3 Ways Business Owners and Employees Deal Differently With Time (and How to Make the Most of Yours!)

By Melisa Liberman | June 28, 2021

Melisa Liberman

“What got you here won’t get you there.”

I see it play out almost every day for myself, and the independent consultants I coach.

When you think like an employee, your business stagnates and stalls.

Shifting your thinking into that of a business owner a critical prerequisite to your success.

Specifically, a key to success as an Independent is to shift the way you think about time.

Today, I’m sharing three common ways we look at time as employees, and how they will slow you down as an Independent if you don’t replace them with new business-owner-based thinking.

Time: Move from Passive to Active

Employees Say: “Elapsed Time Creates Opportunity”

We learn lessons about time very early in our corporate careers.  One of those lessons is almost always that elapsed time leads to more opportunity.

Did you learn some form of this equation in your corporate days?d

Deliver results + wait an arbitrary amount of time = opportunity for you to get promoted, make more money, take on greater responsibility, etc.

I know for me, this is one of the very earliest lessons I recall learning.

I was working at Accenture in my first role out of college, and after the first year in, I had accomplished all of the requirements, except one, to get promoted. I had built deep knowledge in a highly-sought after technology, (I know telling you the name of the software will date me, but I’ll do it anyway!….PeopleSoft), was billing 125%+ of the expected time, and had taken on responsibility as a workstream lead.

The promotion requirement I was missing?

I hadn’t been at my current level for 2 years. 

So, despite my capability and contribution, I was stuck.

I was told to bide time until I checked that (arbitrary) box, and then I would be eligible.

Just like I was taught this lesson early on, most of us learn the same thing about time:

  • You need to pay your dues first.
  • Put in the time and you’ll be rewarded.
  • And so on

The Impact of Employee-Based Thinking

I could write an entire blog on why this is such a poor management practice, but that’s not why we’re here. The point is that you most likely have employee-based thinking about time that it’s time to replace.

When you stay in this employee-default mode, you fall into a waiting mode. You end up waiting for someone to give you permission to seek more – more revenue, more responsibility, more strategic work, etc. That ends now!

#ThinkLikeABoss: “I Create Opportunity”

One of the keys to your success as an independent consultant is to purposefully shift your thinking into a new, business-owner mode as it relates to what creates opportunity for you.

Elapsed time has no bearing on your opportunity and potential as an IC

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been an IC for 6 minutes or 6 years, to create possibilities for yourself.

What matters instead is the value and outcomes you produce for your clients, which is all your clients care about at the end of the day.

The Takeaway:

Replace the employee thinking: elapsed time is required to create an opportunity


Owner thinking: I don’t need to wait on any arbitrary amount of time in order to pursue any opportunity I want

Think Differently About How You Create Income

Employees Say: “Time Creates Money”

As employees, it becomes engrained that time equals money.

For example, we expect a cost of living increase every 12 months. So, 12 months equals more money.

We also learn that putting in more time and being visible creates recognition and often more money.

This way of thinking often transfers over to our work as an IC, when we charge hourly rates for our first clients. In this way, time really does equal money, literally.

The Impact of Employee-Based Thinking

Thinking that money comes from time keeps you playing small as an independent consultant and business owner.

Time becomes a limiter to scaling and growing your revenue. You avoid working ON your business when you see it as choosing between $0/hr work and billable hours for a client.

And, you end up questioning whether or not time off is worth it. You become tied to your business.

#ThinkLikeABoss: “Value Creates Money”

As a business owner, one of the most important mindset shifts to make is to adjust from thinking time creates money, to thinking value creates money.

This will help you look at your business, the services you provide, and the client’s ROI in a much different (and more lucrative way).

When you shift into thinking that value creates money, you’re able to:

  • Diversify your pricing models into retainers and ROI-based models
  • Free up your time, so you’re no longer working for x$ per hour

To make this shift, ask yourself high-quality, business-owner-centric questions:

  • how can I maximize the return on my TIME investment?
  • How can I add value in the least amount of time?

The Lesson Learned Is Simple:

Replace the employee thinking: time is money, money comes from time


Business-owner level thinking: money is created through value; I can spend less time and make more money

The Ultimate Control Mechanism: Time

Employees Say: “Time Is Out of Your Control”

As employees, we are almost always at the mercy of someone else’s priorities, agenda, and plan. Someone else is dictating the way we spend our time, whether it be your manager, a VP, the CEO, or the Board.

From this, it’s easy to get into a mindset that time is out of your control.

The Impact of Employee-Based Thinking

One of the common traps I see ICs make is to turn your client into your new boss. With this, you let that client dictate how you spend your time. And, you end up re-creating a lot of the employee-employer dynamics that drove you to leave full-time corporate in the first place.

You end up having no time left to work ON your business, let alone for your own personal priorities such as vacation or the flexible lifestyle you wanted in the first place.

#ThinkLikeABoss: “I Control My Time”

The third shift as it relates to time, is to purposefully recognize and implement the philosophy that you  decide how you spend your time as an IC.

You get to choose how you’ll:

  • prioritize working both ON and IN your business
  • when you take time off
  • when you’ll go on vacation
  • how quickly you’ll respond to a client
  • how many meetings you’ll attend in a day

You get to decide it all.

The sooner you take ownership of this, the faster opportunities will open up for you to set boundaries and create client engagement protocols.

And, how will you know you’ve made this mindset shift?

You’ll no longer think (or make excuses) that you’re at the mercy of your client and how they want you spending your time.

The Lesson Learned Is Simple:

Replace the employee thinking: time is out of my control


Business-owner level thinking: I control my time

The Recap:

Thinking like an employee when it comes to time can lead you into the trap of exchanging time for money, waiting on arbitrary elapsed time before you give yourself permission to pursue bigger goals, and delegating the way you spend your time to other people.

As a business owner, the faster you can replace this default employee-mindset with a fresh, business owner-based point of view, the faster you’ll increase your revenue and your own control over how you spend your time.

The three key shifts are to replace:

  • Elapsed time creates opportunity
  • Money comes from time
  • Time is out of my control

With these business owner ways of thinking:

  • I don’t need to wait on any arbitrary amount of time in order to pursue any opportunity I want
  • Value creates money
  • I can spend less time and make more money
  • I control my time

This is the first in a new series from MBO Advantage member and business growth coach Melisa Liberman. Stay tuned for most posts soon.

Don’t Miss Melisa’s Podcast About the Topic:

About Melisa Liberman Coaching:

Melisa Liberman Coach for Independent Consultants

Melisa is a business growth coach who focuses on helping independent consultants double their revenue without sacrificing their personal lives. She’s created several successful independent consulting businesses of her own over the last 9 years and is passionate about helping her clients do the same. You can find her in the MBO app store and leverage special MBO preferred rates on her consulting programs and services.

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