You’ve been working hard on your freelance business, putting in late hours and saying "no" to social engagements. Every day is a whirr of activity, and yet it still seems like you’re slipping behind your competitors. If you feel like you’re falling behind, don’t stay there! Instead, look to your biggest rivals to see what they are doing to best manage their time.
Your competitors set goals.
Your competitors know where they want their business to be in six months—do you? Setting goals is an important component of growing your business and keeping yourself on track. By deciding where you want to be in the next three, six, and twelve months you can make informed choices about which tasks are best to focus on. Write your goals down and don’t forget to celebrate a bit when you reach them.
Your competitors start early.
Unfortunately not everyone is an early bird, but training yourself to get going early in the day can help you get some extra work in. Your competitors use those early morning hours as a time to knock out a few small tasks. These early successes can keep your momentum going through the rest of the day. As an added bonus, the earlier you begin the more likely you’ll have time in the evening for a social life.
Your competitors rule out distractions.
Unless you work in a cave you’ll be dealing with distractions throughout your freelancing career. Your competitors have the same distractions, but they take steps to block them out. This can be as simple as shutting a door or turning off your phone for a while.
Your competitors have a clear working space.
Take a look at your desk: do you see any clutter? If the answer is yes, do what your competitors do and get organized. Throw out all those unimportant notes and scraps of paper. Start a filing system for important documents. This may take a little time at the beginning, but you’ll save time later when you don’t have to search for that crucial phone number under a pile of useless junk.
Your competitors are strict about spending time on each project.
Ever have a project that ruthlessly swallows up day after day? So have your competitors, but they learned to start setting limits on how much they work on each project. Use a schedule (pen and paper or electronic) to decide how much time you should spend on each project every day. Keep deadlines in mind, but be strict about sticking to your schedule as your planned it.
Your competitors know how to use small bits of time.
You’ve got fifteen minutes before a call to a client – what do you do? If you said ‘check Reddit’ then you may want to take a look at your competitors. They have a list of tasks that only take ten or fifteen minutes on hand at all times. Whenever they have a spare bit of time they start moving through the list. Imagine how much you could get done if you did the same.
Your competitors limit the information they receive.
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it before: don’t check Facebook and Twitter while working. Your competitors have heard it too, but they’re taking it to heart. Multitasking is not as easy as it seems. A new piece of information can quickly knock your schedule out of whack, putting you behind for the rest of the day. As tempting as it may be to give your feed just a quick peek, keep that new window closed.
Your competitors have strict working hours.
This is another common piece of advice, but it’s one that your competitors are definitely following. Having “business hours” and sticking to them helps you make the most out of each workday. It’s much easier to put off making that phone call if you know you’ll be done working in another hour. Limiting your work hours also helps prevent burnout, ultimately allowing you to work harder, longer, and better than you could without a schedule.
Your competitors collaborate with others.
While you may have started your freelance career as an antidote to office politics, collaborating with others is likely something your competitors do to help manage their time. Do you have too much work to get done by your next deadline? Other freelancers in your social or professional network can help share the load. Create those relationships now and you may even find them sending work back when your schedule is looking a little lean.
Your competitors have a life!
When it comes right down to it freelancing is a job, not your entire life. Your competitors take time to get out with friends and family, exercise, and pursue hobbies they enjoy. If you feel you don’t have the time for these pursuits because you’re too busy working on your business, now may be the time to reexamine your time management skills. Freelancing is a way to get the life you want: don’t let it take over your life completely.
Your competitors can be your greatest source of motivation when building a freelancing career. Don’t ignore what they have to say when it comes to managing your time—you may be surprised by what you can learn.