On today’s show I am going to go over three concepts that will help you better manage your time and focus on the parts of your freelance business that you love.
But first: an update on my early morning walk. I’ve actually become so hooked on walking that I’ve been getting up earlier 5–6 days a week to do my daily walk in the morning. I walk fast for about an hour while listening to podcasts. And I have a loop around my neighborhood, which means I don’t have to think about which direction I want to go in each day.
Let’s discuss three concepts to improve your business: delegate, automate and terminate.
I actually stumbled upon these concepts gradually as my freelance business started to grow, and I realized I couldn’t do it all. There’s only one of me and there are only so many hours in the day—more importantly, there are only so many hours that I want to WORK in a day.
But it’s not just about managing your time or even managing your energy. I believe you should delegate, automate and terminate so you can actually focus on the things you LOVE to do.
I talked about this previously in episode 2 of the Deliberate Freelancer, Discover Your Unique Brilliance. I explained how a coach of mine I was working with on another project realized I was having some serious work-life balance issues and offered to help me. She drew a quadrant on a piece of paper and labeled each square: incompetence, competence, high competence and unique brilliance.
Michael Hyatt talks about similar concepts in his new book “Free to Focus.” However, he breaks up his quadrant into the Drudgery Zone, Disinterest Zone, Distraction Zone and Desire Zone.
The idea is figure out how you can spend the majority of your time in the Desire Zone—or by focusing on your own Unique Brilliance.
What are the things you absolutely LOVE about your freelance business? Think about both the services you provide AND the business side of your business.
What is your unique brilliance? What do you love to do? What WOULD you like to pursue that you’re not doing now? Or what would you like to scale up that you’re not doing as much of now?
Now, on the opposite end, what would fall in your incompetence quadrant or your Drudgery Zone?
Consider things outside of work also, things that you are required to do as a responsible human being, like clean your house or apartment.
It’s that incompetent zone we need to tackle by automating, delegating and terminating.
First, sit down and write out a massive to-do list. Don’t get too stressed over it—this will not actually be your to-do list, but it’s all the things you think you have to do right now, all those projects you have hanging over your head, those phone calls you know you need to make, that online research you know you need to do, the chores and errands you keep putting off.
Now, make a second list called the business boredom list and write down all the things about your business that you don’t like to do.
Let’s start with terminate: On the massive to-do list in particular, ask yourself if you really have to do all those things. What are the things on the list that won’t make much of a difference if you just forget about them, just terminate them? I encourage you to push yourself here, especially if you made promises you can’t keep or if you’re a people pleaser.
Another aspect of terminate is actually terminating clients. Firing clients. They don’t have to be horrible clients, but are there projects or types of services you’re providing now that you want to cut back on or no longer want to do? Maybe the pay is too low. Or maybe it’s tedious work. Or maybe it’s taken too much of your time away from projects that you love. You can fire clients.
I’ve fired bad clients, but I’ve also fired clients I liked because I didn’t want to do that type of work anymore. In that case, I simply said that I was going in a new direction and cutting back on that type of work. And I connected those clients with other freelancers to replace me.
Now, you can’t cancel everything. So, now let’s focus on what you can automate. With automate, we often think about apps and tools, but that’s not the only one way to automate. You can create processes and habits that are also a form of automation. Take my morning walk, for instance. I walk the same route every day, and all my gear for my walk is in a cabinet by the front door. I don’t have to hunt for items, and I don’t have to think about the direction I’m heading during my walk. I’ve automated my exercise routine.
Another great way to automate things is by taking the time to create a checklist. Checklists ensure you won’t miss a crucial step, but they also save you time and brain power. Think about the projects that you do that every time you have to stop and think, “OK, what do I do first again? How do I start this?” Taking the time to create checklists will remind you in the future.
Checklists are great to pair with batching. Batching is when you do a bunch of similar tasks at the same time. For example, do all of your invoices at the same time each month or on every Friday and follow your checklist. This can be much more efficient than trying to remember the entire invoice process each time.
The other aspect of automation are the tools and apps we think about. What areas of your massive to-do list and business boredom list can you use tools for? Social media scheduling tools is an obvious one. Look at the Resources list below for all recommended tools.
You can also go the simple route and just create an Excel spreadsheet, which I do quite often. I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my client work each month. Each document represents one month, and I have separate tabs for each client.
The last category is delegate. What things on your massive to-do list and business boredom list can and should you delegate? I’ve said it so many times before, but hiring a house cleaner changed my life. When I got to the place where I could afford a regular cleaner, I was so much happier.
To hire a cleaner, I had to get over my Midwestern hang-ups about how it was my responsibility to take care of my own house. No one I knew growing up had a house cleaner. That was for rich people on TV. But I finally convinced myself that I could focus more on the things I loved and on making money rather than doing something I dreaded.
If you’re thinking there’s no way you could afford a cleaner, or you’re thinking, “but I’m just a single person who lives in a small apartment,” please reconsider your options. I encourage you to investigate this a bit. Ask on your neighborhood listserves for recommendations and find out what a person would actually cost. Then, if you can’t afford it, maybe set that as a goal to make that amount of money each month so you can afford it.
Delegating of course also means delegating for your business. The first thing to think about is a virtual assistant. What are the items on your lists that must get done—but they don’t have to get done by you? Depending on a virtual assistant’s skill set, they can help you with many more things than administrative tasks, such as social media management, marketing or prospecting leads.
Another area of delegation is subcontractors. There are a wide variety of ways you can hire subcontractors. You can pair up with people on a project, but you can also hire people on a regular basis to do the stuff you don’t want to do.
The thing I love about running my own freelance business is the freedom to do almost anything I want. And if I can’t afford to do something right now, I can figure out the steps and the goals I need to set to make that happen. So, dream big and aim to build a business where you’re focusing the majority of your time on the parts you love.
Biz Bite: Create a Computer Cleanup Day
The Bookshelf: “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed” by Lori Gottlieb.
Episode 19 of Deliberate Freelancer: Visualize Your Perfect Work Day—Then Create It
Episode 2 of Deliberate Freelancer: Discover Your Unique Brilliance
“Free to Focus” by Michael Hyatt