8 Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Freelancing

8 Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Freelancing

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium, Sales & Marketing, writing

I got my first freelancing clients almost on a whim, on October 31st, 2016. I began working with clients in the evenings and weekends for November, December, and January.

Once I realized that being a writer was a viable career for me and people were willing to pay me, I made plans to quit my day job as a Director of Business Development at a recruiting firm.

Friday, January 27, 2017 was my last full-time day at my day job.

I was a freelancer.

Though I did a lot of research and asked many questions, I had a lot to learn. Now that I am at a year of freelancing, here are some things I have learned. Use this and make new mistakes and learn new lessons, instead of the ones I’ve made for you.

1. If someone is willing to pay you, then you are skilled enough.

When it comes to freelancing, especially something as subjective as writing, many potential freelancers question their abilities and whether or not their writing is “good enough” for them to be a writer as a full-time career.

Instead of trying to find a way to judge your writing, use your clients as a barometer. If people look at your writing samples and are willing to pay you, then you are definitely good enough.

Pack away the insecurity and focus on improving and on the work for your clients. There is no point in questioning yourself so much, and that insecurity can lead you to not marketing yourself or not having the confidence to attract new clients.

2. You are definitely not charging enough.

Pricing yourself is an exercise in frustration sometimes. You do tons of research on what other people are charging, you try to undercut them, but then you may find that the lower price makes it not worth your time.

As a freelancer, time is your commodity.

Whatever you’re charging, it’s too low. I have seen it time and again from freelancers, including myself, where we are charging one price, but then the actual time the project takes is more than we thought, or there is more research involved or the project is longer, and suddenly your “decent prices” are only getting you $20 an hour.

Charge more. The good clients will pay you for your skills.

And remember: Just because writing comes easily to you does not mean it should be cheap. If clients could do it themselves, they wouldn’t need to hire you. Your skill is valuable.

3. Learn to identify “bad” clients.

The clients who email you at 3 am expecting an immediate response, or who are constantly changing the specs of the project. The ones who are never happy.

The ones who harass you about your prices over and over until you offer a discount.

Just say no. It’s difficult to turn away clients, especially when you are new to freelancing, but the hassle and difficulty in dealing with them and the extra time it takes for you, on top of the lower rate, will bring you down. Not only that, but they take away from the clients who would be paying your regular rate and be great to work with and appreciate you.

Here is a piece I recently wrote about how to identify the bad or negative clients before you start work.

4. Your business will continue to evolve.

When I first started freelancing, I was doing almost entirely one-off articles and blogs for clients and charging per-word prices.

A year later, I have evolved and changed the work I do as I learned more what I enjoyed and how it makes sense for me. Now, I focus on monthly retainer clients and having long-term relationships with them instead of one-time projects, have developed a book coaching service, and have been able to try things I never thought I would — like writing a comic book!

Be open to new experiences and allow yourself to evolve and grow and change as the work you enjoy evolves. Do not force yourself to stick to just one type of work. Try new things, get creative, stay interested.

5. You don’t HAVE to have a niche.

One piece of advice I saw a lot of at the beginning of freelancing was to “just pick a niche and specialize!”

I prefer significant diversity in what I work on, so instead of focusing on one industry or type of client, I chose to be a generalist. This has allowed me to have a ton of experiences and learn new things.

I have blogged for law firms, medical cannabis companies, business consultants, life coaches, real estate investors, cryptocurrency and blockchain companies, professional speakers, and more. I’ve edited fiction, nonfiction, and even a children’s book.

As a self-described jack of all trades, I have gotten to explore opportunities I would never have if I’d just stuck to sales, marketing, and career coaching, which my 10 years of corporate experience prepared me for.

Don’t be afraid to try something new and to be a generalist! It’s so much fun having a diverse client base and getting to work on something different each day!

6. Building good relationships is the backbone of my business.

I like to know my clients. Who are they? Why do they love what they do? What are they hoping to get out of the writing services?

Creating a monthly retainer business model has allowed me to have longer relationships and really get to know my clients as people.

I have weekly calls with each of my clients to manage expectations, discuss the tasks and work for the week, and stay connected.

Having been in corporate business development for so long, I deeply acknowledge and understand the strength and use of a great relationship with the people you’re selling to.

Really make a point to get to know your clients as people. Ask questions and be kind and genuine. That relationship is so important! Nurture it!

