Time - The Most Important Resource
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Unless you’re fabulously rich and unnaturally enamored of doing projects for other people, you freelance mainly to earn money. And as the old saying goes, time is money. Whether you work by the hour or by the project, the more time you are able to devote to your craft, the more money you will make—all else being equal. Of course, all else isn’t always equal, but the fact remains that there are only so many hours in a day, and if you want to do well at freelancing you need to ensure that you spend enough hours working at it. More than that, you want to use those hours effectively, too: quality matters as much as quantity. This is often easier said than done, of course, and there are a lot of different issues to take into account.
In the online career options section of the introduction chapter, I explored various ways that one can freelance online. These generally boil down to two main approaches: full time or part time. Both have their place, and which you choose will have a significant impact on how you deal with the issue of time and your work.
Intuitively, part-time freelancing seems like it would be the most difficult when it comes to time management, and in practical terms, that is often the case. You have to juggle a full-time work commitment on top of everything a full-time freelancer needs to deal with. Since you’re starting from a smaller pool of available hours, a larger percentage of time will need to be carved out for your freelance work, especially outside normal working hours.
Full-time freelancers have their own time issues, though. They have to be able to map out larger blocks for doing work, which as we’ll see, can be challenging. They also don’t have the security of a full-time job and thus may feel pressure to perform that can actually make it harder to perform. Also, since they need more work to keep themselves busy, they must spend a larger amount of time on non-paying activities such as scanning for projects and bidding. Finally, they can’t “cherry pick” the better projects as readily as part-timers can, and so may do a higher-percentage of less desirable tasks.
I was going to start out this portion of the discussion by saying that you need to set aside time for work, but I think that’s really not the right phrase. It’s better to say you need to dedicate time for work, because that conveys better the idea that this must be made a priority.
Some freelancers try to do freelance work just in their “spare time” or “when they feel like it”. It’s possible to succeed with this approach as a part-timer, but it’s extremely difficult. Most of those who attempt this find that they “don’t have time” for their freelance careers, because their “free time” quickly gets consumed by other demands, ranging from family time to household chores to leisure pursuits. If they don’t devote a certain amount of time to work, it simply doesn’t happen.
Dedicated time is especially important for full-time freelancers, and doubly so for those who are pursuing activities that require concentration. You absolutely must commit to spending a certain amount of time each day to your work. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day, or even every day at all. And not all of your freelancing work time must be dedicated in this manner: there are some activities (and even some disciplines) where you can get by doing work while other things are happening. But if you don’t decide on a certain number of hours each work that are only for work, it’s not likely you will get where you want to go.
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