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Why You Don’t Really Have Eight Billable Hours Each Day

by Laura Spencer

on May 15, 2013

in Freelancing Basics Productivity

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer - Free Test Drive

At the end of each workday are you left with more work than day? Do you constantly wind up working into the evening hours because there is too much to do? Do important tasks relating to your freelancing business (like bookkeeping or marketing) go undone?

If this describes you, you may have fallen victim to a common freelancer scheduling trap–the failure to schedule administrative tasks.

Unfortunately, this trap can lead to stress, freelancer burnout and even unmet deadlines. It doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to feel rushed and out of time.

In this post, I’ll explain why freelancers don’t really have eight billable hours each day. I’ll also how to succeed on fewer billable hours.

Why Freelancers Get Stuck with Extra Work

Many freelancers start freelancing to gain more control of their time. They’re looking for a better work/life balance. Often, they are shocked to find that instead of having more personal time, they are spending more time on freelancing than they ever did on their traditional job.

This happens because many freelancers come from a traditional work environment. They have a group of related tasks, or maybe only one task, that they work on each day. Typically, they spend eight hours on just those tasks–and that’s all they have to worry about.

For example, a programmer in traditional employment would expect to spend most of his or her day programming. Sure, they might have to attend some meetings. They might have to fill out a timesheet. But for the most part, programming is what they expect to do every day.

As a freelancer, you are more than just a professional in your field. You are also a small business owner. So, not only do you have to perform the tasks related to your field, you must also perform important tasks that are typically farmed out to different departments in mid-size to large businesses. Some of those tasks include:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Client relations
  • Backups and software upgrades

Naturally, all of these administrative tasks take time to complete. But many freelancers don’t schedule enough time to work on them. The result is that those freelancers have to work overtime if they are going to get these important business-related tasks done and still complete their project work.

Plan a More Effective Work Day

The fact is that if you schedule eight hours a day every day for client work, you’re already overcommitted.

If you’ve ever tackled responding to a request for a proposal while simultaneously rushing to meet a client deadline, you’ve already been caught in this trap. You’ve probably kept some late hours as a result.

Fortunately, the fix is easy (if a bit hard to get used to). Here it is: Don’t plan to spend eight hours each day on client work (unless you want to work more than eight hours a day).

For most freelancers, the ideal is to schedule around six hours each day for client work and two hours for administrative tasks. However, if you receive a lot of inquiries about your services or use subcontractors, you may need to plan on devoting even more hours each day for administrative work.

Sure, you could delegate some of your administrative work. But some if it will always remain with you.

How to Really Make It Work

Many freelancers are afraid to plan for less than eight billable hours because they are afraid that it will mean a reduction in income. It shouldn’t be that way if you plan accordingly.

The traditional employer makes sure that the fees they charge for their services are high enough to cover their administrative costs. As a small business owner (because that’s what you are if you are a freelancer), you need to do the same. For most freelancers, this will mean raising their rates (unless you want to work overtime every single day).

Our earlier post, How Much Should You Charge for Your Freelancing Services? has some excellent tips on how to decide what to charge for your freelancing services.

Your Turn

How many hours a day do you schedule for administrative tasks? Do you schedule eight hours a day for client work?

Why, or why not?

Image by BenLucier

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer - Free Test Drive

About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy LauraĆ¢??s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.