7. You don’t need a portfolio.

Portfolios are not a bad thing, you CAN have one. But you don’t NEED one to get started as a writer.

As long as you have writing samples, you are good to go. You can publish those samples on a blog or site, or you can just have them as PDFs you attach to emails.

Much of my work is ghostwritten, so even though I have tons of published blogs and articles, none of them would be able to go into a portfolio.

When I first started, I grabbed pieces from my personal blog and wrote a couple samples, and that is all I had to show. These days I direct people here to my Medium blog!

8. Just write. Get started now.

The best thing I learned through my freelancing journey so far is that you don’t need to be super prepared or have a website and business cards and a fancy briefcase.

You can just go out and find ONE client. As soon as you have one, find another.

Figure out the rest as you go. You can research contracts and build a WordPress site later. For now, go out with your writing samples and find a client. The rest will come after.

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Relationship Building for Freelancers: How to Get & Keep Clients

Relationship Building for Freelancers: How to Get & Keep Clients

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium, Sales & Marketing

Apparently, most writers aren’t good at marketing and many salespeople aren’t the best at writing. Or at least that is what people keep telling me.

I am lucky enough to be both, which has been extremely successful for me. It has truly been my superpower, which allowed me to be my own boss and get my business up and running very quickly.

Relationship building is an extremely important skill. Many people who consider themselves extroverted or a ‘people person’ may also find that they are strong at job interviews and good at networking in group settings.

However, more introverted people may find themselves at a surprising advantage in the one-on-one relationships and phone calls which freelancing often requires.

95% of my work and communication is done via email, text, slack, Facebook messenger, etc. And while I am an outgoing, talkative person, this mode of communication is fast, easy, and best of all — does not require pants. But there are ways to be great at phone calls and written communication.

Phone Calls & Relationships

When it comes to winning over potential clients, I believe in the power of a great conversation.

When a prospect is asking me about pricing and information, I don’t just shove my website in their face and tra-la-la away to my next task.

I ask them for a time to jump on a phone call. Instead of giving them a straight-up price, I explain that prices depend on needs and scope of projects, and that monthly retainers are often less expensive than paying per project, per word, or per hour. I say:

“The price depends on your exact needs and can also be impacted by how long we plan to work together. Are you available this afternoon or tomorrow to jump on a short call with me? I can do 3pm EST today or 1pm-4pm tomorrow.”

What I have done here is set them up to expect individual, customized attention and pricing for their needs, and after mentioning the call, instead of leaving it open-ended, I have provided specific time frames.

People are psychologically more likely to respond to the specific timeframes than just a general request for a phone call. It also shows my professionalism. I am available right away, but at specific times. I know my schedule and keep it. I am also punctual.

Once I get them on the phone, I’m golden. I love talking to people and it shows. I smile while I talk to them, I ask and answer questions. I show them my value by giving free information. For example, if we are discussing blogging, I’ll throw out a couple of facts and statistics about SEO and content marketing. If they want book coaching, I tell them what the process looks like and give them information on general lengths of books in different genres and discuss pros and cons of traditional versus self-publishing.

Another thing I do is weekly phone calls with each of my clients. It is a chance for us to check in, update them on my work and progress, and sets and manages expectations on both sides for the week ahead. It also serves to continue to build and solidify our working relationship.

Email & Relationships

Because most communication is done over email, I make sure to let them know what I am up to or ask questions when I need. I am professional but personable over email, saying “hey” and using their first name, unless they have specified not to or are much more formal.

My clients never need to ask what I am working on or where I am at with their work because I make sure to let them know.

I offer free email support to my book coaching clients and make sure to respond to people in a timely manner.

Once they are my clients, I stop selling them. They know what my services are and if they want additional ones, they always let me know. I don’t try to promote my other services or upsell them anymore unless they ask. I might say offhandedly, “Hey, you may not have thought about it, but some social media management would work really well with what we are doing now and would promote your company faster and better. Here are a couple of examples ___. Let me know if you want to discuss it further, and I am also happy to recommend a couple of other fantastic people.”

Because that shows it’s not about ME. It is about what is best for THEM and their company. I’m not saying it just to make more money, I even offered to refer them to someone else!

