Pillar #3: Run an Efficient Operation
You might not think of your freelance practice as a business operation. But freelancing is like every other business. You bring work in the door... and then you have to produce and deliver that work.
But unlike in many other types of businesses, you probably won't be delegating the work to an employee. You'll be doing most (if not all) of the work yourself.
Which means that HOW you manage that process is a HUGE determining factor of success.
As freelancers, our biggest asset (outside of our skills, experience, track record and relationships) is our time. In fact, it's our biggest nonrenewable asset. How we use it will determine how successful we become... and how much fun we have doing the work.
There are two operational factors you need to take a look at:
When it comes to scheduling, simpler is often better. But the key is to concentrate on your production capacity.
Lessons from the Manufacturing Industry
Much of my work and thinking on this topic comes from my work with clients that do a lot of consulting in the manufacturing arena. In a manufacturing plant, there's only so much capacity in any given hour or shift. The key is to maximize production during that shift, without sacrificing quality.
So I treat capacity planning the same way a plant manager would treat production scheduling in a factory. (I realize we're not really "factories," but many of the principles still apply, so please bear with me. 😉
A factory has only so much capacity at any given time. Which means that it can only churn out so much product every day and every week. A good plant manager will schedule production runs in a way that maximizes output while minimizing equipment and operator downtime.
When a new order comes in, he has to figure out how to schedule it so that deadlines are met and the factory's resources are utilized as well as possible. If the schedule is full, he can't really "create" more capacity. Instead, he has to look for the next available slot. Or he has to juggle production jobs internally in order to keep everyone happy.
For both the plant manager and the solo professional, this involves a delicate balance between keeping resources (time) employed at near capacity and not going over what the "factory" can produce on any given day or week.
6 Helpful Capacity-Scheduling Tips
Here are some more suggestions that may help you better manage your time and increase your productivity:
Getting More Done in Less Time
The next key operational factor for freelance success is EFFICIENCY. And by "efficiency" I'm talking about productivity "” about getting more work done in the same amount of time. Or the same amount of work done faster and in less time.
Why? Just like back in grade school, the faster you can get your work done, the more time you'll have to go out and play! And the higher your "effective" billable rate!!
The most helpful productivity tip I've implemented in the last few years is the 50-minute Focus Technique. Developed by marketing whiz Dean Jackson, this technique is like strapping a jet engine to the back of a Ferrari! (OK, maybe not that fast, but still!) It's amazingly simple; and equally as effective. Here's how it works:
Fifty-minute focus sessions are like blocks of super-productive time you can squeeze in anywhere, anytime. I find this technique particularly helpful when I'm tired, under deadline pressure or just feel unmotivated for some reason.
Once I get absorbed in the project, my lack of motivation often disappears. Plus, I love the built-in 20-minute break! It's a huge incentive for me, since I use it to read, go for a walk or play with my kids.
OK... that's it for today! But stay tuned for the next lesson, because I'm going to discuss the most underrated and overlooked aspect of growing a super-successful solo practice.
To your success,
Did you get here via a link from a friend or through Twitter? This lesson is part three of a seven-part free mini-course on building a rock-solid freelance business. You can learn more about it and sign up here.
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