Managing a freelance business can be overwhelming for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is that so many freelancers have no idea where they should spend their time... and, as a result, they end up wasting a lot of time. But no more! Ask yourself the 7 questions in this blog post to help you identify where YOU should spend your time, depending on your unique business and the type of services you offer... so you can finally improve time management in your business.
But first, a little tough love that you might need to hear: as a freelancer, YOU are your own boss. If you are not disciplined, if you are not honest with yourself about how you spend your time, you will fail in your freelance business.
It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Self-awareness is a crucial character trait that successful freelancers have. When you start taking it too easy—which happens to all of us from time to time!—you need to have the ability to realize that it’s happening and rein yourself in.
Similarly, when you are overworked, you have to be able to step back and figure out what you can let go, and how you can restructure the way you do business so that you aren’t pulled in too many directions at once.
One of the best strategies you can implement is to take productive breaks from your workday. When you have a lot to do, you need to be strategic about how you manage your time.
For those days when you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, focus on things that don’t stress you out so much but still need to get done. If you spend all your time creating new things, perhaps you just need a break from creative work, for example.
If your problem isn’t so much that you want a break, as it is that you are seriously short on time, a fantastic way to do this is to multitask brain tasks (things that require your focus and concentration) with mindless tasks (things you can do automatically without really thinking about them). For example, listen to a teaching webinar or podcast while you are organizing your workspace. Get more things done in less time with this strategy!
Be careful with this one, however—you need to be honest about what exactly you can multitask with. Working on two brain activities at the same time will probably just increase your feelings of burnout, and you likely won't be able to do either one of them very well.
Feeling a little lost in terms of what you should be spending your time on? Ask yourself these 7 questions to improve time management and determine your best activities to work on...
1) If you could change ONE thing about your business, what would it be?
Would you want to have more clients? Perhaps more time? Is there something you find especially frustrating or lacking in your business?
If you need more clients, you should probably spend more time hustling to promote your services and meet potential clients. If you need a particular supplementary skill or some professional development to provide a higher-quality service to your clients, you might want to make that a priority in your day.
2) What is your biggest weakness?
It’s important to know what your weakness is, and to do something about it to work with or around it, to see if your weakness is being a time-suck and preventing you from working on the tasks that really matter.
So with that in mind... what is that big weakness you have? What have you been doing over the past few weeks to overcome that weakness, and what have your results been like? Improve time management by being aware of your weaknesses so you can do something about it.
"Improve time management by being aware of your weaknesses so you can DO something about it" - @Saganlives
3) Where does your ideal client spend their time (both online and offline locations)?
If you are in need of more clients, guess what—you need to go to where they are! If they frequent Facebook or a particular Twitter chat or if they spend their time going to gala dinners in your city, you need to make an effort to hustle and meet them to get that face time.
You can’t expect that they will find you if you spend all of your time in spaces where they aren’t hanging out.
4) Where are there redundancies built into your workflow?
What can you do to streamline your processes? If you spend a lot of time replicating work or repeating tasks over and over, can you implement automated systems, or cut out tasks altogether? This could free things up immensely and help improve time management!
5) Is there anything you can outsource?
Your clients hire you because you provide a skill they don’t have themselves, or because they don’t have the time to do it.
If you don’t have the time or the skill to do a task well in your own business, you too could save yourself so much energy and headache by outsourcing to someone else. Think accountants, virtual assistants, etc. to help you manage administrative tasks, social media marketing, or bookkeeping, for example.
6) Where are you currently spending your time?
To improve time management in business, you should have an idea of where the day goes. Where do you spend all of your time?
If you don’t know what you’re spending your time on, and you’re having problems getting clients or growing your business, take a few days to monitor absolutely everything you spend time on. Before monitoring everything closely, you might not have realized that you spent a total of 3 hours on Facebook one day, or an hour and a half tweaking something tiny on your website that really isn’t a priority.
Take a good hard look at where you are currently spending your time so that you can more accurately identify what isn’t working and where you shouldn’t spend your time. (I like using Toggl to accurately track time.)
7) Are you more likely to focus on little details or big-picture items?
If you like working on everyday tasks but you aren’t interested in having planning sessions or strategizing for the long-term, that could really be limiting your growth and progress as a business owner.
Likewise, if you like to do lots of big-picture thinking, you might end up neglecting your work for clients or doing important social media marketing that can, when added up, make a difference. Recognize what you are more likely to focus your energies on so that you can deliberately set aside time every day or each week for tasks you might be neglecting.