How many hours do you work?

Michelle TauteOR: Being a good boss: Could you stick with a “no overtime” policy?

I’ve been interviewing a lot of designers lately for a book I’m writing on socially conscious design. And one of them—Lauren Bacon at Raised Eyebrow—said something really inspiring to me a few weeks ago: Her web design firm has a no overtime policy.

It’s one of the core ethics of the business. Everyone there works 40 hours a week, because work-life balance is built into the business model. Now Bacon did admit to me that she isn’t always 100% successful in achieving this goal for herself.

But I still became a bit obsessed with the idea. As freelancers, we get to be our own bosses, but how good are we at managing ourselves?

For the past year or two, I’ve toyed around with the idea of setting aside Friday afternoons for creative field trips, but I’ve never taken the steps to actually make it happen.

So I’m curious: How many hours do you work in a typical week? And could you stick with a no overtime policy for yourself?

6 thoughts on “How many hours do you work?

  1. Rochelle

    I have had ups and downs over the years with my hours. I have been in business since 1998 and the first couple years I worked all the time – 80 hrs a week sometimes. Then I started figuring it out, and I took my weekends back – although I would still work more than 8 hrs a day sometimes depending on the work load. But weekends were mine. And that felt ok to me.

    Then the recession hit. Clients started disappearing. I started working longer and longer hours for the few clients I had left, who were getting cut rate prices just to get them to sign. I was also spending lots of time pursuing new clients and projects that fell through at the final hour because the clients just weren’t ready to sign – they were scared too. My tidy lifestyle went out the window.

    I’m still reeling, and while business is getting better I’m left a little shell shocked. I’m having trouble getting back to where I need to be. I still find that clients are talking down my price wherever they can and I’m working 70-80 hrs a week again and not making what I made a few years ago working about 50 hrs a week.

    I’m taking big steps to improve this by building alternative business opportunities with passive income streams. I’m also looking to start jobbing out more of the work I bring in and being more of a creative director and project manager. Basically – I’m reevaluating my entire business model in order to regain a work/life balance. However right now I’m working all the time.

  2. Michelle Taute

    Rochelle, I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a rough patch right now. With the recession, I now a lot of talented freelancers are struggling with client loss and re-evaluating their business models. It sounds like you’ve got a plan in place, and I hope things turn the corner for you soon.

  3. Luke Mysse

    I think we buy into the lie that the quantity of hours is to the quality of output. The truth for me is “the less I work, the better I am at my job”.

    We all have times when we need to buckle down and put in that long week, be it a deadline or just needing to catch up on some stuff it’s certainly unavoidable.

    For me the key has been not to let it happen too many weeks in a row. I think we can work a crazy week, which can become 2 weeks, which becomes 2 months and before you know it we are 2 years into working like dogs and feeling burned out. It’s too easy for that to become the new normal.

    If I know I need to work more hours a certain week I will schedule a few days off the following week allowing myself time to recover and feel whole again.

  4. Michelle Taute

    Luke, I couldn’t agree more. I’m ALWAYS burned out after logging a week or two of really long hours. And I make a point to give myself a few days off. I think having some sort of balance is crucial to sustaining a business for the long haul.