That is because honesty, trustworthiness, and transparency are the pillars on which I have built my business. I am not afraid to say “I don’t know,” and then go find the answer. I am not so self-centered as to think I’m the only person who can do what I do or even the best at it.

I am selling prospects on working with me, specifically, not with a writer in general. They don’t only need to know the benefits of writing, they need to see what working with me will be like. How well do I communicate? Do I remember information from previous conversations (I do, I take notes)? Do I listen to them and understand their pain points and have ways to solve those problems? Do I talk more about them than myself?

Clients & Relationships

You should be approaching a client relationship in a similar way to a new friendship. You want them to like you and you don’t want to scare them off.

Sales is not about just getting that dollar amount. It is about getting someone who WANTS to work with you and KEEP paying you that dollar amount.

But it’s more than sales. As a solo entrepreneur, how I represent myself to anyone is literally the face of my business. I am myself, but professional. I am knowledgeable, able to show strong writing samples, and deeply understand the process and the business of writing.

Being nice, kind, a good listener, asking the right questions, showing your value — that is how you get and KEEP a client.

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#MeToo the Book — Share Your Story

#MeToo the Book — Share Your Story

Books, Entrepreneur, JS, writing

I have been deeply inspired by the sharing and bravery of the people who told their story while #metoo swept social media in the last weeks. I have also been a victim of sexual harassment and assault, and I think it is more important than ever that we continue to talk about, continue to provoke conversation, and refuse to be victims.

I am putting together a book of stories based on the #metoo movement.

Are you interested in telling your story?

Hi, my name is Jyssica Schwartz. I am a 31-year-old writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. If you’d like more information about me, please feel free to check out my websiteblogInstagramTwitter, or book. This is a sensitive topic and I will be open and honest with all of you. Reach out to me with questions, concerns, and stories.

I have been very open about writing about mental health and my anxiety in my entrepreneurship journey and I continue this refusal to be a part of stigmatizing difficult topics with this book. As an author, I have the capacity and ability to put this project together using professional editors, cover designers, formatters, etc.

Submissions

If you would like to participate, please submit your story (no minimum length requirement, but please keep it under 3000 words) either to me by email at jyssica.schwartz@gmail.com or uploading it to upload it to Google drive here.

  • Make sure you include a title (if you want one), a first name, age, and location either in the filename of the document or at the top of the document itself.
  • I have been asked if contributors can be anonymous – YES. Use a fake first name or just “Anonymous,” but please still include your age and location.
  • This is open to ALL genders, ages, races, nationalities, everything. There will be no discrimination. If you submit, you will be included.
  • You are NOT being asked to pay anything at all. It is 100% free to be involved. I am currently planning to self-fund this project.

There is no length requirement, but here are some things to consider:

  • Think about not just the incident itself but the way you felt afterward, what steps you took, and why you did or did not report it.
  • Were you raised hearing things like “boys will be boys” or being told not to wear certain things because it might “distract the boys” or cause problems?
  • What might you do differently now or tell people now about these situations?
  • Your story is subject to general editing (not for content).

It could be anything from realizing we’re raised to expect it to how you feel about harassment to anything deep or light-hearted. I genuinely want different perspectives and views. It can be short or long, but I am looking for raw honesty. You would not need to be fully identified.

This movement has certainly highlighted the fact that almost all women are harassed so often that we ignore it and don’t talk about it, but I think we should.

This project is open to both men and women and you can stay anonymous with just a first name (even a pseudonym), age and country as the location.

This book

  • Will be open to all ages, genders, and nationalities. Diversity is encouraged and completely welcome.
  • Does not differentiate between types of stories. If it was verbal harassment or something far worse, your story deserves to be heard.
  • Will be self-published and available as both an ebook and a paperback.
  • Will be professionally edited.
  • Will have a professional cover and interior formatting.
  • Will have an introduction by me, likely based on a blog post I recently wrote about this topic (Unless someone more famous [which is basically everyone] is interested in being involved and wants to write a foreword/introduction!).

This book is for all of us.

