Running your own business, working for yourself or freelancing for a living are all different ways of working than your typical nine-to-five job. You gain more control over your hours, your work and life balance, and the tasks that you take on. Having a job is nice because you can turn up and get paid no matter how productive your day is (within reason!). Working freelance demands a different approach that is not always determined by time spent.
Many freelancers begin their careers in the normal nine-to-five work environment. In such an environment, there are specific expectations. You must show up on time, stay for the full day, even if tasks are complete, and you can only take breaks at set times in the day. To me, this is insane, and every employer should, for their benefit, get their head around the fact that this is an unnatural, unsustainable and altogether pointless way to work.
Let me explain my thoughts on how to view time as a freelancer. It’s the only one way of looking at it, but for me, it’s useful. Time is what you use to complete the outstanding tasks that you have to do today. Once your tasks are complete, you don’t have to worry about it.
At this point, make sure you understand that I am not at all saying that you should rush your work, cut corners or sacrifice quality to get your work done quickly. That’s not the idea at all. Quality is the number one priority, and every task you complete will be your “best work.” Why? Because you will take the time to do it properly.
Maintain a high standard of quality in every piece of work that you produce so that you feel pride and joy in what you do, and so that your clients are happy. After all, there’s only around a 1/200 chance of your business succeeding. Granted this is much better odds than winning the lottery or a million-dollar poker tournament, but it still means that most businesses will eventually fail. You will not be one of those people — hard work in the right areas will be the key to your success.
If you choose to follow my perspective, you won’t sit at your desk not doing anything for four hours because you think that it is your “responsibility” to do so. You won’t be trying to push yourself to do eight-hour days when you feel burnt out and incapable of producing your best stuff. This sadistic attitude is left over from your nine-to-five days. You don’t need to think like that.
So, here are a few tips to help you reduce the amount of time you spend sitting at your desk not doing anything constructive while not getting paid for it. First, identify your workload. What tasks do you have to do for clients? DO NOT identify pointless tasks to fill your day. You don’t need to check and respond to emails for three hours or check the stock market just in case your imaginary investment pays off. Stick to the work that you want and need to do, and prioritize it so that you know how much you have for the day/week/month.
Now explore how you like to work. Do you prefer to get tasks done in small bursts, ticking off from a to-do list? Do you like to split your day and workload into two manageable chunks? Or do you love working for 10 solid hours without a break? It’s up to you. If you get your work done, and it is of high quality to satisfy your clients, then it doesn’t matter. You won’t have a boss (other than your mind) breathing down your neck telling you that 9 a.m. is the best time of day to write an essay. Anytime is the best time if the work is awesome.
Freelancing is a broad term, so freelancer’s workloads and tasks will vary significantly, but nearly everyone will be able to relate to the constant fluctuation of workflow that comes with working for yourself. One week you have loads to do, the next week nothing. I say enjoy it! Try to balance everything so that you have constant work and income, but if one week is busy, then just knuckle down and get it done, and then relax when the time comes.
The final tip for the day: fixed-price contracts. If you can work fixed-price, then go for it. This is better for everyone. It means that you get paid a set amount for a task. You are paid according to the value that you add, rather than the amount of time it takes you. It will help you to get out of thinking that “time is money” and start thinking, more correctly, that “value is money.” If you produce valuable, top-quality work, then there is no reason why time should even be a factor!
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