As I’ve interacted with many of you here at the blog, I’ve been shocked to learn than many full-time freelancers actually have less free time in their days and weeks than many of you who work full-time somewhere else and still manage to pull off a part-time freelance business.
Whenever I ask about it, the answers are always the same: everything from “It takes a lot of time to manage a business” to “Business must be good if I’ve got no time, right?”
But, chances are, when you started freelancing, you were very excited about the extra “free time” you could potentially have.
No more punching a clock.
You decide your hours.
And if you want to take the day off and run up into the mountains with your family, it’s a done deal.
Then reality sets in
Once you really strike out as a freelancer, you might be disappointed to find out that, to make the same amount of money (or more) than you were making in your cubicle, you have to work twice as many hours.
At least that’s how it seems.
Why you don’t seem to have enough time
But there’s a simple fix for not having enough time as a freelancer.
Here’s the secret:
stop using your time to react; start using your time to act.
Two kinds of work
In this world (no matter where you’re employed) there are essentially two kinds of work: reactive work and proactive work.
Reactive work (and how it ruins your progress)
Think about your morning routine. If you’re like most freelancers (or office-workers anywhere, frankly), it probably involves a little bit of time for yourself followed by a full morning dedicated to other people.
You return phone calls that happened after hours the day before.
You check your email and respond to clients and partners.
You browse through social media leaving comments on blogs, responding to tweets, and posting content for your audience.
And before you know it, it’s 3:30 in the afternoon.
So far, your day has been almost entirely reactive, so now (finally) it’s time to start being proactive.
But it’s 3:30pm, you’re sleepy, you’re getting antsy, and you’re ready to be done for the day. After all, you are a freelancer! Shouldn’t you be able to call it quits at 3:30 now and again?
But your proactive work is just now starting.
The other kind of work is proactive work. This is the work that matters most in this world and brings you the most joy. This is the kind of work that let’s us reach our dreams. This is the work worth doing.
Proactive work includes marketing your freelance business, finding new clients, refining your portfolio, perfecting your sales pitch, and the like. Proactive work can even involve working on client projects.
The point is: proactive work is determined by you. You’re not reacting to the “emergencies” and urgencies of other people.
You’re focusing on what matters most to you and your business.
Put proactive first
I don’t know about you, but at the most groggy part of the day, 3:30 pm, is not the time I want to start working on what matters most to me. I should be doing that early in the morning.
So here are a few ways you can put the most important work ahead of the rest of the tasks you have to accomplish every day:
1. Differentiate between reactive work and proactive work. Before we can even talk about putting proactive work first, we have to identify the difference between reactive work and proactive work.
What tasks are you not in control of? These are reactive tasks (responding to “urgent” emails, putting out “fires” with clients, etc).
What tasks do you own entirely? These are proactive tasks (growing your business, creating content, working on projects).
2. Realize the world won’t stop spinning. Sometimes we think if we don’t respond to comments on our blog, reply to emails marked “urgent,” or thank someone for a RT on twitter that somehow the world will stop spinning.
Are these things important? Of course. Will the world crumble without a few extra tweets? Nope.
Find a time each day when you can focus on responding to comments, emails, or social posts and then resist the temptation to do it all day long. Especially resist the urge to take up your most productive hours with this kind of work. Unless your whole freelance business is built around growing an audience, theses sorts of things can wait.
3. Schedule your day. This is really just a post about time management. If you make a schedule, you’ll be able to put the right kind of work in the right part of the day. Are you a morning person? Put your proactive work first thing in the morning. Do you slump around 1pm? Take a nap and then handle your reactive work.
How to you make proactive work a priority?
I’d love to hear what you do to make proactive work a priority in your freelance career. How do you manage to make time for the most important tasks (proactive work) and still get the rest of the work (reactive work) done? Leave a comment and let me know!