A Few Statistics

  • 70% of sexual harassment incidents in the workplace are not reported (source)
  • An analysis of 55 representative surveys found that about 25 percent of women report having experienced sexual harassment, but when they are asked about specific behaviors, like inappropriate touching or pressure for sexual favors, the share roughly doubles. Those numbers are broadly consistent with other survey findings. (source)
  • In 2015, 6,822 sexual harassment claims were filed with the EEOC. 17.1 percent of those cases were filed by men. (source)
  • Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. In fact, out of every 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. (Source)
  • Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about 2 out of 3 go unreported. (source)
  • Members of the military: 43% of female victims and 10% of male victims reported. (source)
  • In 2016, the EEOC released a comprehensive study of workplace harassment in the United States, which concluded that “anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.”
  • Almost two-thirds of male and female college students interviewed said they have encountered some type of sexual harassment while attending a university, about a third of which included physical contact such as being grabbed or touched in a sexual manner. (source)

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Never Work For Free

Never Work For Free

Entrepreneur, Medium, writing

A friend of mine is also an entrepreneur. She was asked about possibly doing a whole new project for one of her clients. She wasn’t super familiar with the details but knew she could do the main part, so she said she was interested.

The client didn’t even ask her to, but she spent several hours researching information and details about parts of the project she wasn’t as familiar with — but hadn’t firmed up a price or a contract with the client yet.

I told her to stop. The biggest thing about being an entrepreneur is you only get paid for certain work. It was the client’s responsibility to take care of some of what she was researching, and even then, only if they agree to move forward.

Protect your time.

As the expert, your time is your most valuable commodity.

Time spent doing “just a quick little favor” for a client that pays by the minute or researching something for someone you don’t even work for any more than 10 minutes should absolutely be paid.

If you are wondering what this includes — literally everything. It is up to your discretion to give advice to your family or close friends for free. Anyone else should be paying.

There is a REASON you are able to make a living freelancing and that is because you are really good at what you do.

Which means you deserve to be compensated for it.

Don’t work for free.

I will occasionally give discounted pricing to people if it’s a trial blog post or something. But even then, still not free and that is my own choice.

The times when I have not charged for advice or help are when I choose to do so in a community, such as Reddit or Quora, where people are genuinely asking for help and no one is under any obligation to give it. I like helping people, and other writers are a fantastic group of people!

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Don’t Call Me A ‘Woman Entrepreneur’

Don’t Call Me A ‘Woman Entrepreneur’

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium

I think we can leave my gender out of my job title.

Yes, I am technically a female business owner, a woman entrepreneur, a lady boss, and a chick, broad, lassie, dame, gal, maiden, and a wench in some moods.

My womanhood effects many things, from the size of the pockets in my jeans to the expectations of labor division, and the attraction my husband has for me.

Guess what it does not effect?

My ability to do my job effectively.

I am a writer. My perspective is certainly a female one, I’ll give you that.

Can we all agree that you can do anything you set your mind to, regardless of gender? I am a business owner, an entrepreneur, and a writer.

I do not need those to be clarified by my girl-ness. The fact that I have a uterus is useless to my ability to form cohesive sentences, build a story, or help you write a book.

Some day, I hope that we can all get past the fact that *GASP!* a woman can have her very own business, without a man. To help get to that point, instead of having headlines or discussing “Female Entrepreneur NameName is Launching A New Whatever!”

Perhaps try “NameName, Owner of Company, is Launching New Whatever!”

Simple fix, new connotation.

Feel free to not work with me based on personality, my stupid hair, and my work, but don’t do anything based on gender alone.

What a waste of a whole person, to reduce them to just a boy or girl.

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The Importance of Time for Yourself

The Importance of Time for Yourself

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium

It’s so easy to make work my whole life. As a work from home full-time entrepreneur, I am basically always at the office. My cell phone is my work phone and my personal laptop is my work computer.

It can be hard to disconnect and just be a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter. I actually scheduled my mother into my calendar this week, so that we could have a nice talk!

As much as I love my work and my life, which is really a lot and I have never been happier, I can feel it becoming more stressful.

I have to step back. I have to remember that I am allowed to have a life outside of work. Clients CAN wait a bit for me to respond to their emails, even until the next business day, if needed.

I’m allowed to go run errands, or go shopping, or even knock off a bit early if I want. I can make time for the gym.

I have to continue to remind myself of all of this because it is so easy to fall into being so busy that I have no time for myself.

I know it is important to have time to yourself. Time away from work, relaxing or doing something you enjoy that has nothing to do with calls, clients, and deadlines.

It is better for your brain and your overall health to step away and have time for YOU.

If you aren’t happy, mentally, emotionally, physically, then how can you give it your all in business and for others? If you can’t care for yourself, how can you care for anyone else?

