Have you ever heard anyone say, “Time is money?”
It’s a common expression people use to show how time is directly proportionate to how much money you earn. This phrase is especially valuable to freelancers who must manage their time and use it wisely to increase profits and build viable businesses.
Unfortunately, even though time is precious, freelancers give in to distractions all too often. Because their work environment is flexible and many work from home, it’s not uncommon to find many lacking in time management skills.
How do I know about time management? I deal with distractions on a daily basis and time management was one of the hardest obstacles I had to overcome. As a fellow freelancer, I understand the temptations, and the struggles you face on a daily basis. As freelancers, our life is rewarding, but far from easy.
I’ve “been there and done that” and along the way I developed a few strategies that have helped me maximize my time and grow my business as a result.
Here are some of my tips:
There are many facets to scheduling – all vital to maximize your time and increase your profits.
Take it from someone who never scheduled and just worked on the fly. I thought I could do work as it came and that would be enough. It wasn’t until I set monthly profit goals and created a schedule that I started making more money and meeting my financial goals.
I was working hard (at least I thought I was) but when I looked at my budgets, I had not made as much money as I thought.
Here were some of the issues:
I wasn’t scheduling my time so I wasn’t accountable for daily and weekly tasks. This led to numerous distractions (more on that later).
If you don’t know exactly how much work you need to accomplish to meet a certain monthly financial goal, you will never grow your bank account.
Because in order to fulfill your long term goals, you must make them your short term actions.
I can say I dream of becoming a famous painter, but if I don’t break that down into tangible, real world, daily and monthly actions, the dream will forever remain only in my head. I can say I want to make x amount of dollars next month, but if I don’t plan out what that looks like on a daily basis, it won’t happen.
Financial goals –
How much do you want to make next month? Set a plausible goal that is higher than what you made last month. In my case I have some open-ended contracts. I can do more work if I want. This helps me to work more when I need to make my goals. If you do not have a situation like this, set an achievable goal with the intention to bring in more business. Don’t make it unattainable. If you are making $3,000 a month, set a goal to bring in another $100-$200. Apply to job ads that will allow you to meet that goal.
If you are already maximizing your time and you want to make more money, it may be time to increase your rates.
This is a difficult subject to discuss because every freelancer will offer varying rates based on their experience and what they feel they are worth. While there is a lot to discuss on the topic, I want to focus on how to make sure your rates are competitive.
Contrary to what you may think, it’s actually more common for freelancers to undervalue their work rather than to overprice their services.
Here are a few reasons freelancers undervalue their services:
- Fear of failure – “What if my client doesn’t like my designs? If I quote low, they won’t expect more than I can give them.”
- Low Self-worth – Try not to let any feelings of low self-esteem cloud your opinion of your work. Some people will never see their work as excellent even when it is. Understand that your perception is not always reality. Take a step outside of your body and look at your work objectively. You may be pleasantly surprised.
- “I’m not an expert” – Whether or not you are the “designer of the year,” you are still an expert regardless of your skill level. Design is an expertise in itself and while you will always learn and grow, you are an expert in your particular level of skill, regardless of where you fall on your talent barometer. As you grow, you can increase your rates but don’t undervalue yourself because you are comparing your work to designers and developers with triple the experience.
What are you worth? If you think you may be undervaluing your work, consider a competitive hourly rate you would feel comfortable charging. When you quote a project, estimate how many hours it will require and start quoting at this increased rate.
Where are all the high-paying clients?
There are plenty of clients who will pay you what you are worth. If you are not landing these types of gigs, take a look at your online presence and your portfolio and see where it can be improved. Ensure your profiles are professional and you are actively engaging with the community.
If your online presence is solid, consider changing your attitude to believe you are worth higher-paying clients. You will be amazed at how this changes things. I am a witness.
If you truly believe you are worth a certain rate, you will attract the clients that will give you that rate.
Is anyone present in your home office while you are working? This can become a huge distraction!
It’s not uncommon for family members or spouses to forget you are involved in a project even though you are hard at work on your computer. The freelancer lifestyle is not understood by people who are “non-freelancers”. My husband works from home occasionally and he loves to talk through things because he is very detailed. While I value our communication, sometimes he forgets that I am actually working. My fingers are typing but because I am in his vicinity he interrupts me. And because I am easily distracted, it’s too easy for me to leave my work and start engaging in the conversation.
Set the boundaries with the people living in your home. My husband now knows to leave me alone until I am on a break and he respects my time because he understands my schedule. If the people in your home cannot respect your time, it may be a good idea to work outside of your home at a local café or coffee house.
Don’t Trust Yourself
Log out of Twitter, Facebook and your email while you are working!
When I get antsy, or stuck on a project, my gut reaction is to check Facebook (it will only be a second, right?) We all know where this goes…you see a friend’s status who just posted a pic of her new baby. You follow the pic for one second and there are 30 comments. You glance through some of the comments and notice an old friend from college…you have to friend request her or you will forget about it later! One thing leads to another andyou know how it goes…the rest is history.
What do I do?
I log out of every website that could be a distraction. Because I know I won’t take the extra time to log back in, it forces me to attack the obstacle I am facing with my project instead of leaving it for some Facebook time. I reward myself with social media time only when I get my work done.
Time Saving Tools
Here are some tools that will help you maximize your time.
Focus Booster is an app built on the idea of the Pomodoro Technique. Francesco Cirillo created this system to help people accomplish their tasks while giving them time for ample breaks. The technique allows 5 minute breaks every 25 minutes, with longer breaks every four 25-minute periods (pomodoros).
The Focus Booster app is a timer for your computer that automatically gives you a visual or audio cue when it is time to take a break as dictated by the Pomodoro Technique. The timer will help you stay focused on your projects while giving you rewards along the way.
TeuxDeux is a simple application that allows you to make to-do lists. It is great for the freelancer that likes to make lists and cross off items as they are completed. Crossing off items can be visually rewarding and it is a good practice to keep motivation at a high level. Take your to-do list on the road with the TeuxDeux iPhone app.
Doomi is a great to-do list that sits anywhere on your desktop. Whenever you need to unload an idea out of your head, type it in Doomi and set the time as a reminder to do it later. Or just add it to the list without a reminder.
The little list will sit right on your computer so you don’t have to stress over remembering your many to-do items.
Less stress = more productivity = more money.
You will see a reminder window open when it is time to perform your task:
How much cumulative time do you spend on Facebook in a week? I thought I was highly productive until I installed Chrometa. After reviewing my daily data, I realized I was spending more time away from my work than I thought. But I never realized how much time I was spending on Facebook because I wasn’t aware how the little diversions were adding up.
Chrometa tracks where you spend your time and what sites you visit. You will see how much time you spend on each client, social sites or other sites you frequent. Chrometa also offers more features to help you organize your freelance business and with a 14-day free trial, it’s worth a look. Use this tool to assess where you can improve your productivity even if you simply track your time for one week to see where your attention is going.