Part One of this series looked at professional appearance, both in person and online. Today, we’ll look at another facet of professionalism in freelancing.
HABIT TWO: PROFESSIONAL BEHAVIOR
This one is true of freelancers and entrepreneurs in other fields. It’s so common that Michael Gerber built a consulting empire out of teaching people how to fix this common problem.
Freelancers have only themselves to make sure they do their jobs. Unfortunately, most freelancers are pretty bad at doing that — if they were good at it, they’d be fine working a regular job with regular hours and solid benefits.
Result: a host of obstacles between you and the freelance income you deserve. Do any of these sound familiar?
- Turning in assignments late
- Working until 2 in the morning to turn in an assignment on time
- Having no clear budget
- Not sticking to the budget you set up
- Slow or frustrating communication with clients
- Constant worry about if you’re forgetting something
- Constant worry about money
- Disorganized time, finances and/or workspace
Don’t judge yourself too harshly if you resemble the above remarks. They’re epidemic among freelancers and consultants. Most of us are constitutionally challenged when it comes to professionalism and organization — which makes it all the more important that we use tools to stay on top of our work. Here are a few systems I use to keep it together.
Schedule your time and work — even if it’s just blocking out a few hours of uninterrupted work. This not only keeps your work on track. It also protects your “me time” by marking it as not time to go to work.
Have “meetings” with yourself. I spend ten minutes each morning going over my tasks for the day, and another ten each night laying out my plan. Once a week, I schedule major events and ongoing projects using a monthly calendar.
Find an accountability buddy: somebody who will ask you if you’re on schedule and give you a verbal spanking if you’re not. For some people, a spouse is the best candidate. For others, that would be a disaster.
Set a response timeline, meaning you promise yourself you’ll respond to all business communication within a certain window. I use 24 hours. Similarly, set another “hard limit” for letting clients know about problems. Setbacks are unavoidable, but letting people know well before it’s a problem will buy you plenty of grace.
These are just four of many tools that help me. What are some of your systems and tools?