Time management is an issue that can trip self-employed people up if they’re unprepared. For most of us, the subject can be boiled down into one word: scheduling.
If you’re constantly on the move, managing your schedule can be a nightmare. Even if you’re desk-based and spend most of your time working from home, you’ll still find that it’s easy to make errors or forget things if you don’t have a good planning system in place.
(Over) estimate how long things will take
You need to carefully plan out how long each job, task and activity will take and give yourself enough time to do it all.
Experienced self-employed people will often tell you to take your predicted time allocation and double it. And while this might be a bit extreme, the basic principle of over-estimating your time is a sensible one, particularly when you’re new to being self-employed.
Managing your schedule as it happens
Being self-employed always involves a little chaos. The most well-organised business owners are the ones who can manage and adapt their schedules in real-time as new requests and bookings come in.
Using your computer or smartphone calendar, or even an old-school diary, might be enough if your job is primarily desk-based. You can block out chunks of time for the work that needs doing, leave gaps for invoicing and other admin, and even factor in extra time if you aren’t sure how long a specific task might take.
However, we find that with community-based workers in particular – gardeners, plumbers, painters, personal trainers – there’s very little time for schedule management during the day, and people end up doing their admin at night when they get home. Consequently, they forget to get back to people, or they double-book things by mistake, or they can’t remember the details of the job, so they don’t allocate enough time for it.
Switching on the voice assistant on your phone could be a helpful way to avoid this issue, using dictation to log new tasks as they come in. These voice-based tools aren’t perfect, but they’ll generally get the job done.
On-the-move time management
To go one better than this, we’ve developed a scheduling tool within our business management app that allows you to send invites, add events and client notes, and adjust your schedule as you go.
We provide a single view of all your client work so that if new business comes in while you’re out and about, you can instantly see if and when you’ll be able to take it on. In fact, using Osu, you can make your calendar public and set your availability in advance, allowing customers to make new bookings even as you’re busy getting on with your work.
The app will automatically send customers invites when the work is booked in, and you can contact each customer directly from the app if any last-minute changes need making to your schedule.
And because the Osu app generates invoices for your customers once the work is complete, this too gets handled in real-time rather than eating into your evening.
Increasing your ability to take on new work
Self-employed professionals who manage their time properly will always know whether they have the availability to take on more work. They’ll also be spending less time on ongoing schedule and calendar maintenance, freeing up more time to take on additional tasks.
And there’s one other thing to consider: choose your customers and clients carefully. More often than not, avoiding problem customers creates more space to find fantastic new ones.