Work, Life, Money, Balance

Image: Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Hey fellow entrepreneurs, I’m back in conversation with Paolo from Studio Rigo. Today we’re talking time management and money.

Time is money” is a very old cliché, but it’s still true. If you waste time, you waste money and add major stress to your busy life. Most successful entrepreneurs work incredibly long hours. There are some people, though, who manage to accomplish so much more than the rest of us — and in less time. So, Paolo, what’s their secret?

Jacci, It’s simple, they are relentless delegators. They let go of all the things they know they don’t need to do themselves, like answer the phone, open the mail, and fill out countless forms. They have skilled support people manage their schedules, deal with paperwork, return phone calls, host nonessential staff meetings, and make travel arrangements.

Yes, that’s something we all need to do. My husband always says “Why reinvent the wheel?” If someone is doing what you need done, better and faster than you can do it. Delegate!

That’s right, but let’s take a step back. Especially at the beginning of a working career, we are driven by the idea — or by the myth — that the more we work, the more we earn. Especially as a freelancer, regardless of the activity performed.

Yes, and that’s difficult to begin with because when one is new to business, one tends to think that any money is better than no money. I have been there. Until I understood the concept you have just mentioned!

Being paid on an hourly basis can be a rip off, indeed it punishes efficiency. If earnings were truly related to time spent, our client would have to pay more if it takes more hours to complete a project; conversely, we should charge less if we deliver the final work in advance.

Not fair, not going to happen!!

In reality it is the exact opposite, because efficiency must not only be rewarded as an expression of quality, but also and above all because it allows our customer to save time! Just as a doctor rarely gets paid on an hourly basis but based on the problem solved, a young professional must understand how to explain his/her added value to the client before issuing any fee. In perfect proportion between cost and benefit for the client.

How does one do this?

I have devised this action plan, let me take our readers through it step by step. Just as a business idea needs a business plan to be validated, so too an idea of ​​working life — as a freelancer — must have an action plan:

  • Start with the big picture. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish, where you are trying to go, and what the most important things are for you to do. This type of clear thinking will give you a solid foundation for goal setting, prioritizing, and establishing a clear sense of direction.
  • Use one planning and organizing system. Consolidate your various calendars, schedules, and to-do lists into a single planning system. Eliminate those floating notes and scraps of paper, integrate phone numbers into your system for quick reference;
  • Invest the time to plan each day. Review and prioritize your to-do list, blocking out time for the most important tasks, choosing the most “distract-free” time to do your daily planning;
  • Make appointments with yourself. Schedule time to do certain mundane tasks, especially ones you don’t like to do. This is a great way to avoid procrastination and just get them finished;
  • Batch the little things. Getting yourself more organized seems like a daunting task, but once you do it, it will change your life.

Ok these are good starting points. What other important rules do we need to make sure that we are following?

I think that most important thing to remember is to start small and grow organically. Remember:

  • You don’t have to work miserable 60/80/100-hour weeks to make it work. 10–40 hours a week is plenty.
  • You don’t have to deplete your life savings or take on a boatload of risk. Starting a business on the side while keeping your day job can provide all the cash flow you need.
  • You don’t even need an office. Today you can work from home or collaborate with people you’ve never met who live thousands of miles away.
  • You can turn a bunch of great ideas into a crappy product real fast by trying to do them all at once. You just can’t do everything you want to do and do it well.
  • So sacrifice some of your darlings for the greater good. Cut your ambition in half. You’re better with a kick-ass half than a halfassed whole.
  • Most of your great ideas won’t seem all that great once you get some perspective, anyway. And if they truly are that fantastic, you can always do them later.

That’s it, start small! You have limited time, resources, ability, and focus. It’s hard enough to do one thing right. Trying to do ten things well at the same time? Forget about it.

Yes, Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Directors cut good scenes to make a great movie. Musicians drop good tracks to make a great album. Writers eliminate good pages to make a great book.

Yes, learn to work economically. That’s the secret. When one is starting out, It’s easy to put your head down and just work on what you think needs to be done. It’s a lot harder to pull your head up and ask what can you leave, or delegate.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re doing work that matters:

Why are you doing this? Ever find yourself working on something without knowing exactly why? Someone just told you to do it. It’s pretty common, actually. That’s why it’s important to ask why you’re working on what you are working on. What is this for? Who benefits? What’s the motivation behind it? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you better understand the work itself.

  1. What problem are you solving? Be clear on what you are doing and what problem it is solving, remember we exist because your customer has a problem to be solved.
  2. Is this useful? Are you making something useful or just making something? It’s easy to confuse enthusiasm with usefulness. Sometimes it’s fine to play a bit and build something cool. But eventually you’ve got to stop and ask yourself if it’s useful, too.

Yes!!! That goes for your business support mechanisms, are they working for you, are they efficient? Have you chosen the right social media platforms, or are you just going with the flow, when your potential clients are swimming in completely an other pond.