I officially, wholeheartedly, unequivocally give you permission to take time just for you.

No kids, no spouse, no questions. Whether that is the gym, taking a walk, having a drink, reading a book, going bowling, whatever makes you happy and lets you completely turn off work.

Be healthy and be happy in all aspects, and your work can only benefit!

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Entrepreneur on Vacation

Entrepreneur on Vacation

Entrepreneur, JS, Medium

Living that #LaptopLifestyle

As an entrepreneur, you are basically always connected. Especially when you work from home, you’re always at the office! It’s easy to lose track of time and work too late, or “just answer this email super quick” at 10 pm or on a Saturday.

It’s also your passion, so you want to keep working, keep delivering, keep proving yourself over and over.

You are valuable. You are worth the money. People are paying you because they believe you have the skills to do the work and deliver on your promises. You’ve already sold yourself, now you’re just continuing the work of making yourself irreplaceable.

I get it. I honestly do. Hell, I’m writing this at 10:30 at night on a Monday, sitting on my couch and listening to The Great British Baking Show in the background.

But the thing is, you and I…we deserve a vacation sometimes. We deserve to have dinner with our families without the phone in our hand. We deserve time off now and then.

When I was working in corporate sales, it was easy to leave work at the office and turn my mind to other things at home. I might check my email once over the weekend, but I didn’t feel like I had to be glued to my computer. I took my earned vacation days and I went away for a week, while only checking email and checking in with the office once or twice.

Now, I just spent 5 days in Florida, in gorgeous weather with family, amazing food, a beautiful wedding, and perfect beaches. Every day, I was still checking email and responding, I got work done while I was there, and even spoke to some clients!

Why did I feel like I owed my clients my time off, in addition to the work I do, the meetings, the time, effort, and time on during the week?

For the same reason, I felt guilty when giving my resignation at previous jobs. I did all of the work, and often more, that I was paid to do, I was on time, a hard worker, and a friendly colleague. I helped people as much as I could. When I got an offer from a new company, I accepted it, and then immediately got a huge knot in my stomach. I had to go in and give my notice to my boss, and I was dreading it. I still did it, and was completely professional, but it was scary and nerve-wracking, and made me feel terribly guilty for leaving.

There was no real reason for guilt. I did the work I was paid to do and I was looking out for what was best for me and my career, as you’re supposed to do. My boss wasn’t looking out for my career, that’s my job.

That’s how it is with your own business, too. You’re doing the work you’re being paid to do, and likely more. So why do I feel like I can’t take the weekend off on vacation?

It’s a process. I am trying to let go and take time to myself, and remember that I do great work, and that’s why I have awesome clients who stick with me.

We all deserve time off now and again, and we need to stop feeling guilty for wanting it. It’s a learning process, realizing you don’t need to respond immediately if someone emails you on a Saturday night, and figuring out that they probably don’t even expect it! I am slowly learning to let go, and not think about working in my off hours.

I don’t think I’ll be leaving my laptop at home when I travel anytime soon, though!

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Working From Home: Me, Myself & I

Entrepreneur, JS

I work from home full-time, which is a pretty recent thing (3 weeks!). I am LOVING life and my job, and this is the first time in my adult life that I am excited to go to work every day and that I make my own schedule.

The positives far outweigh the negatives in my new lifestyle. I can travel more (and have!), as I can work from anywhere with wifi (like a New Orleans cafe, or my sister’s house). I can make my own hours (all of them), I can stay in my PJs and not shower that day (it happens). I can take on new clients, or not. I can choose the type of work that I’m doing. I am my own boss.

But there are certainly a few small drawbacks. It’s easy to oversleep. It’s easier to slack off when no one is watching. It’s easy to keep working well past business hours. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to eat poorly.

I thought I was going to finally have time to go to the gym again. When I was working full time and also building this business, I was working every evening until bedtime and all weekend long. It was a constant grind, and I loved it, but I was busy every waking moment. Previously, I’d gone to the gym 3-4 days per week!

Now, I am finding it all too easy to snack all day, much more than ever before, and then get caught up and busy and suddenly, Husband is home from work, I wrap up my day, and then I want to hang out with him, not leave and go to the gym. When I have time between calls during the day, I’m not going to the gym, I’m writing, organizing, working, marketing, etc.

