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How many hours do you work?

Sarah Browning of Browning York, is a communications specialist. She’s been thinking about what counts as ‘work’ when you’re freelancing

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked that question in the last few years. I understand why people ask; when you’re an employee of an organisation, that’s generally how your working life is measured. Are you full-time or part-time? Do you work a 7-hour day, 10 hours a day or even 14 hours? 35 hours a week, 40 hours a week, even 60 hours? But as a freelancer, it’s not quite that simple.

For a start, how are we going to define ‘work’? As I write this, I’m sitting at a picnic table in the sunshine by a lake, with a flask of coffee and a fruit pie in front of me – half a fruit pie, to tell the truth! I’m scribbling away on a piece of scrap paper that I carry around with me for the times when inspiration strikes, musing over working hours and preparing to share my views with the world. I’m not a time-management consultant and no-one is paying me to be here. So, is it work?

A few weeks ago I had dinner with a friend who introduced me to the delights of sushi (I know, I’ve led a sheltered life). She works in a similar field to me – in fact, when I met her she was one of my first clients – but we are yet to do any more business together. We meet regularly to share ideas and advice and it’s always a lovely evening. I get the train home feeling energised, upbeat and with a new idea or two. Does that dinner count towards my hours of work?

And then there are the times when I spot someone’s profile on LinkedIn, think ‘they look interesting’ or ‘I’d like to know more about their work’ and I make contact. If they think I sound interesting too, then we might well meet for coffee and a chat. It might be years before these relationships lead to any paid contracts – if they ever do – so are those meetings work?

I guess it will come as no surprise, seeing as you’re reading this on the KindredHQ blog, that I would answer yes, yes and yes! Each of these things is interesting and educational, helping me and my business to grow and develop. So in many senses they are work and they are also so much more than that, because writing, meeting interesting people and sitting in the sunshine are fun too.

In the interests of fairness, I should also declare that when carrying out communication work for my clients, they often do pay me by the day or hour – not always the best way to charge for freelance work, but for now it works for my clients and me.

Being freelance allows me to live a life where work and fun are not mutually exclusive – no wonder I don’t waste much time counting how many hours I actually ‘work’!

Sarah Browning is a freelance communications specialist at Browning York.

Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.

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