This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
Many freelancers struggle with seeing the true value of their own time and respecting it for what it is worth. In order to have a truly successful career we all need to understand that our time is what allows us to make a living, and the more efficiently we use it, the more profitable our work will be.
As a freelancer, if you don’t respect your own time, no one else will. Personally, I have to say that I have struggled with all of these issues at one time or another.
Here are 8 ways that freelancers tend to disrespect their own time:
1 – Underpricing
Pricing is a difficult decision for many freelancers, especially those who are not yet established. It’s always tempting to underprice your services thinking that it will lead to more work. However, there are real consequences to underpricing. First, you’ll have to work more to make what you could make with higher rates. Plus, customers may view your prices as a sign of your skill level and experience.
Pricing is frequently a problem for many freelancers. While I’m not claiming everyone should increase their rates, I think it’s wise to look at your rates and see if they are an accurate reflection of what your time is worth. For an interesting look from a bit of a different perspective, see Is Charging More the Right Thing to Do? from Men with Pens.
2 – Not Charging Upfront
Most of us have quickly learned that taking no money up front is a bad practice. While it can be a challenge for some new freelancers to expect a portion of the payment (or all of it in some cases) before any work is done, it can save hours of wasted time and frustration. Any freelancer that has been around for a while has a story of payment issues that could have been avoided by charging up front, or by charging more upfront. Unfortunately too many clients never come through with payment, or come through too late. But even more importantly, it shows you which potential clients are serious about working with you.
3 – Not Charging for Additional Services
In most cases a price quote is just that, a quote not a contract. Of course there are situations where a price is set and it’s not flexible, but many times when a client changes their mind or makes an addition to the work being done, the freelancer faces the decision of doing the extra work without compensation or charging more. From my experience, if the additional work is brought on by a change that the client has made, it is best to charge an additional amount (of course this is helpful to be discussed at the start of the project so additional charges are not an unpleasant surprise). Some clients will keep changing their demands if there is no additional monetary requirement from them.
4 – Poor Scheduling
A successful freelancer will be organized to the extent that very little time is wasted. With all of the challenges and temptations that come with freelancing, it’s easy to loose track of time and not get much of substance accomplished during the day. Making more productive use of available time is one of the best ways to increase income.
5 – Working Too Much
Finding the proper work life balance is difficult. It’s much easier to accomplish when you’re working a salaried 9-to-5 job, and much more tempting to work long hours as a freelancer or business owner. In most cases, your quality of work will improve with a better balance, and your quality of life certainly will, and that’s more important anyway.
6 – Trying To Do Everything
Are you trying to do more than you’re humanly capable of doing? This applies to all aspects of freelancing including taking too many jobs, attempting too broad a range of services, handling too much of the dirty work yourself (accounting, invoicing, etc.). You may be better off by focusing on what you do best and hiring others to do the essentials.
7 – Failing to Pay for Effective Services
I think we’re all tempted sometimes to avoid paying for a legitimate service because there is a free option that may not meet all of our needs (but at least it’s free). Could you save some time by paying for a better project management software, or maybe an invoice tool? There are a number of resources that, although they may cost something, can more than make up for the cost by resulting in increased productivity.
8 – Inefficient Use of Email
The convenience of email is wonderful, but it can also eat up way too much time. Darren Rowse recently published an excellent post about his own experience with decreasing the daily burden of email. Personally, I have recently consolidated several email accounts into one inbox and I’m shocked at how much I like it and how much time it can save. Unfortunately, writing and responding to email doesn’t directly generate income, so it needs to be under control.
What’s Your Opinion?
What ways do you struggle with respecting your time? How do you combat these issues?