So, I’ve gained about 10 pounds, which I’m feeling bad and insecure about. But again, I love what I’m doing and that is my own fault.

I do spend more time with my cat, less time with people, and have found it all too easy to stay home for several days at a time. It’s actually an issue, because I don’t have a ton of friends in NY, and I am getting isolated.

To address this, my plan is to try to get out of the house and:

  • Take walks
  • Go with my neighbor and her kids to the park once a week
  • Find somewhere to volunteer
  • Try to get back to the gym
  • Pop into the city now and then

Last Friday, I took the afternoon off and went into the city to meet up with my old boss and some friends for lunch and then drinks, and it was great! I felt like my old self, but better.

Being an entrepreneur is great. I am truly happier than ever, but it can be stressful, isolating, and a bit lonely, and I need to make sure my physical and mental health are properly addressed, not just my business. I used to love going to the gym because it was my “me time,” and now I am having “me time” all the time! Maybe that has been a stumbling block as well.

My biggest challenges in working from home and for myself have been time management and prioritizing tasks and projects. I will be looking more deeply into both of these sibjects soon. I did recently write about time management for Thrive Global, which can be found here.

I am constantly trying to improve. I want to learn, grow, build, make money, write more, and do better every day. So when I am able to identify what I’m doing wrong, I can work on myself and do better!

I guess the advice I am trying to give myself is this: it’s a lot of change, you’re still figuring it out, 10 pounds isn’t that big of a deal, you’re working on it. Relax! You’re doing great!

 

Bonus! Here is the picture of my March employee of the month winner!

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End of an Era & New Chapters

Entrepreneur

I have been working 2 jobs for months. I’ve been working in my corporate sales job in the staffing industry during the day and then building and running a writing business in the evenings and weekends.

My husband has been having an unlimited amount of nag-free video game time, and I have been so busy I could barely catch my breath. We were both loving every minute.

When I decided to really try to be a writer, I told Husband that I was going to be cautiously optimistic and say that I could quit my job in 12 months.

I got my first big paying client on 11/1/2016, and met my arbitrary number that we agreed to in January 2017, where I could have quit altogether. Instead, I went down to part-time, figuring that would help me with the transition to working from home. I was wrong, it actually was very difficult and a strange dynamic to be working part-time in an office and part-time at home, and still having to work nights and weekends to get everything done.

So 3/8 was my last corporate work day. My team and I had lunch and it was bittersweet for me. In the end, the team moves forward and will of course, succeed wildly without my help, and I will fade from their minds, to be thought of when one of my clients pop up or my name shows up in the database. I’ll become “oh, she used to work here.” 10 years of corporate sales and business development fading fast in my rearview.

Instead, I’m living my dream.

It’s still bittersweet to leave. Corporate sales has been my home for about 10 years, and I have had the most amazing boss for the last few years, a guy who has become a close and trusted friend, who has been very supportive of my new venture, and without whom I would have gone crazier, sooner.

I’ve also recently discovered that I go stir-crazy when at home alone for too long. Time to start making work-from-home and neighborhood friends! I can go to the gym to get out for a bit, and I also plan to find somewhere to volunteer for a couple hours per week, to get out of the house and give back to my community.

I am extremely lucky to have a supportive husband and family and friends, and people who are happy seeing me happy and successful. I am so full of love and words right now. I have a TON going on with my writing, including 4 new clients this month and a ton of work. I am loving it, and I am so excited about going off on my own. Sink or swim, it’s all on me.

I am proud, I am scared, and I am excited.
I’m exciterrified.

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Time Management & Working From Home

Time Management & Working From Home

Entrepreneur, JS

As a working from home entrepreneur, time management is extremely important to me and my success, just like it was when I was an 8:30 to 5:30 corporate salesperson. I think the unifying thing across all jobs and all industries is being able to effectively manage you time and all of your priorities and tasks.

 

When you work from home or are an entrepreneur in general, time management and work-life balance is extremely important, and may be the single most impactful thing in business.

 

It’s hard to turn off being an entrepreneur, and I have long tended to be available days, nights, weekends, anytime. I answered emails, I jumped on calls, I said yes to every “hey, can you edit this super quick?” questions that came my way. I had to learn to turn it off, disconnect, and spend time with my family and a good book.

