Jan 052014
 

Time Management is Critical in all Fields of Work

Clock428-sIf you are a freelance agent who relies on working for numerous clients, it is essential to manage your time. In fact it is a critical factor of success, irrespective of your line of work.

If you don’t manage your time adequately, the biggest threat will be that you are not able to meet multiple deadlines. Or you might meet some of them, and then let other clients down.

What Happens if you don’t Manage Your Time

Time management is a critical factor in all fields of work, at every level from the CEO down to the person who is responsible for keeping the office clean. It doesn’t matter how you earn your money, if you don’t manage your time, you’re going to lose out somewhere along the line.

When I first became a freelance writer, I already had a good relationship with three magazine editors, because just prior to this I’d been working for them fulltime. But whilst I was an employee, I could balance my time without anyone asking too many questions. If I was already busy with an article, the other editors would simply have to wait until I was available. I officially worked from 9 am until 5 pm five days a week (although I did put in extra hours without any overtime remuneration), and if time ran out, and I wasn’t willing or able to stay late, so be it. At the end of the month I received my salary cheque, and I knew how much to expect.

Going freelance had its immediate challenges. I had to set my own targets, and if I didn’t get the work done, I simply didn’t get paid. Not only that, there was no more medical aid or pension scheme to fall back on, and the PAYE that was deducted seemed to increase.

While all three magazines were home orientated, the editors’ needs were different and individually demanding.

It went reasonably well at first, until I spread my wings a little and took on some more demanding non-fiction book projects. Contracts were structured so that I had no choice but to deliver specifics at given times. So if I ran out of time, my magazine work bore the brunt.

After I’d missed a few deadlines, one of the magazine editors suggested I write down my daily things to do! “If you don’t complete everything, carry it forward to the next day’s list,” she suggested. I can’t remember taking her advice, and I probably didn’t, because the next thing I knew, a wanna-be freelancer, with very little experience had slipped in the door and taken my place.

That is the first lesson to learn: NOBODY IS INDISPENSABLE. If you don’t manage your time, and you don’t have the time to deliver what people want, they will replace you. It’s as simple as that.

Manage Your Projects

One of the worst things that can happen to a new freelance writer is to be too busy. But you need to learn how to say “no” when necessary.

Of course not every freelancer is lucky enough to be busy all the time, and it does depend on your method of finding work. This, in turn, depends on the type of work you want to do. Many magazine editors prefer to work with writers they know, and it can be difficult to break into that field. But today there are so many internet-based outsourcing sites, if you write well, you will find writing work.

Most outsourcing sites work on a bid system. So clients post their assignments and contributors bid (or quote), giving their price and “selling” their skills. It isn’t too different from sending your CV out to a range of potential clients; after all you don’t immediately know which bids will be successful. Either way, one of the most problematic scenarios is to be awarded too many jobs.

The problem is that unless you are able to manage your time and ensure that you are able to complete all the jobs you get within the milestones or deadlines agreed upon, you will soon be heading for a downhill ride, and could find that these particular clients don’t offer you repeat projects.

The only way to succeed is to balance your time and make sure that you are able to complete your projects when (or before) they are required.

Manage Your Proposals

If you are going to be able to manage your deadlines, you will also need to be able to manage your bids and any proposals you present to clients.

Take the outsourcing sites like PeoplePerHour, Guru and Elance as an example. One of the most prevalent problems for new freelancers bidding on outsourcing sites is the fact that it really is impossible to know which bids are going to be accepted. Even when and if you are invited to bid, you won’t be any the wiser, unless of course the client has used your services before. Even then, not all repeat clients discuss jobs on offer, and many will invite multi providers to bid. As a newbie, the danger is that you will bid away hoping desperately that you will get your first job awarded. Nothing happens. Then you try again. This is when a lot of newcomers give up and they stop bidding. But those who persevere often find that suddenly they have more work than they can cope with. Strangely, this can be a real problem.

The secret is to play your cards carefully, and slowly. Don’t aim for too many projects at once. Having said that, you also need to bid for new jobs that will kick in once the jobs you are working on are completed, to ensure a steady flow of income. So when you bid for new jobs on outsourcing sites, pay careful attention to the time allowed for bids to be placed. For example, if you have a current project that is taking up all your time, and it has two more weeks to run, only bid on jobs that are due to be closed in about two weeks time. You’ll only be caught if the client closes the bidding early because he or she really likes your bid and wants you to start work immediately! And be warned that this does happen.

Make sure you can meet your deadlines

It is irrelevant whether you are working for an employer in your home town, or somebody based in another country who buys services on-line, you need to be sure that when you have specific deadlines you are able to meet them. If you don’t, your reputation will suffer, particularly if you are working for an online outsourcing site, because the feedback factor can easily  and instantly – come back to haunt you.

Never promise to do what you may not able to do. When you bid, you are required to put in a timeline, so it is ultimately you who is making the choice. My best advice is for you to play safe and give yourself a bit of extra time. If you finish early, you’re more likely to get good star ratings.

You also need to keep track of the work you have been awarded. Deadlines come and go, and it is very easy to take on a new job and then suddenly remember that you have another that still needs to be completed. You can keep track in many different ways:

  • with your cell phone,
  • on your computer (I use stickies on my desktop), or
  • in a notebook (which is what I often do as a backup).

What matters is that you check your progress regularly so that you don’t neglect virtual or real-time clients, especially when you get really busy.

Manage your time

The more experience you have writing, the more likely you are to be able to assess how long different writing projects are likely to take. But be warned that every job is different. For instance some rely on intensive research while others don’t. Once you start a project, you will be able to assess your time needs more accurately. Then you can set aside a specific period of time each day to be certain you will meet your deadline.

And don’t forget those lists!

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