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Freelance lifestyle

(23 Posts)
winkywinkola Mon 26-Oct-15 18:47:58

I really like my freelance role. I currently have one client that keeps me pretty busy. But I just don't understand where all my time goes that I don't bill for!

I log on at about 10am. I log off at 3pm. But I am only paid for actual activity I actively do like proofing and briefing and emailing and telephone calls. I bill on average 1.5 - 2 hours a day. But I never seem to leave my keyboard. It's odd. I do have a lunch break. I feel like I'm working 4.5 hours a day but never bill that much.

I seem to work a lot more than I invoice. I write down everything I do but it never adds up to much. I'm clearly a bargain worker!

Any tips on better time management?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Mon 26-Oct-15 22:19:17

Hi Winky

Do you use an online tool to track time? I use Paymo which has a free version which if you just use it to time track is good enough. I pay for pro $14.99 a month, so I can invoice from it. It is really good and means you can track the small minutes which add up. It also removes a manual task from your day.

I'd also ask how you work? With the inbox pinging it can be easy to get distracted and dart about between tasks, even if you only have 1 main client. I try to but don't always succeed!! to address one element of a project or one client at a time.

1) Decide what to do
2) Start the stopwatch
3) Stay focused on decided upon task
4) Finish task
5) Stop clock

That includes responding to any emails about the task/client/project.

I would suggest that most freelancers don't bill all the hours they work. There is lots of admin outside of client work. Even if you only have 1 client.

Maybe try the approach above with staying focused on tasks to see how many hours you are spending?


winkywinkola Tue 27-Oct-15 09:11:42

Thank you Margot. I will try your suggestions.

I am skittish in that I will be distracted by an email. My client prefers me to respond as soon as I've seen an email.

I feel like it is almost full time work (evenings and Sunday evenings too sometimes) for very part time pay.

I'm learning a lot about freelancing that's for sure.

Thanks again. Always so helpful, Margot.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 27-Oct-15 10:22:39

You don't have to log off for hours. Maybe do 30 mins, stop, see if there are any emails from the client and then stop the clock. Have a break and start again.

I think having a main client is both a gift and a challenge. They haven't bought your soul....just hours...

You can try to 'manage upwards' by not always responding to emails etc.

All of this is v easy to type and harder to do.

I do find it difficult to not feel like I should always be available....most employees don't feel like they should always be there whenever their boss jumps.

Just try to make small changes and see if it makes a difference. When I work like I mentioned I feel calmer.

Good luck.

museumum Tue 27-Oct-15 13:51:55

When I was starting out I was advised that 0.75 is a good guide to what you bill vs. what you do. At the very most!
So... you need to make sure your fees reflect that extra 0.25 of time that is general admin stuff.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 27-Oct-15 17:01:29

Good point. A book I read said 1/3 billable I think, 1/3 admin and 1/3 biz dev.

MirandaGoshawk Tue 27-Oct-15 17:15:32

What's biz dev please? Business development? So, looking for new work etc?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 27-Oct-15 21:08:20

Sorry yes. Contacting prospects, writing proposals, networking and marketing.

It depends what your area is. My work (marketing) is mainly projects, so they need replacing when done.

WorkingBling Tue 27-Oct-15 21:13:40

If you have one client and you are working on day three projects for that client, surely responding to emails from that client counts as work that you should be billing for?

So, if I am working on something for a client and there's some backwards and forwards about it, that all goes onto the time I bill.

Also, always round up. Always. So if you think you have spent 12 minutes, Bill 15. Not because you are trying to cheat the client but because you are always likely to underestimate.

Also, many freelance women have a tendency to feel guilty about billing. They are uncomfortable with the fact that the job takes 5 hours and costs £xx. Which is ridiculous. If that's what it costs, that's what it's costs.

winkywinkola Wed 28-Oct-15 06:20:31

I absolutely do feel guilty about billing. Which is ridiculous.

WorkingBling Wed 28-Oct-15 07:13:40

Completely ridiculous. And until you get over that you have a huge problem. Your plumber feels no guilt billing for his time. Nor does your dry cleaner. Or you cleaner.

