Ever been strapped for cash?
I’m guessing most of you are thinking, “More like “ever NOT been strapped for cash?” Same thing goes for being pressed for time. (Got to love the descriptive verbs there – strapped, pressed – they pretty much nail the feeling, don’t they?)
I heard a somewhat profound statement about this struggle. The speaker said that most people who feel like there’s never enough money to stay afloat have a very hard time accounting for where their money went. Same thing goes for people who feel like they don’t have enough time to “get it all done.”
How do you solve the money thing? Financial folks tell us to keep a record of what we spend. Actually, if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably been told to keep a food diary – it’s the same idea. You’re more careful about what you spend, or what you eat, just because you’re more aware of it.
Why does time management matter for freelance writers?
After all, isn’t flexibility what puts the ‘free’ into freelance? Yes. Of course! Because you’re not punching a clock, or spending your day commuting, you’ve got the freedom to have lunch with a friend, pick up a sick child from school, take care of small children, or whatever else you want and need to do. In fact, lots of people get into freelance writing because, as they assess the situation, all they’ve got is talent and time. It’s a way to turn a few hours a day into a steady income.
But what if you want to move beyond just taking what comes your way – and actually build a business?
One of the first lessons – and it may be a strange mental adjustment for you – is that your time is actually THE most important commodity you have.
If you ever took an Economics class, you probably remember the part about ‘opportunity cost’ – maybe you still even have nightmares about it! Basically, it states that for each action you take (or investment you make), you shut the door on other possibilities.
Think about it – what other resource do you have that can’t be replaced? Your time is extremely valuable. You will never get back the two or three minutes it takes you to read this article (no pressure for me or anything!). It’s up to you to direct, to master your time. You cannot afford to waste it.
Time mastery is a cornerstone of any successful business. You don’t find Bill Gates playing Sudoku (probably), or Oprah watching soap operas – they’re entrepreneurs, people of action, people who know how much their time is worth. Are you any different?
What Are Your Shop Hours?
The butcher, the baker, and even the candlestick maker all have one thing in common. They have set hours of business. Doesn’t matter when they start or stop – in fact their businesses probably don’t revolve around the 9-5 world. Having worked in a bakery as a teen, I was the last employee to arrive – at 6 a.m.!
What does this mean for you, as a freelance writer?
Freelance writers have a double-edged blessing and challenge. We’ve got (within the limits of deadlines) complete time freedom. This is wonderful! If your child is sick, you don’t have to go begging for a personal day to play nurse. If you want to go out to lunch, great! Same thing if you prefer to work late at night. Nobody cares when you work – as long as you get the job done well.
But that brings up the dark side of time freedom. Nobody cares how you spend your day. There’s not a whole lot of accountability. And until you learn how to master your time, you’ll struggle with using it effectively.
The next step after becoming aware of how you spend your time is to set store hours for yourself.
This is fun – it’s one more way you get to design your life (yet another perk when you become a freelance writer). Look at your schedule. Do you have another job? Do you have children? Other obligations you need to take care of? Things you just like to do each day? No problem. You can work around them. The idea is to set definite times during your day that you’ll commit to working on and in your business. These are your shop hours.
What happens during your shop hours? You work.
Opening the shop on time can be more than a little challenging, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s very easy to get sidetracked – to do the things that are easy, rather than the things you need to do. More than a few freelance writers get stuck before they even start. It’s a lot more fun to obsess over your brand new website, business cards, and brochure than to actually jump in and find work. And it’s always a temptation to throw a load of laundry in rather than to tackle that article about Nanny-Cams (number 17 in a series of 20!).
It’s also a challenge to close the shop on time. We all say, “Just one more paragraph, one more proposal, one more invoice” when it’s time to stop. It probably requires more self-discipline to stop working on time than it does to start working. But in the end, this work, work, work tendency can be just as damaging to your business (and even more, to your life).
Up for a challenge?
– Keep track of your time. (Use the Google calendar if you need an easy way to do this.)
– Decide – and WRITE DOWN – your store hours. What time does your shop open and close each day?
Works for the fellows in the nursery rhyme – it’ll work for us, too.