Do your friends envy your freelance lifestyle? When you tell people that you work from home, most people assume you enjoy long lie-ins, spend mornings eating cake in coffee shops and finish up early afternoon, so you get to have some ‘me-time’. However, how many freelancers actually get the work/life balance right? I suspect most freelancers fail to use their time effectively and maximise productivity during work time.
As a freelancer, particularly if you work from home, it can be tough. Distractions are everywhere; from your phone to the washing machine, the delivery man to the news – I mean, in the last ten minutes something big might have happened?! As a result, those working hours that you set always overrun and you end up still staring at your screen at eight o’clock at night wondering where the day went.
The solution to keeping work and play time separate is to plan your days effectively. This means forgoing the time-suckers. I know it’s hard, but it can help you to reach your goals quicker, giving you a better work/life balance or enabling you to expand your business.
So, what should you do to help manage your time better and make sure you finish work each day at a reasonable how and even – whisper it – have a few more days off?
A to-do list can be a great way to stay on track for a day. However, it gets you from A to B; it doesn’t allow you to think big and take control of your business. I’m not saying scrap the to-do list (I couldn’t live without it) but give yourself tasks that see you through the week, the month and the year too.
For example, block out time to analyse your monthly progress – what went well/what do you need to improve? Make sure you book some time out each week to plan your next week ahead. You can also add daily tasks which will become a habit, such as posting on social media and following up on enquiries.
Don’t check emails straightaway
The biggest time-sucker is answering emails when they come in. If you check your emails first-thing, it could be an hour later by the time you get around to your first project. Then, the responses will start to come in and your whole day may pass without you actually earning a single penny.
Instead, set a time to check your emails, say midday, and that way you’ll complete a morning of work before you worry about future work and responses.
Make tangible, specific goals
So, by next year you want to work less, in three months you want to earn more money, but how are you going to make that happen if you don’t know exactly what you want to achieve? It is essential to make your goals more tangible so you can actually measure your progress. By measuring your progress, you’ll have the motivation you need to make the most out of freelancing and cut the time-suckers out of your working life.
So instead of saying you want to work less, say you want to be working four days a week in six months’ time. Alternatively set yourself a figure of how much you want to earn in a month and give yourself that steps that will get you there such as increasing your rates, improving your marketing and sending more pitches.
So, the next time you find yourself on a time-sucker, think about what you may be missing out on, whether its more free time, more money or something else entirely!