If you’re a service provider of any kind (designer, developer, writer–basically anyone who gets paid by the hour for a service they provide), scheduling your time properly can easily double or triple your income. The trick is to be extremely diligent with time management.
Most people are averse to scheduling and calendars. If you’ve ever worked a 9-to-5 job, you’ve probably been given a schedule or had a shared calendar that you absolutely despised. These earlier feelings can well up and keep freelancers, entrepreneurs, and anyone who owns their own business from realizing their full earning potential.
Let’s start by taking a second to let go of your old feelings towards scheduling. Those experiences are in the past, and it’s time to move on. Yes, it sucked, but you’re holding yourself back by not letting go.
Now, let’s jump in and talk about how you can make more money by becoming more conscious about how you’re spending your time.
Step 1: Start using a calendar.
Google Calendar(or another calendar application) should become your best friend. For me, it’s the one tool I absolutely cannot live without. At a glance, I can see all of my obligations and all of the hours in a given day (or week) that I have available to fill with billable work time. It’s fairly standard to set your working hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., so let’s run with that for now.
I spend about one or two hours per week managing my calendar. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not done all at one time. Typically I start my work day by reviewing what I have planned for the day and scheduling anything else throughout the week. Aside from just inputting billable hours and projects, I also think it’s a great idea to schedule breaks, meals, and random time off. Some people might think it’s silly to schedule an hour here and there for checking email and social media, but it keeps me from wandering to my inbox and activity feeds throughout the day.
Additional resource: When I was writing my book, I outlined how I used Google Calendar as a productivity tool.
Step 2: Define your billable hours and your hourly rate.
In one week, you should have about 40 total hours you can work to get paid. If you charge $50 per hour for whatever service you offer, that’s an earning potential of $2,000 per week. Multiply that by four weeks (for a month) and you have the potential to make $8,000 per month. It seems simple, but many people don’t break it down and look at their calendar this way.
Your can determine your hourly rate by finding people selling a similar service, or simply by choosing a number based on what your time is worth. Many people think that once they pick an hourly rate, they can’t change it. I often change my hourly rate based on the project or person I’m working with.
I also highly recommend picking an hourly rate you’re comfortable with and increasing your rate every three to six months. You don’t have to double your rate, but as you get more experienced at your work, you deserve to be paid accordingly. And here’s a pro tip: If you have more people inquiring about your services, you should probably increase your rate.
Step 3: Shift your mindset on how much money you need to make.
Business owners shouldn’t strive to make the most money possible. Instead, they should strive to make enough money to easily sell their service to potential customers, while living a comfortable lifestyle. Too many entrepreneurs who leave the 9-to-5 job world don’t change their habits from that world. When you can expect a weekly paycheck, you can live a certain lifestyle. However, when you own your own business, you might not get paid for a week (or a month), and you need to take a serious look at how much money you spend versus save.
A good way to establish how much money you should charge per hour (and, subsequently, how many hours you should work) is to add up all your monthly bills. If you have $4,000 in monthly bills you must pay, then the absolute minimum amount of money you need to bring in each month is $6,000. Why $6,000? Because the additional $2,000 will not only build up savings for you for vacation time or buying a new laptop when yours craps out, but also to give you a cushion for a month when a client doesn’t pay on time.
If you remember, by my earlier calculations, you have $8,000 in billable hours per month. If your bills are $4,000, then technically you have an entire week throughout a month when you wouldn’t need to work. That’s totally realistic, if you are smart and diligent with your time. Plus, if you want to raise your hourly rate, you can probably work even fewer hours.
Being strict about scheduling your time will actually give you more free time.
It may seem like you’re going to have to put in extra hours to schedule your hours, and you absolutely are. What you won’t realize until you do it is that it’s not that hard. And once you develop a good time management system, you’ll end up with a lot more free time.