Since leaving full-time employment to go it alone, securing work hasn’t been an issue (touch wood!). However, being my own boss has brought many challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I love being self-employed but I’ve learnt many valuable lessons along the way. As a result, I’ve improved my ways of working and become more productive. Here’s how…
1. I banished my to-do list
I thought a to-do list was a good thing as it meant I was ‘busy’. In reality, it was hindering my productivity. Why? When faced with my to-do list, I would pick and choose tasks, start something, leave it, and start something else. My mind wasn’t focussed on the task at hand and although I felt busy, I wasn’t being productive. Now, I schedule my days into various activities i.e. emails (more on that later), client work and marketing. This method requires some degree of flexibility but on the whole, I’m enjoying a list-free life. More importantly, I’m back in control.
2. I cut ties with my inbox
Not completely but I no longer think a tidy inbox means I’m being productive. I used to regularly check my emails but this proved to be a real distraction and I’d soon find myself getting side-tracked. As part of my scheduling, I’ve chosen three half-hour slots throughout the day to check my emails. Where possible, I’ll completely close my inbox, so I’m not tempted to have a sneaky peek! This method isn’t possible for everyone but it’s definitely given me some precious time back.
3. I embrace quiet periods
When I first found myself with not enough work to fill a day, I felt guilty for not working. I’ve since learnt there’s a two-pronged approach to this. 1. I enjoy the quiet times before the madness hits again – I use this spare time to catch up on admin, follow up on leads…finish work early! 2. I don’t feel guilty about taking a day off, which leads me nicely onto my next point…
4. I take time off because I can
I make the most of being my own boss by taking time off when I want. As long as it doesn’t affect my deadlines or leave me playing catch up, then I go for it. I used to feel guilty for doing so but taking time off to recharge my batteries is important. I still get those days when, despite having plenty to do, I hit a brick wall but there’s no point sitting at my desk beating myself up about how unproductive I’m being. Instead, I take a break and head back to work with a clear head.
5. I’ve established a work-life balance
Being my own boss means I’m the one in control of a proper work-life balance. I used to find myself working weekends and checking my emails on an evening – I never switched off – and my productivity dipped. Now, I typically work 9-5, sometimes longer, sometimes less, but I’m not going to feel guilty for not being at my desk by 7.30am or checking my emails at 9pm. Of course, some people have no choice but to work unsociable hours or find they are more productive later in the day but, for me personally, my evenings and weekends are a strict work-free zone.
6. I’m not afraid to say ‘no’
People often wrongly assume because I’m a writer, I can write anything. I can’t. There are so many types and styles of writing, it’s impossible to be good at them all. When I first started ES Editorial, I felt like I couldn’t admit to this and would accept work which, in hindsight, would have been better placed with someone else. Now, if my gut tells me a job isn’t right and I don’t have the expertise to execute it, I’ll be honest and politely decline. Where possible, I make use of my contacts and associates to provide the client with an alternative recommendation.
7. I outsource the bad bits
There are lots of things I enjoy about being self-employed but finances are not one of them. I’m not complaining about money coming in but figures, taxes and self-assessment aren’t my thing. My accountant on the other hand…well, this is where he thrives. I’ve learnt to use my time wisely and focus on the things I do best using the skills I possess. It might be that you despise admin and therefore a Virtual Assistant can provide you with the necessary support. Or, if you don’t know have the time or inclination to write your own business blogs, then outsourcing them to a professional writer will allow you to get on with what you do best – building and running a successful business.