Productivity and GTD
How to Manage Your Time if You Are a Self-Employed Worker
Time management is a challenge for anyone. However, if there is one type of professional that faces it as a challenge and an obligation at the same time, that is the independent one.
Self-employed people are businesses and as such, they have to manage all departments of those businesses: they run projects, manage their customers, seek new projects and customers and also can become the accountant and the marketing director. In short, they do so many things that time management is not just a challenge, it is something they are bound to do.
In order to facilitate this task, I will give you six tips that should help you “steal hours from the clock” so that your days won’t not a succession of eating, working and sleeping.
1. Select your clients carefully
The biggest concern of the newly self-employed is finding new clients. Actually, at first they usually accept almost anything in order to get started and to begin generating profits. During a (small) amount of time this may be fine, so you can enter the market slowly and get used to it, but eventually you have to select your clients.
Remember that two projects that generate 2,000€ and 150€ each one will require substantially the same process and time management. You need to talk to the prospect, convince him, have meetings, send contracts and exchange emails in both cases, and that will probably take the same amount of time.
For this reason, and for many others as the price that these customers are willing to pay, you must reject some projects. Sometimes you even have to reject large projects because you know they are going to take you too much time and, despite the economic benefit, they are not worth it. You don’t need to accept them.
Also, if you spend all your time with existing clients you will never leave room to accept new ones. What if tomorrow comes a project you can’t refuse? Where do you put it? Are you going to extend your working day? Always leave some room. Accept only the clients that are useful to boost your business and never keep those that no longer generate profit.
2. Calculate your prices well
Time is money and if you don’t know how to value it, you will be wasting it. If you do not charge enough for your services you may end up working day and night to earn enough to just survive.
All the time you spend working on a client is lost time. All the time you work on a project is time that you are not using to generate new customers. Therefore you need to put a price that gives you the freedom to accept only what makes wasting your time worth.
3. If you think it is going to take two hours, estimate four
Surely you’ve heard of Murphy’s Law. Apply that law whenever you need to estimate the time you will take to implement a project. If something can go wrong, assume that eventually it will go wrong and you will succeed.
Unless they are very specific and measurable tasks, always add a margin of time for the duration that you’ve calculated. That is, if you think that doing something is going to take you two hours, add half an hour, an hour or even two hours more to your estimation to avoid getting nervous later.
4. Say goodbye to multitasking
Your day should be like a closet full of messy drawers. Open one, order it, close it and get to the next one, but never try to order four drawers at a time. Divide your day into tasks and fulfill them.
Multitasking is overrated and if you are self-employed you must flee from it like the plague. Block your time, focus on projects and tasks at specific moments and you will increase your productivity.
Remember to generously estimate the time for each task and that way you will never end up working more than necessary or overlapping tasks. In addition, you’ll always feel better if you complete one task before time than if you end it after the predicted time.
5. Block out distractions
If you need to write an article, design a website or just write an email to a customer, forget the rest. Do not open the email, Photoshop, Twitter, and Facebook all at the same time and have the mobile ringing again and again.
Block social networks, put your phone in airplane mode, and set a schedule for checking the email. Email can be the biggest enemy to your productivity, even more than social networks. You can destroy the entire planning for your day with nothing more than having it open.
6. Delegate everything that is not vital to your business
The Pareto Law says that 20% of the tasks that you do will generate 80% of your profits. Do you know what are that 20%? Are you delegating the other 80% or most of it? If not, you’re wasting your time.
For example, it is very common for a self-employed individual to delegate all financial matters. Will you improve your business if you present your taxes or account your bills yourself? No, and for that reason it must be delegated. Paying money to an agency becomes an investment rather than an expense, because during the time they do your dull tasks, you can perform tasks of that 20% of which we have spoken and you can generate many more benefits than the money spent.