  1. Yes, Are you adding value? Adding something is easy; adding value is hard. Is this thing you’re working on actually making your product more valuable for customers? Can they get more out of it than they did before? Sometimes things you think are adding value actually subtract from it. Too much ketchup can ruin the fries. Value is about balance.
  2. Is there an easier way? Whenever you’re working on something, ask, “Is there an easier way?” You’ll often find this easy way is more than good enough for now. Problems are usually pretty simple. We just imagine that they require hard solutions.
  3. What could you be doing instead? What can’t you do because you’re doing this? This is especially important for small teams with constrained resources. That’s when prioritization is even more important. If you work on A, can you still do B and C before April? If not, would you rather have B and C instead of A? If you’re stuck on something for a long period of time, that means there are other things you’re not getting done.
  4. Is it really worth it? Is what you’re doing really worth it? Is this meeting worth pulling six people off their work for an hour? Is it worth working till midnight, or could you just finish it up tomorrow? Is it worth getting all stressed out over a press release from a competitor? Is it worth spending your money on advertising? Determine the real value of what you’re about to do before taking the plunge. Don’t be timid about your conclusions. Sometimes abandoning what you’re working on is the right move, even if you’ve already put in a lot of effort. Don’t throw good time after bad work.

Paolo, you are so right, these points are all very important if we are to make sure that we have a good work — life — earning balance. We certainly need to keep asking ourselves these questions. It really doesn’t need to be a formal process, just something to keep in mind, be aware of, and to make sure that those working for one practices these rules too.

I want to ask you about how to determine what a good rate to be charging. People always bandy about an ‘hourly rate’ which in the real world leaves us possibly charging too much, and the client feeling ripped off. The other scenario is where you abandon the hourly rate altogether and just thumb suck a rate. You’re working for nothing, and the client can’t believe how cheap you are! Not good.

Yes, this is always an issue when one is starting out in business, let be real, perhaps every freelancer’s first problem is finding new — or other customers. The next one is definitely to find the right rate. Each person has a different view of money, so applying a standard rate is not always a comfortable fit. It is necessary to estimate the time dedicated to work and start, just like a business plan, from the goal you want to achieve.

So, for example, most importantly, what are your fixed monthly expenses, then, what do you need for a ‘lifestyle’ — remember we are talking not working yourself to death. Subtract from this, the amount you earn if you still have a day job. These amounts will give you the amount that you need to survive.

Now, think about your days, are you freelancing fulltime, or is this a side hustle after hours? A side hustle obviously gives you a bit of a leeway when pricing. REMEMBER though, one day you will be doing this fulltime and if you have been cheap (because this is just pocket money) then you’ll have built up a whole network of cheap clients and their contacts. Upping your price will alienate most of your clients and you’ll have to start from scratch.

An hourly rate is worked out by dividing your survival amount by the number of hours you can dedicate to work. If you’re needing less because you earn a salary, and you have less hours because you are working….. or you need more because you are freelancing fulltime, and you have more hours, you’ll see the figures should be about the same. Lastly, and importantly, any work that you are subcontracting, double the cost when you are invoicing your client.

I have found that there is no hard and fast rule for working out an hourly rate, one does need to do some research, there are quite a few websites that will give ball park hourly rates for a whole bunch of career types. End of the day, I always take three things into account when doing a quotation.

  1. What is my hourly rate as I worked it out?
  2. How many hours will it take me?
  3. Does that sound reasonable for the client? Sometimes there is a bit of leeway to come up with a figure that both you and the client are happy with.

Paolo, do you have a last word for entrepreneurs?

Yes, Jacci, it would be go to sleep. Please!

Forgoing sleep is a bad idea. Sure, you get those extra hours right now, but you pay in spades later: You destroy your creativity, morale, and attitude.

Once in a while, you can pull an all-nighter if you fully understand the consequences. Just don’t make it a habit. When you’re really tired, it always seems easier to plow down whatever bad path you happen to be on instead of reconsidering the route.

Skimping on sleep will have you battling a lack of creativity. Creativity is one of the first thing to go when you lose sleep. What distinguishes people who are ten times more effective than the norm is not that they work ten times as hard; it’s that they use their creativity to come up with solutions that require one-tenth of the effort. Without sleep, you stop coming up with those one-tenth solutions.

Diminished morale. When your brain isn’t using all cylinders, it loves to feed on less demanding tasks. Like reading yet another article about stuff that doesn’t matter. When you’re tired, you lose motivation to attack the big problems;

Irritability. Your ability to remain patient and tolerant is severely reduced when you’re tired. If you encounter someone who’s acting like a fool, there’s a good chance that person is suffering from sleep deprivation.

These are just some of the costs you incur when not getting enough sleep. Yet some people still develop a masochistic sense of honor about sleep deprivation. They even brag about how tired they are. Don’t be impressed.

Thank you Paolo, in the end it is all about learning to have a work life balance.

I hope that this weeks conversation has given you food for thought!

Ciao for now!

Jacci
JacciR Design
www.jaccirdesign.com