The vast majority of independent professionals pursue their path because of the choice and control it offers them. In fact, the top reasons workers say they decided to become an independent are a desire to control their schedule, greater work/life flexibility, and being able to work on projects they like.
But as you likely know from experience, running your own business isn’t a walk in the park. Even though it does offer choice and control, you have multiple demands as an independent professional. From staying on top of back-office tasks to planning for the future and managing client expectations, your days can quickly fill up with to-dos beyond your actual client work. If you’re looking for ways to better incorporate flexibility into your independent lifestyle, consider focusing on these three aspects.
1. Communicate Clearly and Honestly with Clients
If you’re looking for a better way to find balance between your work and personal life, there’s no better place to start than communication. By communicating with your client clearly and consistently, you can build a strong relationship that meets both of your needs.
How to develop a strong client communication plan
Good client communication begins from the very start of a project. When you first meet a client and are discussing your contract and scope of work, take time to talk about communication as well. What are communication goals on your end and on their end? How and when do you plan on checking in? Setting expectations early on helps get you and your client on the same page.
With a communication plan in place, it will be much easier to structure your daily and weekly work. For example, if you decide to send a progress report to your client each Friday at 9am, you don’t have to worry about when or if they will reach out for an update. This structure allows you to build your schedule around dependable communication while maintaining a good relationship with your client.
2. Set Boundaries and Stand by Them
Setting boundaries is another important step in achieving flexibility in your work. By defining your work hours and communicating them to your clients, friends, and family, you can maintain a better balance of dedicating time to both work and your personal life.
Three things to consider when setting boundaries
When thinking about the types of boundaries you want to set, first consider what is most important to you. Are you looking to spend more time with your kids, factor in a daily walk, or take an online class? Once you’ve narrowed down the things you want to fit into your day, take a look at your schedule and set your work hours based around those goals. Then, communicate these hours to your clients, friends, and family. Of course, emergencies and extenuating circumstances might come up, but setting a consistent time to focus solely on work will help you maintain more flexibility during those other hours. Lastly, stick to the boundaries you’ve established. Yes, that might mean turning down a last-minute project or pushing back a call from a friend until you’re done with work for the day, but having a set schedule will ultimately work in your favor, giving you extra time to use how you want.
3. Find a Time Management Strategy that Works for You
Time management is a key skill for all independent professionals. By successfully managing your time, you can develop a consistent flow of work along with the freedom to pursue activities outside of business-related work.
Time management tips for independent professionals
When deciding how you will manage your time, start by thinking about how you work best. For some, it may be starting work first thing in the morning. Others work better later in the day, or at a coffee shop rather than working from a home office. Make a list of the things that help you work best and structure your time management around those factors.
With your ideal working conditions in mind, consider planning out your weekly or daily tasks in advance. Seeing the tasks you need to accomplish each day can help you develop a more effective schedule. When planning, be sure to factor in extra time to account for an unexpected request or a task that takes longer than usual. Also consider the time you need to dedicate to more vague tasks such as responding to emails, taking a break, or sending client invoices.
Establishing client communication, setting boundaries, and creating a time management plan all involve some upfront commitment and preparation. However, once you establish a good foundation and habits in each of these categories you will be well on your way to achieving more flexibility in your daily life.