There are many great reasons to be a freelancer. Unfortunately, there are also some challenges you must be prepared for as well. Knowing how to manage your time well is one of the biggest issues you will need to figure out.
Being good at the services you provide isn’t going to be enough to make a steady income being self-employed. You must also know how to manage your time wisely. You don’t have the luxury of having a boss provide the structure you need to meet your goals. This is something you’re going to need to figure out on your own, which requires you to identify ways that you are using your time inefficiently.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always clear when you are wasting your time. Many freelancers spend a lot of time on tasks that keep them busy, but don’t help them reach their long-term professional and financial goals. They often rationalize dedicating time to these tasks, since they keep them busy.
One of the biggest lessons that you were going to need to learn is that your priority should not be keeping yourself busy. You need to focus on improving productivity and meeting your milestones.
Here are some ways that you may be wasting time without even realizing it.
Marketing to the wrong potential clients
There are two types of potential clients that you will run into:
- People that will eventually have a decent amount of paying work for you.
- People that will never actually hire you, but like to talk a big game and waste your time.
Sadly, the second category of potential clients is a lot more prevalent than we would like. These people may not genuinely intend to waste your time. A lot of them are simply in denial about how fast their business is growing and how much they are going to need to outsource. You may also want to focus on clients that you know have money, or are already in a profitable niche.
Otherwise, you may end up dealing with potential clients will sit down with you for a couple of lunch meetings and talk about how great your relationship is going to be in the future. Some will boast about how fast their company is growing. Others won’t have even officially launched their company yet, but will be convinced that they will have lots of customers and need to outsource a lot of work for you as soon as they open their doors.
Here are some things to look for during your conversations to avoid this mistake:
- Avoid clients that talk too much about their success. They are usually overcompensating for the fact their company really isn’t growing as fast as they would like.
- Talk to clients that have projects they need you to start working on right away.
- Get clients from referrals that you trust. If one of your contacts has a good track record for referring paying customers, you should put those referrals at the top of your list.
You need to keep in mind the 80/20 rule. This means that 80% of your business is going to come from 20% of your clients. You will have a lot more time when you avoid working with people that waste your time with endless meetings and email exchanges without delivering any paying work.
Avoid networking events that do not pan out for you
I don’t mean to knock networking events in general. They can be a great way to drum up business. However, they are not equally beneficial for your business. Some of them will be a great investment, while others will be a total waste of your time. Also, just because they work well for some professionals does not mean they are appropriate for your business model.
A number of self-employed professionals have said that they get over 70% of their business from BNI networking groups. They have a proven track record of helping people get high quality leads. But does this mean they are worth your time?
One freelance writer was invited to review a couple BNI groups, but found they wouldn’t really help with their business goals. This freelancer primarily worked on retainer for large marketing agencies. They had enough clients to stay busy for long periods of time. It didn’t make sense for them to invest so much time and money in BNI when they already had as much work as they could handle.
You also need to keep in mind that many networking groups are really more focused on building social connections. Rotary and 20-30 our groups don’t typically have a great reputation for bringing in paying customers. It is fine to join them if you want to make social connections, but you are likely to be disappointed if you sign up solely for growing your business.
A better alternative to this might be to simply run your own online webinar and connect with potential clients through more detailed and longer one-on-one sessions. When you think about webinars, you likely think of the ones you commonly see on Facebook that are always pushing products and sales. However, there are actually several webinar meanings and how each of them can be setup and used to a freelancers advantage.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before joining a networking group:
- How well is this networking group working for people in a similar line of business? If your colleagues aren’t able to get paying clients from them, then they probably aren’t worth your time.
- What types of clients are you looking for? If you specialize in serving companies in a specific industry, then you are going to want to find a networking group that caters to them. For example, some web designers specialize in designing websites for wineries. It might make more sense for them to spend time at networking events for wine professionals than other web professionals that have never talked to a winery owner.
- How many long-term clients do you already have? If you are already on retainer with enough clients to keep you busy for the next few months, then you shouldn’t waste your time going to networking events to meet potential clients that you don’t have time to serve.
Joining a networking group may or may not be a good use of your time. Don’t be afraid to walk away from one that isn’t worthwhile.
Reading all emails in detail
Poor email management is one of the biggest times sinks for any business owner. According to a survey by OfficeTime, the majority of business owners spend over an hour a day going through emails. Nearly a quarter of them spend at least two hours a day.
You need to have a sister to minimize the time you waste with emails. It isn’t a good idea to read every single word in every email you got. Know how to categorize them and delete any that clearly aren’t worth your time.
“Marketing” on social media
You have probably read statistics about how great social media can be for expanding the reach of your business. While these statistics are certainly on point, you can also spend more time than is necessary on social media.
Its not just about how much time you are spending on social media, it’s also about how effective your content is as well. For example, if you are marketing on Twitter, it’s best to focus on their current trends. With Instagram, it’s all about using popular hashtags.
You may find that you only need to spend half an hour a week composing posts and replying to social media replies. If you are spending more time creating too many posts or commenting on feeds that don’t get any visibility for your business, then you are simply wasting your time.
You also need to be objective about how many leads you are getting from social media. It can be great for some freelancers, but others find that almost all of their business comes from face-to-face marketing. If engaging with people on Facebook or Twitter isn’t paying dividends for your company, then you may not want to spend any time on it at all.
Writing daily blog posts
When you are a professional blogger, your blog is obviously your business. You should be creating a blog posts every day to increase traffic to your website. However, you don’t need to be a business to have a profitable blog. Take a look at any of these success stories and you will be amazed at how some individuals have found success through blogging.
That same rule does not apply for freelancers. Freelancers often don’t make money from their blog itself. They are going to see diminishing returns from additional blog posts. It may be worth writing a post every other week or even once a month just to keep it fresh.
When looking at your options with content creation and blogging, you need to decide if you want to write and build a blog for the long term, or write for others and make your earnings up front.
Be Productive. Not Busy.
We live in a very fast-paced society. People pride themselves on working long hours and even boast about how much time they invest in their business. The problem is that clocking long hours doesn’t necessarily bring you in more money, especially if you are self-employed and wasting your time on non billable work. You need to recognize tasks that turn out to be a waste of time and avoid them like the plague.
The world of freelance writing is a fun, exciting, and profitable one — but you need to make sure your content and writing is better than the competition, and that you are putting in the time and effort to acquire new clients. With so many freelancers in the world today, it’s way too easy to fall into the crowd and find your side business suffering in the process.