In it’s most basic form, the concept is one whereby you as a freelancer place more emphasis on personal development and improvement over the long term, by effectively using a spare hour or two each day.
It had me wondering just how much more you could progress and develop as a professional. As a freelancer, some client work can be extremely challenging and allow you to push yourself while some work often doesn’t allow for the expansion of one’s skill set. For example, work as a user interface designer often doesn’t allow so many opportunities to develop branding skills. The simple explanation is that to produce work for a client, you tend typically to have to already be at a high standard. This often means that once we have found our area of specialisation, it becomes difficult to develop skills in complimentary or alternate areas and thus inhibits our growth.
This is where I find the concept so interesting. It would be an excellent way to fast-track your development and push the boundaries of what you are truly capable of. And all at the same time, making yourself more and more attractive as a talent for hire, thus increasing your chargeable rate in the long run. It can be so easy to confine yourself to one area and become blind-sighted at the possibility of what you can achieve in complimentary areas.
Particularly in the design or writing industry, each area has so many complimentary areas that be added to your existing skill set. Perhaps in the long-run, you’d be able to produce your own icons in your designs, code your websites as well as design them, or on the writing front, develop a taste for producing fiction or magazine articles. You could spend time applying your skills to charitable or non-profit projects, giving back to the industry community, or helping a newcomer find their way — the possibilities are exciting and boundless.
Time is the most precious commodity available, and it’s so important to allocate it in the way that both provides you with the greatest chance to maximise your potential, as well as ensuring content and happiness and in the long-run. Next time you increase your rate or find a way to increase your earnings, try reducing your billable hours as opposed to spending more money. It’s so easy to become trapped in the what has become the norm — associating a pay increase with the desire to buy more expensive consumables. If your base of work allows for it, try and instead allocate a few more hours to the development of your skills.
Now, it requires planning to work toward pulling off such an approach. The way in which a freelancer works with a client does not always enable for them to section off hours to themselves. There are a number of ways to tackle this issue – each individual circumstance will differ and so it’s about finding the way which works best with you, your clients, and your schedule.
Option 1 — Three weeks per month
Notify your clients that you will only be open to work for the first three weeks of each month. This will enable them to plan ahead and have work ready for you come each month. This should have a positive effect on increasing productivity and actively paid work during the week.
Note: For option 1, keep in active contact with prospective and current clients throughout the month. Put aside perhaps 45 minutes a day for this.
Option 2 — Start early
Work all month, but start early. Work out a schedule where the bulk or all of your work can be completed by mid-late afternoon, leaving a couple of working hours spare each day. This opens up the late afternoon and evenings for personal development. It may be the best way to fit this case into your schedule with the least disruption or inconvenience to your client base.
Option 3 — Four days per week
Work four days per week, variable, and dependent on work volume. Effectively this would be the most flexible plan but therefore also the least predictable.
Option 4 — Take a long lunch
If your work allows for it, start an hour earlier, and take an extra hour at lunch. Incorporated into your routine, that’s an extra 200+ hours per year of learning.
Many of us work on some sort of side project, or side hobby. This might be for a few hours in the evening, say. Take a look back and see just how much you have learned in doing so. Now, imagine the possibilities if you spent 2 or more hours per working day doing the same.
Clients often want you on call throughout the month, and some projects can tie you in full-time for extended periods. Aside from this and unique personal situations, there is real potential for using this approach to significantly improve yours skills and knowledge over the long-run.
This article was originally published on Medium.