Contracting gives you more freedom than conventional employment. And with that freedom comes control over your own time. You need to manage your time properly not only to hit deadlines, but also to make sure you’re not spending too long on each job. An extra half-day here and there on various projects will soon stack up and leave you out of pocket.
At Umbrella Broker, we understand how difficult it can be for contractors to manage their time – especially if you’re used to working as an employee. Read on as we look at 5 ways to manage your time effectively.
1. Keep track of time
When you’re working for yourself, time is money. So, it’s important to keep track of how long things take. Time tracking software can help you do this effortlessly. With a good time-tracking tool, you can add projects and the time spent on them per day, which will calculate the cost based on your billable rate.
This is particularly effective for contractors who charge by the hour or day, rather than those who charge a fixed price for the project. However, even for project pricing, it will help you track how long each job takes and give you a better idea next time you’re providing a quote. Time tracking software can also help you calculate or re-adjust your daily rate.
Look for software that is easy to use and also available on mobile. That way you can easily update your timesheet after each job, rather than having to load up your computer just to add your hours.
2. Set deadlines
As well as keeping track of the time you spend, it’s useful to keep track of delivery dates. Some jobs will be urgent, while others can be put on the back-burner. Having a clear idea of this will be invaluable when it comes to planning your workload.
Prioritise tasks to make sure those with set deadlines are completed in time. Remember to add contingency time, so you’re not finishing things the same day they’re due. So, if something needs to be done on the 26th of the month, aim to finish it by 22nd, to cover yourself for unexpected setbacks.
Set reminders on your phone or desktop calendar when deadlines are approaching, to make sure you don’t lose yourself in another project.
3. The working day
Managing your time isn’t just about earning more money. It can also help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. A good rule is to start and end your working day at a consistent time. For one, this keeps things consistent when you’re charging by the day – and offering to complete jobs “in 5 days”.
It also makes sure your work isn’t taking over. It’s one thing saying you are managing your workload because it’s all getting done on time, but things clearly aren’t working if you’re putting in extra hours every day to get there. Most likely, you’ll become overworked, tired and stressed.
4. Plan ahead
Contractors don’t get the same paid holidays as full-time employees. And there’s nobody there to fill in when you do go away. Make sure you’ve accounted for time off when you’re planning out your month, or even further ahead. It’s a good idea to agree holidays during longer contracts before taking them on or take holidays in between contracts.
5. Be realistic
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re trying to secure contracts. Many contractors promise work by deadlines they simply can’t meet. Instead, accept that you can’t take on every job. Check your schedule before quoting for new jobs and only offer deadlines you can meet.
Remember that you’re not a machine. Every job you do will need buffer time in between, which can also be useful should anything set you back on your project.
Be realistic with your own capabilities too. When things get too much, it may be worth outsourcing some work or delegating to an assistant. Working for yourself doesn’t have to mean working by yourself. Getting assistance with your work could be the key to getting things done on time.