 

I don’t need to be constantly available. I am providing a service and high value to my clients, I am finally figuring out that I don’t need to sacrifice all of my time to my work and my clients. Yes, my clients’ needs are incredibly important to me. But so is my health and happiness and my family and home life. Finding that balance has been a difficult but necessary road in my life and business.

 

Since I am not available at 10pm on Saturdays anymore, I needed to be as productive as possible during my business hours and manage my time wisely, in order to get everything done! Managing time effectively does not mean just staying busy for the day, it means being productive and getting done the things that need to be done, not just clicking around and checking email!

 

Here are some tips for time management that can help you really have a productive day that allows you to get offline and enjoy life after work!

 

  1. Daily/Weekly To-Do Lists

This is something that has helped me immensely! I tried to get into bullet journaling, but I am not a pinterest-worthy bullet journaler and it didn’t stick. The thing that has stuck is the daily listing of to dos. Every day, I write a list of all the things I want to accomplish either today specifically or this week in general.

 

I don’t know about you, but checking things off of a list is super satisfying for me! I move to dos up from the day before if needed, and I star the things that MUST be done today. Deadlines are written next to the task if there are specific due dates.

 

By rewriting the list daily, I am cementing my tasks in my head and able to really prioritize what needs to be done first.

 

  1. Schedule in Some Down Time

At the office, people get lunch breaks, smoke breaks, walk around breaks, etc. You can’t expect yourself to focus for 8 hours nonstop every day, it just doesn’t happen and isn’t realistic. Instead of giving yourself unrealistic expectations and then being disappointed when you don’t meet them, make sure to give yourself some down time.

 

I start every day with coffee and checking Facebook. I check my email and my social media marketing as well, but I START with coffee, petting my cat, and Facebook before jumping into work.

 

Next, I write my daily todo list, and check my email. At lunch time, I generally log off the computer and eat while I read a book or have a one-sided conversation with my cat. In the afternoon, I might go take a walk, or go to the gym, or just get up and stretch.

 

Have priorities and tasks for each day, but allow yourself to walk around and read the news, and text your friend, too.

 

  1. When Working, Block Out Distractions

Like the down time, schedule work time. Use a calendar or an alert or whatever gets you ready to work, to let you know it’s time to do this task or that activity or call that person. When it’s time to get down to business, do the task. Close out your social media tabs, and focus on the specific activity you need to complete.

 

In my case, I have several clients that I do weekly blogging for. That means on Mondays and Tuesdays, I have to block out time to work on specific client blogs. I will do something like “10 am: Research and write blog for X client on topic Y.” When that time comes around, I turn off Facebook, put my phone face down, and write the blog for my client, edit it, and turn it in. If it take 45 minutes, great. If it takes an hour and a half, great. As long as it gets done. And work gets done faster when uninterrupted and when I’m not allowing my mind to wander to instagram or texting my mom.

 

I also find that when work gets done faster, I feel better about it than when it takes hours or days because I just can’t focus on it. My clients are happy, I’m happy, it’s awesome.

 

  1. Stay Organized

This fits right into my to do lists. Staying organized saves me time and energy, and most importantly, keeps my client information and needs at the forefront. As a solo practitioner, if I lose track of a client or forget to do something for them, I risk losing some of my income! Keeping contracts, invoices, tasks, priorities, client needs, and my work organized is one of the biggest parts of my success.

 

  1. Learn to Say No

This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn and is something I still struggle with and work on. I want to be indispensable to my clients, and also prove my value over and over, so I tend to say yes to anything they ask of me.

 

This can lead me to being overwhelmed with work if I didn’t really have the time for whatever I said yes to. I could miss deadlines or be overworked, or be working until late at night, like I did when I was working two jobs.

 

I love writing and editing and being an entrepreneur, but I can’t be everything to everyone. I am still working on saying no when I don’t have time for something or if it is not part of the scope of my work or what I’m paid to do.

 

Side Tip: Don’t Ever Work For Free

Especially say no to doing work for free! Even a trial article for a new client is paid work, though often at a discounted rate. Do not give away your work for free. You are a professional, and your time and skills are valuable. Obviously an exception to this rule is when you are purposely doing something as a volunteer!
In the end, I have to protect my time and keep my work from completely overrunning my home life. In order to be a good wife, daughter, friend, and individual, these time management skills have been important in my personal and professional development and evolution.

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