Written by Tom Ewer on 29 July 2013
As a freelancer, it’s a constant challenge to stay motivated and maintain the level of discipline required to remain focused on tasks.
There are so many distractions when you work from home that can result in your planned six hour day quickly turning into an eight or nine hour, less profitable day.
In this post I’ll consider three ways to help you save time and make more money.
1. Track Your Time
Time tracking, although typically used by freelancers who charge by the hour, can be just as useful a tool for project based freelancers.
Tracking how you spend your time is valuable, as it will provide you with the insights you need in order to achieve the maximum equivalent hourly rate.
Tracking allows you to assess your own productivity by determining how much time you've wasted working inefficiently or doing unprofitable tasks. It also allows you to assess the value of the types of projects you work on. Even if you charge clients a flat rate, you still need to know roughly how many hours it takes you to complete a job so you can ensure you are not underselling or overselling yourself.
Tracking software will provide you with an accurate, historically-proven record upon which to base your future pricing levels.
2. Track Your Equivalent Hourly Rate Per Client
As I've mentioned before, a freelance business’ growth is determined by billable hours and the hourly rate where the goal is to achieve a maximum rate per hour.
As all freelancers know, hours worked and hours billed are two very different things. Whilst staying organised can reduce your number of non-billable hours you also need to ensure that your equivalent hourly rate per client adds up. A simple calculation for this is:-
Total Net Income / Hours Worked = Equivalent Hourly Rate (Total)
Total Net Income Per Client / Hours Worked Per Client = Equivalent Hourly Rate Per Client
Working for the right amount of money will subconsciously push you to deliver an excellence whilst working for less may subconsciously make you care less, resulting in substandard work and ultimately the loss of clients.
So it is vitally important to set your rates accordingly and refrain from taking on new clients who could cost you in terms of money and time. Once you’ve ascertained how financially valuable a client is to you, then you can consider other factors such as ease of working relationship or possibility of new lead generation, to establish whether continuing to work the client makes sense.
3. Manage Your Email Volume Efficiently
Due to the online, digital nature of freelancing, receiving a daily mass of email correspondence is inevitable. It’s easy to get into the habit of frequent checking by keeping your email tab open and accessible at all times.
Email can kill your productivity, so what is the best way to manage an inbox full of emails that demand your time and effort?
Firstly, try limiting yourself to dealing with emails in two batches per day. Ideally this should be once in the morning before you start your day, and once in the afternoon before your working day ends.
Have a superficial run through received mail, deleting all junk/spam, responding immediately to simple questions or requests for documents etc., and marking anything that requires a more in-depth response or action as unread or starred. This will keep your inbox tidy, minimise the chance of important emails being overlooked or lost and it’ll also be a less stressful experience when you log on and see an orderly screen.
Also, filter out the junk and spam, turn off notifications for your social media accounts and unsubscribe from any unnecessary newsletters or mailing lists. Don’t feel obliged to open all your mail. If you read a subject line, or see a certain sender that you deem unimportant, simply delete it.
Similarly, cut down on the back-and-forth email ping pong. Keep replies succinct and always try to pre-empt any further queries your client may have so you can include all the relevant information first time round.
And if you’re still worrying about missing something then tell yourself this; surely if it was that important the person would contact you by telephone.
I suppose the ultimate question here is: how highly do you value your own time?
I’d guess that most freelancers gave up regular employment to pursue a better work-life balance, so maximising your hourly rate will allow you to keep working hours at a minimum affording you more free time for family, hobbies, or other interests.
Time tracking apps and software will help you to manage your time more effectively, capitalise on opportunities, and ensure you retain the best and most valuable clients.
Put simply, you will become a more productive, efficient and successful freelancer. That is a great goal to achieve.