How to plan your ideal week in your creative business

plan your ideal week

What does your ideal week look like?

As a creative business owner, you get to decide what your ideal week looks like. Whether it’s working a regular 8-5, a 3-day work schedule, or cramming in work while your kiddo naps.

Now, “ideal” may not happen every week. Things come up and things change. But overall,  you want to have more ideal weeks than not, and when your weeks aren’t ideal, they aren’t normally too far off. That’s the goal. 

By knowing what your ideal week looks like, you can schedule office hours, know when you’re free to grab lunch with friends and motivate yourself to get your work done. 

Scheduling–as much as you may resist it, really makes you more productive and professional. Instead of reacting to projects and life as they come up, having a schedule lets you fit things in where they make sense and keeps you in control. Well, in as much control as you can be. When you’re in control you’re able to be more productive, and actually work less.

In today’s post I’m going to ask you a few important questions to help you design your ideal week schedule. Let’s get to it!

Heads up: This post was originally part of my course, Creative Compass, which was published in 2016. My schedule has changed a lot since I wrote it, but I think this post is still valuable as a peek into how my schedule used to be. For an updated look at my schedule, check out my 10-hour workweek.

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What days will you rest? 

“Rest” may not be the right term if you’re a parent, or if you have a busy social life (what’s  that like?), but these are the days you won’t be working. 

On these days you need to pinky-swear that you’ll stay off your computer and enjoy your life. Spend time with those you love, go do something fun, and do any life “stuff” you need to take care of. 

Scheduling in these days where you completely unplug allow you to return to work feeling  energized and ready to tackle anything. 

What days will you work? 

There’s no rule saying you need to work every single day. In fact, if you are working every day, you need a serious life-check because work does not equal life, even if you love it.

You should take weekends off. But if you prefer to take a day or two off in the middle of the week instead of Saturday and Sunday, that works too. No matter what, try to have at least two days off per week. 

Want to take other days off? You can. But be realistic.  

It’s not very practical to do any business that requires one-on-one with clients unless you’re available a few days a week or offer VIP days. Otherwise, your clients will have to wait an entire week to hear back from you. 

That might be okay if we’re talking about really low-budget clients who aren’t expecting much, but when you start working with premium clients they expect a certain level of availability. (Again, if you’re offering VIP days, that’s a different situation!)

Your days don’t have to be consecutive, but they should be consistent each week so that clients know what to expect. If you want to take off every Wednesday, and work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, that’s fine, just so long as you can stick to it.

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What days will you work with clients? 

Clients are surprisingly understanding of short workweeks, as long as they know to expect them upfront. That’s great, because your ideal week probably is shorter than a normal workweek (otherwise you could just work for someone else!). 

Choose what days you’ll be working with clients out of the days you’ll be working. It can be every day, or not. Again, clients will expect you to be available at least a few days per week, so take that into consideration. 

I work on client projects Monday-Thursday and on Fridays I work on my own business. I find this works best for me, and allows me the flexibility to have a three-day weekend if I want. Clients know that I’m not in the office Friday-Sunday, so they don’t expect to be able to get in touch with me then. 

So to my clients, I work Monday-Thursday. They don’t really need to know that I’m at my computer on Fridays at all, as that day is set aside for my own projects. 

And if I don’t have much to do that week? I cram it in during the week by spending a little time each day and take Friday off. Woohoo!

If you’re only working three to four days a week, you may not be able to dedicate an entire day to your own business. Instead, you can block an hour or two each day to work on your own projects, do your bookkeeping, and do anything else you need to do to keep your business running smoothly. 

When choosing your client work days, make sure that they won’t create problems for your clients. As nice as it might be to work Monday-Wednesday and then take four days off each week, it’s not really practical to expect clients who contact you on Wednesday afternoon to wait until Monday morning or later for a response. 

If you’re only working three days a week with clients, it would make more sense to work  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so that the response time is never extreme. 

What hours will you work? 

And how many? To run a profitable creative business by yourself, you’ll likely need to work about 20 hours per week. If you have employees or are outsourcing a lot of the work, you may be able to get by on considerably fewer work hours yourself. 

But you do need to work. Unless you’re planning a Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Work Week where you let other people completely run your business, you’re going to have to put some time and effort in. 

The key to most of this planning is consistency. You can work evenings, or 9-5 or even in the middle of the night, as long as you are consistent. 

Being inconsistent confuses your clients, stresses you out, and makes you less productive. 

Knowing that you have from 12pm – 4pm to work on a client’s project will motivate you far more than just doing it “any time” during the day. 

What life obstacles do you need to work around? Do you need to get your kids to school?  Get off work from your day job? 

Try your hardest to make your hours as consistent as possible from work day to work day.

What hours will you be available to clients?

If any time you’re working, you want to be available to your clients, go ahead. But if you need a few hours of uninterrupted creative time, schedule this into your ideal week and make it clear what hours you accept client calls. 

I keep my mornings client-call-free. This allows me to get large chunks of work done while my brain isn’t cluttered and I’m not being interrupted with questions. 

Clients can call me in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays by scheduling an appointment through DotCal a few hours in advance. If we’re in the middle of a project and I feel as if a call is necessary on another day, I’ll schedule it with them, but my calendar only allows calls to be scheduled on these days/times so I’m not surprised or overwhelmed with call requests. 

This works well for me, because I’m not stopping what I’m doing every time Skype rings, and it works well for my clients because I make a lot of progress on their websites and can actually focus on their calls or emails because I’m not trying to do three things at once. 

What else do you need to do? 

If only we didn’t need to do things like sleep, eat, and drive our kids to soccer. Well, I don’t have to do the kid part (yet) but I’m sure those days are coming. 

You need to make these other commitments a priority as well. They also go on the schedule and are non-negotiable. 

Have a mastermind meeting? Schedule it in. 

Have kids in sports? Schedule it in. 

Need to eat so you don’t pass out? Schedule it in. 

You know, it’s funny how often we forget to eat lunch when we don’t schedule it. 

Now, here’s a trick I like: I like to set aside an afternoon each week for errands. You know, getting groceries, going to the library, whatever. But I also do my best to schedule in random real-life events on this day too. Lunch with a friend. A doctor’s appointment. Whatever I need to get done. This doesn’t always work–sometimes the dentist isn’t available then–but a lot of the time it does. And when I have nothing to do? I can relax. 

Write down everything else you need to do.

Wrap-up 

Knowing when you’re working, when you’re resting, and when you’re available to clients helps you establish boundaries. When you have a schedule you are able to focus better and be more productive. 

Plus, it’s nice not to get phone calls from clients when you’re trying to sleep. 

It’s time to make it real. Schedule in your ideal week to your calendar system. A lot of people use Excel sheets, but Google Calendar or iCal is even better since you can set recurring events and reminders. Use what works for you, even just a sheet of paper you can hang above your desk. 

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