Myth Of Freelancing - Time Management
July 09, 2012
After talking about the myth that you are your own boss I want to talk about something else that is likely the most common misunderstanding when people talk about freelancers and business owners. The myth that everyone always has time whenever they want.
I do not know how often I hear people saying things like "you always have time, you are self employed" or "I want to become a freelancer so I can work whenever I want not when people tell me to. I am not entirely sure if people understand what it means running a business and what time management is.
There are two different things we should talk about. Freelancing and running a business. This are only to some degree the same things.
You discovered that you are able to do something other people cannot or do not want to do. And you thought that it would be cool to make money with your skills because you enjoy doing it. So you need someone who is willing to pay you and we assume you found someone.
You meet with you client, you discuss what you will be doing, how much you charge, when you will be paid,… and if you do not start with this yourself your client will. When will you finish the job. No matter if you take care of the garden or develop the next big social network that is, of course, killing Facebook the question will always be when you can show results.
If you are doing work you have a contract and in most cases there will be dates you have to stick to. If you do not there will not only be some problems with your client and your payment but you will also, over some time, receive a bad reputation.
We can make this one really short. You have to open your business when your customers are likely to come in and buy something. Maybe a bit variation to your contenders is a good thing but people are used to have a fix timeframe when they can go shopping or contact you.
There are business hours and customers, employees and suppliers expect you to stick to them or they are likely to do their business with someone else who does not disturb the existing workflow.
Your Biggest Enemy - Friends And Family
This sounds a bit exaggerating but there is one common problem, especially when you first start running your own business. Your friends and family know that you do not have fixed hours. Helping your grandparents, picking up your parents, hiring prostitutes for your friend - everyone thinks you have time whenever you want and, of course, are willing to help them.
Saying "no" to your friends and family is not always easy but the first thing you should learn. This does not mean that you should not help them if you can but you have to finish projects and work on your company. This takes time and effort. Especially when you start you cannot waste it for everything someone comes up with.
Your Work, Your Schedule
I think we can agree that you have to stick to some deadlines and cannot always act freely and help everyone you want to help anytime. But this is only half the truth.
You have projects that have to be delivered on date x. When and how much you work from the point where you sign the contract to x does not matter. You can do all your work in the middle of the night, sleep till 1 p.m. and make your calls and client contacts. No one cares when you finished your work on x in time.
It is important that you communicate with your clients when and how they can reach you. If you decide to sleep till 1 p.m. and your client can only call you at 9 a.m. there will be a communication problem. Sometimes you just have to rethink your day if you notice that some problems occur.
Emails provide a big advantage. You can read and reply whenever you want. But be careful, some people believe that working in the middle of the night is a sign of a problematic lifestyle or that you just came home from a party and remembered that you forgot something. This is a really small minority but depending on your clients and the field you are working in it is possible that this happens to you. As always there is no general answer I can give you. This is something you have to learn yourself and gain your own experiences.
Another advantage is that you can make sure you have time for your friends and family. The difference between the horror scenarios I explained and the advantage is that you can easily work on a sunday if you feel like it and help your grandparents on a monday morning. From time to time this is fine. You do not have to be always reachable for your clients and you deliver in time so everyone is happy and helping the important people in your life is possible.
You can manage your time and are more free in your schedule than most people who are employed but being self employed is not the key to a three day work week without anyone demanding results.