One of the hardest parts of being a contractor and performing services for others is creating and maintaining a realistic schedule for work and life. Most people start their business believing they will have at least 40 hours a week available as “billable hours” but soon learn that nothing could be further from the truth. But, you can organize and craft a schedule that allows you to make the most of the time you do have.
Know Your Audience
Like with most things to do with your business, it’s imperative that you know who you want to work with. What types of client will you get along with best and what services can you realistically perform for those people? Start with the client, and then solve a problem for them with your services.
Are you an early riser or do you like to stay up late at night? Most of the time people are one or the other. If you are a person who doesn’t like to keep to a particular schedule, you’ll need to develop tasks that are deadline focused instead of time centric. For instance, if you don’t want to have to do a task at 8 a.m. each morning, don’t offer that service.
Know Your Family
What kind of schedule does your family have and how much can you rely on other members of the family to take your work seriously? Even if they don’t take your work seriously right now, you can still create a business around your family’s schedule. Just go into it knowing up front what is expected of you within your family and what you can expect from them.
Know What Hours You’ll Do Client Work
Taking all the things into consideration, it’s important to develop a set schedule of when you will be able to perform your clients’ work. Even if the time you come up with is midnight to 6 a.m. it’s still possible to have a business servicing clients as a contractor. There is no wrong answer; you just have to match the work you will do with the time you can do it.
Know Which Hours You’ll Do Business Work
Don’t forget that you’ll need to save some of your working time for working on your own business. You will still have email lists to maintain, content to create, sales pages to craft and so forth for your own business. Not to mention billing, invoicing and bookkeeping.
Understand What Your Service Offerings Take
As you work on creating the services you’ll offer, go through what they take in your mind and then match them to the other things that you’ve figured out about yourself, your family, and the type of schedule you can maintain. Knowing what goes into providing a specific deliverable will go far in ensuring you create a business that works for you.
Schedule Everything in a Calendar
Don’t assume you’ll remember something, much less everything. When you have multiple clients you need to have a calendar. Not only will you need to calendar the work you are doing for yourself and clients, you also need to include in your calendar anything you really want to make time for - including date night.
Use a Project Management System
Don’t skimp on purchasing and investing in tools and software that will help your business run more smoothly. Tools like Basecamp.com, FreshBooks.com, and QuickBooks.com as well as others can help you do more in less time.
Maintaining a realistic schedule requires you to be realistic about the time you have available and the type of work you really like to do. It might sound great to be “on the clock” 8 to 5, but it’s quite different in practice when working from home as a contractor.