Success in business means mastering the art of management. Of course, most freelancers do not have staff or stocks, so they are spared the problems of man management and stock control. However, they must still learn how to manage:
- Their time.
- Their money - in particular, the money that is owed to them, but hasn't yet been paid to them.
Time is perhaps the most misused and misunderstood asset of all in many businesses. Since a salary of £25,000 per annum equates to about 24 pence a minute, inadequate time management can be just as costly to your business as, for example, leaving your car unlocked and allowing a thief to steal your toolkit or portable computer. Just imagine how angry you would be if the person to whom you loaned your car said I just don't know where your toolkit has gone - it was on the back seat of your car when I last saw it!’
In contrast, recall your sense of resignation every time you have thought to yourself, ‘I just don't know where my time has gone - it was there when I last looked!’
Both of these situations are examples of sloppy asset management and both rob your business of some of its profit. But poor time management also robs you personally of something totally irreplaceable and invaluable, your own time.
A large number of time management systems and tools have been developed and a great many books written on the subject. However, the essence of most of them can be distilled into the following key points:
- Understand how you currently spend your time, perhaps by keeping a detailed diary over a period of time.
- Analyse which of those activities add the most value and profit to your business and those that add the least.
- Devise a strategy to ensure that you focus your time and efforts on the former and not the latter.
This time management strategy is likely to include:
- Using some form of priority action list, perhaps prepared at the end of the day, outlining the tasks which must be accomplished the following day.
- Tackling priority tasks first, and not falling into the common trap of doing the most enjoyable tasks first.
- Persevering at the task until it is finished instead of constantly stopping and starting a task which is a classic symptom of time-wasting.
- Using the telephone/email as much as possible. Both involve far less time than face to face meetings.
More on running your business.