When you work as a freelancer or own a small business, sometimes it feels like you can’t stop working. You set your own availability, so why shouldn’t you always have time to work? Maybe you already set aside time to step away from your computer and take breaks. But while you’re on “break,” do you still respond to emails from your phone?
Please note: This is a contributed post, but all opinions are my own. View full disclosure policy.
It’s not just a fast route to burnout you risk. Constant availability sets a precedent for your clients. If you let a client bully you into working beyond the terms of your contract because you think it counts as providing great customer service, they’ll expect 24/7 access to your time as standard.
With some slight adjustments to your availability, you can have a profitable, fulfilling freelance career without feeling like a commodity.
Value Quality over Quantity
Are you always accepting new projects? Or do you only handle a select number at a time? When you’re just starting out, it might feel like you need to say yes to every job that comes your way. You have bills to pay, right?
With too many projects on your books, you can lose focus and struggle to perform your best. You might get paid by these clients in the short term. But any shortcomings can show up in reviews of your services. Maybe they won’t recommend you to others. In the long term, this could cost more money than it makes.
Set Clear Communication Expectations
If you respond to every email in 30 minutes or less, great! congratulations! But are you spending more time talking about a project than actually working on it?
Give your clients a realistic expectation of how often they should expect to hear from you. Use good judgment in whether emails require an immediate response or can wait. When in doubt, let your client know you received their message and will be able to address it at a specific time.
It might be obvious, but you should also keep your communications to as few platforms as possible. This will help avoid confusion and wasted time.
Another way to save time is to automatically answer the most common questions your business receives. The easiest method is to create an FAQ page on your website. You can also visit click4assistance the Chatbot provider to see how a chatbot can handle questions for you until you’d need to take over replies.
Protect Your Free Time
More free time is one reason many people become freelancers. But in the midst of establishing a brand identity, attracting new clients, and getting everything done, suddenly free time is a distant dream.
Time management is your friend here. It’s not just about making sure you complete your projects. You need to have the most productive working time possible. Set timelines with personal deadlines three days ahead of when you actually need things done. Then you can enjoy your time off without impending deadlines hanging over your head.
To help make this a firm boundary both you and your clients can respect, consider creating an availability policy. Outside of certain times — like regular business hours — you don’t need to reply.
Free time is essential for everyone for minding your mental health.
When you’re a freelancer and don’t have the staff of a small business to distribute the workload, it can be beneficial to outsource some tasks. Just because you’re a one-person business doesn’t mean you can’t seek outside help when you need it.
Outsourcing can help break large projects with multiple moving parts into smaller, more manageable pieces. Thankfully, outsourcing as a freelancer is easier than ever with so many gig websites.
Freelancing is competitive. Many freelancers set their prices as low as possible to entice new clients.
Unfortunately, unless it is explicitly a low rate just for them (and only at that time), they will expect the same rate when they return for more work. And, if they have shared your details and price, you might be locked into a lower rate – or having to explain that isn’t your actual rate.
Raise your rates, and the right clients will pay the price. Wouldn’t you rather do one job worth over $2,500 than 20 jobs at $125 apiece?
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