By Vishal P. Rao
As a freelancer or small entrepreneur running a home-based business, there’s no doubt you’re already loving the benefits of being able to work when you want, for as long as you want, without having to worry about your ‘boss’ asking what the heck you are doing every five minutes.
But while working from home has many advantages, many freelancers find that after taking on a good number of clients they’re presented with an altogether different challenge – they simply cannot find enough time in the day to get everything done!
Most people experience problems with time management at some point, even those who work from home full time. For those who combine their freelancing work with a full time, 9 to 5 job, the problem can be especially difficult – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Lots of freelancers wish they could ‘make more time’, but of course that simply isn’t possible. There are 24 hours in the day, no more and no less, and so you have to use them wisely if you’re serious about making money. We can’t make time, but we can certainly ‘free up’ some of the time that we do have. The trick is in knowing how to do so.
Basically we have two options:
1. Get yourself better organized to make more efficient use of your time.
2. Identify gaps in our schedule that can be filled in with work.
Getting Yourself Organized:
The first option is to simply try and become more efficient. This is especially relevant for those who are working from home full time, as they have full control over how they manage their time.
The key to organizing your time better is to get your work station organized first. After all, if you can’t that organized, how on earth are you going to do anything more efficiently?
Start with your desk – clear out all of that clutter so there are no distractions in your work space. See, doesn’t that make you feel better already?
Now, let’s look at some things that everyone can do to get their freelancer life in order:
- Administration – no matter what business you’re in, there will be some amount of administrative work that you have to perform (emailing clients, billing and invoices). Start by creating a new folder and keeping all of these records in one place. Use services such as Google Docs, and list these by project or client so that you can find them easier. Do a similar thing with your tax records. If you need to bill multiple clients or track hours, use a service such as Billing Tracker or Invoicera to automate these tasks
- Contacts – Use Gmail and create a separate inbox for work contacts. These contacts can be color coded so that you can immediately identify messages relating to specific clients/projects etc.
- Projects – Keep a separate folder for each client and project, so that you can find things faster and avoid making mistakes like emailing the documents to the wrong client.
Identifying Gaps in Your Schedule:
Now that you’re better organized, you’ll definitely be able to work faster and more productively, so it should already feel as if you have more time in the day. The last thing to look at is your daily schedule. Bear in mind that it’s very important for freelancers to have a daily routine, and so if you don’t already have a schedule, you should definitely make one.
Obviously, you can be flexible with this schedule. We all like to ‘take off’ now and again, and indeed, that’s one of the reasons most people decide to work from home in the first place, but in most cases we’ll be sat at home throughout the day, and so we should definitely plan how we use our time.
You should make a schedule for your entire day, so that means including things like cooking dinner, getting the kids ready for school, etc, etc. By making a schedule and sticking to it religiously, you’ll probably already find that you have more time to get things done. But if you still need more time, it might be possible to find ‘extra time’ within the gaps in your schedule.
Most likely, you’ll be screaming at me “I don’t have any gaps in my schedule!”
You’ll be right of course – none of us do. Everyone leads busy lives these days, and our schedules are jam-packed. But it doesn’t mean our schedule doesn’t have room for more work. The key is to identify and then utilize those uncommitted chunks of time that are littered throughout our daily schedules, instead of doing unproductive things like playing on Facebook or watching YouTube.
Here are some possibilities:
- Your lunch hour
- While you’re cooking dinner
- Waiting around (at the doctor’s/for meetings to start etc)
- While you’re sat on the bus/train commuting each day
Obviously these are all pretty short periods of time, but they can certainly be utilized effectively. Instead of simply reading a magazine or browsing on Facebook, use this time to get small jobs out the way – sending emails, creating invoices, filling out forms – whatever you have time to do during these short periods. All of this adds up, and you could easily find an extra 45 minutes to one hour in your working day.
Vishal P. Rao has been doing business online since 2003 and runs a popular discussion forum for those who work at home. When he is not working, he spends time doing meditation and yoga.