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Scheduling self-employment success

Posted 6 years ago on · Permalink

Scheduling laptop
(c) Can Stock Photo

Nathan MacDonald

Nathan MacDonald

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re pursuing the dream of being your own boss and doing what you love, this post is primarily for you. Self-employed individuals can face unique challenges balancing the many demands on their time, especially if they’re running a home-based start-up business. It can be easy to justify doing a load of laundry or starting dinner and feeling like you had a productive day and while those jobs need to be done, they won’t grow your business. Here are a few time management best practices to keep in mind when you have only yourself and the bottom line to answer to.

1. Plan your work and work your plan. This mantra applies to business planning, lead generation, business administration, fundraising and organizing your daily To-Do list. The first step is to make a realistic and achievable plan. Start with goals. Then add steps to achieve those goals. That makes up the framework of your plan. The challenging part is following through with those plans. Of course you have to be flexible, but this is what people mean when they talk about dedication and work ethic. A well thought-out plan and a commitment to see it through to fruition are essential to your success.

2. Prioritize the tasks you dislike the most. Take extra care to regularly schedule the work you dislike the most and set firm deadlines. As a self-employed person, it’s easy to be busy all day doing productive things and to procrastinate from the jobs that you hate doing. Schedule the jobs you dislike and make yourself do them. It might help to reward yourself after completing a particularly unpleasant task. The other more interesting jobs will still require planning but less rigidity because they’re the reason you got into this business in the first place. If neglected, the jobs you dislike, may be the reason you have to get out.

3. Protect your work time. If you’re a home-based business, it’s very important to keep track of your time and to protect it. Maybe a rigid 9-5 won’t work for you and you prefer the flexibility of self-employment but that doesn’t mean you can get away with a 2 or 4-hour work day, especially when you’re starting out. Most businesses fail within the first 3-5 years and many successful self-employed people have had to work much than 40 hours a week to get their businesses off the ground. If domestic responsibilities require your attention, as they often do, you’ve got to pay the piper and make up that time later. Determine what you have to get done and schedule accordingly.

4. Balance client service and lead prospecting. It’s important to manage your workload so that you not only have a steady stream of work but you also make time to feed the funnel. Making time for things like networking, blogging and follow ups helps reduce the likelihood of drastic floods and droughts in terms of workload and cash flow. If you can’t take on another project until next month, try to close the deal for next month. If you’re getting more work than you can handle and still generate leads, it may be time for an employee. Remember, even when you’re very busy, you should make time to network and build relationships. You’re not doing it for today’s business but, rather, for tomorrow’s.

While you have to be able to respond to crisis and be flexible, scheduling your time carefully will help you get where you want to go. If you have to deal with something immediately, don’t cancel what you were going to do, reschedule. The old adage is as true today as ever it was, to be successfully self-employed, you have to be a good boss AND a good employee. Prioritize with your boss hat and actualize with your employee hat and you’ll increase the likelihood that your business will still be thriving 5 years after launch.

Nathan MacDonald is the Manager of Policy and Communications at the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade and has run his own home-based business.