of the extra energy and excitement over some of these projects. The payoff? The sooner the sites launch, the sooner they'll bring in income.

Working Overtime on Client Projects

This is an area where I have strict rules against working extra hours. If a client requests that I work outside of my usual business hours (like taking care of a project over the weekend or scheduling a conference call when they know I'm off), I almost always say "no." And on the rare occasion I do agree to work those overtime hours, there's generally a steep fee attached.

I don't think it's smart to routinely make clients think you'll drop everything for their projects. That's not professional. It's desperate.

If you have time available, sure, work something in quickly. And if you're behind on a project and the fault is your own, then of course you should do what you need to do. But special requests to work overtime because someone didn't plan effectively up front? I don't think so.

You're entitled to a life outside of your work. And enjoying that downtime makes you that much more productive when you do give your time to client work.

What do you think about working overtime as a freelance writer (or blogger, or author, or any other kind of writer)? What types of projects would you work extra hours for, and when do you turn things down or let people know they'll have to wait until your normal business hours? Share your thoughts in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Should Freelance Writers Work Overtime?”

  1. Jenn, as a general rule the only time i work overtime is when I’ve gotten delayed one way or another… since I usually charge a flat fee for what I do, the hours are really up to me as long as I deliver.

    I totally know we deserve regular hours and no overtime without, as you say, a steep fee. There’s really no need for me to panic because a client hasn’t planned well.

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  2. I enjoy working Sundays because, otherwise, I find them incredibly tedious! However it’s not overtime because when I work Sunday, I tend to then give myself a “Wednesday weekend”. I stick to a reasonable number of hours, they are just not typical office hours. It’s one of the benefits of freelancing for me – I can choose when I do the hours, as long as I do do the hours.

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