Knowing your limitations by @_lauramclo
by Laura McLoughlin | Featured Contributor
When you start your career freelancing or with your very own business, you might think that you can and should do everything. After all, you’re capable of it. You have the skill, the expertise and connections.
The only thing you lack is…time.
The truth is that there will come a time in your freelancing life when you simply cannot do at all. Deadlines will get tighter, your work hours longer, and you may only realise how thinly you have been spread when you spend a day rushing tasks and jobs you once poured yourself into, making easy mistakes you would have otherwise noticed. Meetings are forgotten, your inbox piles up, and you are more scatterbrained than you ever thought possible of a savvy, business-minded adult.
As your to-do list grows, it’s crucial that you learn to work smart, not just hard – because eventually, working hard just doesn’t cut it. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and so you must make a few tough decisions if you hope to continue expanding you business.
Have a look at the following solutions, and decide which fits your circumstances best:
Look at your to-do list. Decide which tasks aren’t important or urgent – and ditch them.
Like I’ve already said, you can’t do everything, and so clipping a few of the non-essential tasks from your to-do list is the fastest and easiest way to give yourself a little breathing room.
Think of the hundred PR emails you were meaning to kindly rebuff, the article you wanted to publish on your blog this week, or the meeting you know won’t go anywhere. These are the tasks you should consider ditching, or at the very least rescheduling, because if they’re not urgent and they’re not important then they should not be eating up your time right now.
Now that you’ve ditched the nonessentials, what’s next?
For all of the tasks which need to be done, but not necessarily by you, consider delegation. This might be data collection for a report, transcribing a lengthy audio file, or proofreading a few articles before they go live, and can very easily be done by someone else as to free you up to focus on more pressing matters.
If you don’t already have an assistant, you could look into hiring a fellow freelancer friend, or someone you have previously worked with to pick up a few tasks for a fee.
If you don’t have any contacts you can call upon, or they’re too busy as well, there are lots of websites and job boards where you can find people to pitch your work to. PeoplePerHour and Upwork are both good options, and allow you to brief in specific jobs and select your preferred applicant. Both have a wide range of professionals and skill sets to call upon, and might help you out of a tough spot.
Going back to your clients and customers to tell them that their projects are running late isn’t ideal, but it may save you face in the long run.
The best way to handle this is by getting in touch with them in the easiest way possible, whether a phone call or email. Explain to them that the project is taking slightly longer than anticipated, and refrain from giving too many other details. You should tell them when to expect their finished project, and apologise for the inconvenience it is.
With your apology, you might think to compensate them for lost time, by discounting the final price or a future product. Alternatively, you could add some ‘extras’ to the project at no extra cost, but if you’re already stretched for time, it might be best to withhold this particular kindness.
It’s difficult to know where your limitations lie until you actually hit them, and you may have to weather out a period of stress and long nights. Take this time as a learning experience, and consider carefully how you might avoid doing the same in future.