Back in September I wrote a piece on Time Management. Good time management skills help you organize your time wisely, get all your work done and keep on your clients’ good side. Going a step further, as a self-employed person, should you set yourself set work hours? This is an interesting question. If you don’t establish some type of schedule or work hours, you’ll have a tough time keeping on top of things.
I know what you’re thinking, “hey, I became self-employed to avoid working set hours and to work when and how I want”. While that may be true, you won’t get very far without good work habits. There is a widespread misconception that self-employed people have it easy as they can work as little as they want as opposed to others who have to work a typical 9 to 5 day. If you are one of those people, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Whilst as a self-employed person you are no longer an employee that has to follow company policy, at the end of the day you still have to eat which means being productive and productivity requires organization.
How about setting office/ operational hours when you will be available to take clients’ calls, respond to emails, schedule consultations etc? It will also give you the focus and motivation you’ll need to get out of bed and get work done. You can do that by gauging when you are going to be most productive, your clients’ office hours etc. For example, if part of your job involves being in contact with banks or public administration offices, your operating hours would have to coincide with theirs.
Even though one of the perks of being a freelancer is being able to work flexible work hours, don’t go overboard. Be careful of endless coffee breaks with friends or putting recreational activities before your work. Drag yourself out of bed at a reasonable hour, preferably the same time everyday and be strict with yourself so that you can be as productive as possible. Your clients need to know that you are contactable but if they never know when you’re working and you are never available when they call, they will soon tire of chasing you.
You could go the opposite direction and turn into a complete workaholic (not a good idea either). As a start up business, you are full of enthusiasm plus you need to get your business off the ground so it is only natural that it will occupy nearly every waking moment but… burn out alert! Give yourself some down time as well by setting boundaries. That way you’ll continue to enjoy your work.
I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say that I sometimes work more hours than I probably should but in fairness, I normally do that after I’ve finished working on my clients’ projects and I’m researching ideas for my own business or the writing bug kicks in and my fingers are flying over the keyboard like they are on fire! As a business owner, you still need to find time to market your own business, do your own administration and accounts so my advice would be to schedule time in your working day to do just that.
Recently, I have begun to set aside a day or a morning that I spend furthering my own business which means ensuring that my clients have been taken care of. Basically, setting operations hours for yourself pushes you to be productive and make the most of your work day. It will allow you to remain focused on your business instead of aimlessly drifting between projects not getting much done. Think about the hours you need to work each day, time you need to further your own business, family time and hobbies and you’ll be set.