Earlier this year, I wrote a post on things you should do when you have a lull in work. But what about at the other end of the spectrum? How do you cope when you have so much that you don’t know how you can fit it in and still loaded with work anyway?
As sure as night follows day, just as you will get quiet periods you will get hectic periods too. October-November has been my busiest period and despite only being a week in, it seems it is going to be so again. Here is what I do and what has worked for me.
A quick note before we get started, never be afraid to turn down work for any reason.
Plan & Prioritise
By now, you should know approximately how long a given task will take – both a minimum and maximum amount of time. You also know which of your client’s work is most urgent and which can wait. I have several contracts where the client expects regular, ongoing work but so long as I fill my weekly / monthly quota, are unconcerned as to when I do them (though occasionally something may be time sensitive). A plan of what you are going to do and when is vital – change it every day if necessary, especially if the work continues to roll in.
Put Your Rates Up For New Work
Don’t be afraid during your busy period to attempt to maximise your revenue. You might have a genuine concern of pricing yourself out of the market, and sometimes you might, but this is not always going to be the case. Think about the price of an average foreign holiday. Pick a destination where you have a good idea of how much you might pay for the time of year that you go. Now look at the relative prices just before high season, at high season and at low season. A world of difference, isn’t there? That’s because of demand – airlines and hotels put their prices up because of demand; it is good business practice for you to do the same when you are in demand. If clients want you to work on their project, either because you have done so before or because of great reputation, they will pay it.
I understand there is sometimes a worry about losing work because you can’t get it done before Wednesday when they need it by Monday. This is regrettable if it happens, but 98% of clients are happy to be flexible so long as you are honest from the start about what you have and what you can do. I’ve found that some clients take away several days from the actual deadline so you aren’t working right up to the wire. A tiny minority will always expect their work to take priority and these may be the most difficult to work with. Case by case basis, but again be upfront. Also, don’t make promises you can’t keep and don’t take on more than you can manage because your reputation will suffer in both cases.
This is a tricky one. I have done it just once before when I handed over a couple of pieces of work for my girlfriend to do on my behalf. It was a quick job that I knew she could do and the change in writing style would not be queried. Some contracts are ring-fenced where I am so protective of my “baby” that I would never hand it over to somebody else no matter how trusted. When work gets to overwhelming, if only for the sake of your sanity you should consider outsourcing.
Non Work Stuff
Don’t Forget To Stop
You might have a lot of work for the week or for the month and that is precisely why you need your down time. That is precisely why you need to recharge. Don’t work until 10pm and start again at 6am because by midweek you are unlikely to be performing at your best. We need rest so read a book, watch a film, go for a walk, to the gym, out for a meal – anything to take your mind off of work, specifically how much of it you have at the moment. It might also be a good idea to book a holiday to give you something else to focus on.
There are many traps to working from home, not least of all that your place of work is also your home so work will occupy your thoughts more often than you’d like and in some cases, more often than is healthy. If you can’t break the thought pattern, you will be unable to concentrate, unable to sleep and put yourself at risk of anxiety and mood swings. I discovered mindfulness a couple of years ago on an unrelated issue but really started using it properly about two years ago when many worries about my decision to go self-employed dragged my mood down. Find one that works for you. I tend to find those that centre on breathing and progressive muscle relaxation help me the most.
Set Weekend Boundaries
It is likely you will need to work part of or most of the weekend but you do need time off so set yourself a limit or boundary of how much work you will do. Keep one of the days free to do your own thing; don’t even check your work emails because here, you need to take your mind completely off it so you are fresh and ready when you go back to it.
Do Something Creative
My job also happens to be one of the things I do for creativity so though I see working on a fiction project as “work”, it gives me such pleasure that I do not treat it as such. It revitalises me.