It’s 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Your alarm is blaring. Time to get up and beef up your marketing for your freelance business by writing that LinkedIn post and sending out some inquiry emails.
But… you didn’t get to bed as early as you’d wanted to last night. And, you have a major meeting this afternoon at work, requiring you to be well-rested and focused.
Do you snooze the alarm and get a few more minutes of sleep? Or, do you turn it off, get up, and spend time building your freelance business?
It’s a choice freelancers with full-time jobs face daily.
Many freelancers start their businesses as extra income opportunities. Whether you’re preparing for an extra income opportunity in retirement, working to pay off college loans, or under-employed and looking to supplement your pay, maybe you’re not 100% reliant on your freelance income right now.
Some people with a great natural sense of focus, a long-term view, and a tight grip on their “why” can come home from their 9-to-5 job and spend quality time building their freelance business day after day, week after week, month after month.
I know some of those people, but, unfortunately, I’m not one of them.
Others, and I confess this is where I fall, struggle to keep their eye on the prize while juggling the demands of daily life. Kids… pets… parents… household emergencies. And, don’t forget exercise, social events, hobbies, favorite TV shows, or whatever you did with your spare time before you took on that “second” job.
I admit I am a chronic over-committer. And, while I’m always very excited at the prospect of making my business successful and being my own boss… at the end of a long day of work at my 9-to-5 office job, it’s difficult to look forward to more laptop time.
And, though I always turn off that alarm and get out of bed every day to work on my business, I don’t always use that extra time productively.
So, because I’m a flawed human being, I use tricks to keep my business moving forward.
These tricks have allowed me — a self-confessed procrastinator and over-committer — to build my freelance business over time while maintaining a full-time global management job as my 9-to-5.
I’m proud to say I have not ever been without freelance work in my queue for the past 18 months. And, I firmly believe it’s because I’ve implemented a few easy tricks to keep me on task without sapping my weaker-than-I’d-like willpower muscle.
If you’re a natural procrastinator or struggling to keep doing the daily tasks needed to build your business, I hope sharing my tricks will inspire you to add them to your business-building toolkit.
Trick #1: Have a set time of day (preferably first thing in the morning) for freelance activities.
There’s more to this trick than meets the eye. It’s all too easy to snooze your alarm. Or, to start surfing through your social media as you sip your first cup of coffee and get yourself moving. Before you know it, your morning productive time is gone, and you’ve lost the opportunity to make progress on your freelance business… at least for the day. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow, right?
That was me until I made two easy changes that made all the difference.
Because you DO need to commit to yourself to turn off that alarm and get out of bed. AND, you need to work on your business every day.
I knew I had to find a way to make those two things foolproof.
First, put the alarm in another room. And, make the alarm something you can’t ignore! For me, a little Metallica does the trick. Just try getting up, stumbling to another room, snoozing your alarm, then getting back into bed and going back to sleep after that! Nine times out of 10, you’ll win that first battle — you’ll get up on time.
Second, make it as easy on yourself as possible to work on your business once you get up.
I stole this idea from recommendations for setting up a regular workout routine. They tell you to get your workout clothes out and put them in the bathroom ready to change into when you get up. And, if you’re going to drive to the gym, put your sneakers, keys, and coat right there, as well.
By having absolutely everything ready to go, you eliminate any excuse to change your mind about working out.
I use the same technique with my freelance business: Each night, before I go to bed, I “put out” whatever I want to work on the next morning. So, if I’m going to write in the morning, I pull up on my laptop whatever it is I’m going to write about, and I start typing… something… anything… to get me started, so I’m not looking at a blank page.
Or, if I’m planning cold emails in the morning, I’ll do some searches the night before for companies I might want to market to.
Five minutes the night before makes all the difference.
I guarantee just following those two tricks alone greatly increases the amount of attention you give your business.
But, I’ve gone one further with…
Trick #2: Habit stack.
We all have things we do every day without fail… brushing our teeth, drinking our coffee (or tea), getting dressed, packing a lunch. Think of all the things you do without even thinking about it.
Those are habits. We all have some, for good or bad.
Habit-stacking is when you tack a new habit you want to adopt onto an old habit you already have.
For instance, I wanted to add some yoga moves to my morning wakeup routine. I already have a meditation “habit” when I first get up in the morning. To add yoga, I put my yoga mat out on the floor right in front of the chair I meditate in. I’ve “stacked” that yoga habit onto another habit I do every day, without fail.
Let’s say you’re not a morning person, or you don’t want to work on your business in the morning. You’d rather save that for the end of the day, after you come home from your j-o-b.
But, let’s face it… by the time the end of the day rolls around, there’s almost zero chance you’re still on your plan for the day AT ALL.
So, how do you make sure you log some time on your business after work? Habit stack!
If you always clean up the kitchen after dinner, spend 15 minutes on your business as soon as the cleaning is done.
If lunchtime is when you work on your business, stack it with something in your lunchtime routine. Maybe you spend 15 minutes sending out cold emails before you sit down to eat. Or, maybe you write your blog post after you eat.
And, if I’m only spending 15 or 30 minutes a day on my business-building, I need to hit the ground running with…
Trick #3: Break down your weekly goal-setting into daily tasks.
One last habit-stacking task. Once a week, I do my weekly meal and grocery planning. Now, I also stack my business-planning tasks with that activity.
Then, as I’m doing my calendar for the week, I schedule my business tasks right into my calendar, so I know exactly what I’m doing each day at 5:30 a.m. or each evening after dinner that week.
This trick lets me kill two birds with one stone. I’ve put my prioritized tasks into my calendar to save the time for them, and I’ve removed an important barrier to building my business — not knowing what to do next… entering analysis paralysis… and doing nothing.
Trick #4: Use visualization.
Finally, this trick is one that’s served me very well (and it’s also habit-stacked with my morning meditation). I visualize checking off my To Do list for my business each morning.
And, even more importantly, I visualize why I’m even doing this in the first place. Because, if you truly began a writing journey because you wanted more control over your time and your income, working two jobs (your 9-to-5 and your freelance business) can feel like you’re moving away from your dreams rather than toward them.
Visualization, when done correctly, keeps your writer’s life vision front and center for you daily.
I get to visit my dream house, have my dream day, and go on my dream vacation for five minutes a day every day. It keeps me from hitting that snooze button.
If you’re building a freelance business while maintaining a full-time job, the days can be tough. But, with these four tricks, you can speed up your progress… and that means every day will move you closer to your freelancing dreams.