And stop working for free. If you are interacting with the client, that is billable time. Even if you are shooting the breeze. I have one client who is also a friend and mentor. She is the only one who does not get billed for all my time spent with her. But... If I come in for a formal meeting I bill her. And if it starts late, which it does, I bill her from when the meeting was due to start. And if the conversation is detailed (by her usually) I still bill for that time, or at least most of it. I actively suggest drinks or lunch which I don't bill for, as an opportunity to have the social stuff. But in the work environment I am ruthless

Incidentally, she taught me that!! grin

WorkingBling Wed 28-Oct-15 07:16:25

One last question - does your hourly rate take into account your flexibility etc or are you charging the equivalent of what you were earning full time on an hourly basis. Because if you are, that's another problem. In the work environment 100% productivity is impossible. I think anything over 7@% is considered really good. But as a freelancer you tend to only charge for your productive time. You need to factor that in. Ditto, the fact that you don't have job security or benefits. And on the clients side they have to pay for specialist skills that if they brought in ful time would be too expensive.

winkywinkola Wed 28-Oct-15 09:02:17

Working, that's the thing. I feel like I have to be available to respond quickly from ten until 3. I can't do anything else just in case work pops up as it does but not for all those hours I'm to be available.

My client was on a course and at her part time job all last week. She asked me to mind everything as it were, which meant I actively worked more than usual but my availability was longer.

senua Wed 28-Oct-15 09:24:14

My client prefers me to respond as soon as I've seen an email.

Tell her that you only check e-mails once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I have a client who does the 'immediate response' thing and it means that he spends all day e-mailing (on trivial mundane stuff) instead of proper fee-earning. An immediate response doesn't make the query go away, it just generates another e-mail and so it goes.
Take control: your client is your client, not your boss.

How many of your missing hours are spent MNing? grin

winkywinkola Wed 28-Oct-15 09:26:32

Ha. I've not started work yet so MN is legit for now! grin

WorkingBling Wed 28-Oct-15 13:31:29

Hang on, is your agreement that you are available for your client those hours exclusively? If so, the client pays for all of them whether you work or not.

WorkingBling Wed 28-Oct-15 13:32:46

If, on the other hand, your client knows that those are your hours and you only work during that time then she doesn't have the right to expect an immediate response every time because you might be busy on another client or doing your own marketing admin whatever

winkywinkola Wed 28-Oct-15 14:35:16

Well, I've told her I'm around for those hours. Not exclusively. Although if I did have other clients and, as a result, I wasn't able to respond as quickly to her work as she would like, she would be annoyed.

WorkingBling Wed 28-Oct-15 15:41:54

Oh dear. You have extra problems then. A client management issue might be your first problem, linked to a billing issue. It's ok for client to expect that kind of treatment but then they need to pay rates that compensate you accordingly.

I feel quite passionately about this for a whole host of reasons. And have been doing some v interesting reading lately. I will pm you if you like?

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Wed 28-Oct-15 22:43:06

Although if I did have other clients and, as a result, I wasn't able to respond as quickly to her work as she would like, she would be annoyed.

But she doesn't get'to be annoyed as you are a freelance. Not an employee. And not a dedicated resource, unless she pays you to be a dedicated resource, ie from 10 - 3.

All of my clients know I have other clients. All of my clients start their emails with 'what's your availability like at the moment?' Not because I'm particularly amazing, but because they understand how freelancers work.

How can you change this dynamic? And change it you must. You are essentially giving away - what? 3 hours a day?

winkywinkola Thu 29-Oct-15 13:35:31

Well, the nature of the job is quite fast paced.

It's direct marketing campaigns with a very speedy turnarounds sometimes.

I schedule them all so I do know what kind of work lies ahead. Today for example, is really quiet with practically nothing going on.

I just don't know what is reasonable. She doesn't make me sit at my computer per se. Although I have said I'm available from 10-3. That is my official availability. That is when she would expect me to respond quickly.

it's just that when I seem to be at it all day sometimes, I don't bill that. I don't have a record of that.

I appreciate all the input on this.

It's like I am her employee really. We have a very friendly working relationship. When there are problems either caused by the client, other freelancers or me - problems like errors or mix ups which do happen - she will be very off and moody.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Thu 29-Oct-15 13:54:50

Would a retainer work? So she pays you a lesser amount to 'just be available' with your higher amount for actually doing the work?

CocktailQueen Thu 29-Oct-15 14:04:48

I think if I were you, I'd try to widen my net, find more clients.

And for this one, what does your contract say? Do you have a contract with her?

You should be invoicing for all the time you spend emailing her and on the phone to her as well as time working on her project. I like the idea of her paying you a retainer while you're not working, then a proper hourly rate when you are working. Sounds like you both need your expectations to be clearer.

I use time stamp to keep track of time spent on each project.

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