"People think that the hardest thing in the life of a freelancer is to get a contract. Actually, the most difficult thing is to refuse it” tweeted Czech social networking guru Michelle Losekoot. The 88-character tweet managed to summarize the essence of the problem, which sooner or later most individual entrepreneurs on the right path to success will have to face. Taken by the euphoria of seeing their goal on the road of fulfillment, freelancers tend to accept whatever comes their way. They develop the tendency to see refused work as lost money and acknowledge no boundaries concerning what is realistically doable. Does that remind you of something?
The question is how much time you have and what it is worth investing on. The ability to organize time directly affects how much money you earn out of it. It is therefore not surprising that instead of the traditional 40 hours a week, up-and-coming freelancers often work more. At first glance, it might seem that such a diligent collaborator is the dream of every employer, but it is not. Work beyond limits will reflect on one’s quality of personal life and shortly afterwards in the quality of their work. Most notoriously, it will affect the way they deal with deadlines, which can have a strong and difficult to reverse negative impact on their reputation with customers. However, it is understandable that freelancers on the rise in their fields will make such choices. Very often they have experienced a period of financial struggle with little opportunities. It is only natural that once chances start to appear, they feel that none can be wasted. In fact, the urgency can go beyond just a feeling and have serious motivations such as debts, for example. That is why it is important to consider time management seriously.
Distinguish between work and rest
If you enjoy your work and want to excel in the field, it is quite common that the boundaries between work and leisure become unclear. It can actually be the ideal place to be. However, understand that a pleasant activity can still be part of the job and should be accounted for accordingly. That includes those not hands-on tasks such as researching or analyzing data. One can define, for example, that non-working time is the time not spent on the computer. On the other hand, it is a good idea to learn when that pleasant time became unrelated to work, which then should also be taken into consideration. An example; a business meeting may, at some point, become strictly a social event. That, of course, depends entirely on the nature of the job and should be considered individually.
Observe the balance between work and personal life
Workshops devoted to personal growth often employ a certain exercise that consists of observing an ordinary four-legged table. Each leg symbolizes one of four areas of life - finances, work, health and relationships. The length of each leg can indicate how well you are doing in each area of life and where you should improve. The idea is that you should shorten those legs, which are too long and put this “amount” under the short ones in order to give the table more stability. Bear in mind, that you may want not only the table to be stable, but also to have the legs roughly the same lengths. This exercise shows you that if there is a lack of balance, no matter how long and strong those legs are, the table can collapse.
Therefore, if the legs of the table, which symbolize relationships and health, are sufficiently long and strong, you can of course take advantage of that and work towards strengthening the financial one and vice versa. The important thing is to not forget to check the stability of your desk regularly.
This exercise relates to starting your own business or freelance activity. It is often an effort to better provide for yourself and your family and to have more time to devote to growth in different areas.
Learn to be productive
Remember that there is a significant difference between activity and efficiency. You may spend the whole day moving around just to find out that at the end of the day, not much was accomplished. At least nothing relevant to move you towards your goal. The sooner you identify those situations, the better. You can stop in the middle of a hectic day and evaluate whether whatever you have been doing is aimed in the right direction. Think about how you are using your time, if it has been used effectively or not. Even a time tracking tool can help you with this.
Learn how to say No
One of the secrets of successful business people is that they can estimate the time required for the tasks, which are necessary to fulfill in order to achieve a goal. If you are just starting and don’t know how much time it takes to finish a new project, you can just guess and multiply this estimate at least by two. Even if everything goes smoothly, remember that the client may have a different view of the matter and may not like the same things as you. The project can end up involving a lot more than you expected. You shouldn’t take on more than one big project simultaneously with the assumption that everything will go smoothly. It is not about being a pessimist but especially at the beginning you should give the project room to grow and settle. Here comes the most difficult part: Learn to refuse projects and learn how to estimate time-consuming projects by employing time tracking to your work. Remember refusing a job is not only about time, though. It can involve other aspects of the job, from the material requirements to the relationship with the client. Spending time with a project that is not worthy of your time can, and possibly will, cost you jobs that could be truly fulfilling and rewarding.
Keep your word to yourself and others
That means making realistic plans and sticking to your promise. If you are going to give yourself some time off work, leave your business material behind. If you committed to a deadline, make sure that the agreement is met, even if you need to hire help. It is better to share your profits once than not having anything to share in the future. By the way, considering to hire help, even if you are working alone as a freelancer, can be a smart move. It can work both ways and you may have the chance to work on someone else’s project in the future. Building a network and creating trust is crucial for a successful business (and life for that matter).
Do you have any other tips for your time management? How did you start off? We’re looking forward to hear more from you!