I was interviewed for Flying Solo the other week and Robert Gerrish asked me,
“You seem to be everywhere, you to do so much, how do you get it all done?”
It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this, so I thought I’d explain.
First, let me break down my working week for you:
- My fella and I split the childcare pretty much 50/50. Or 60/40ish.p
- I work three days between 9am and 5.30pm.
- My fourth day is a little shorter (from 9-3ish) as I need to pick my son up from pre-school.
- I sometimes fiddle with social media while I’m walking my dog, or in the evenings over a glass of wine.
So, I probably work, on average, around 30-35 hours a week.
I need at least 70% of that to be billable time to enable me to live and support my family – but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Here’s a rough pie chart of my average working week:
To get the most out of my time, I’ve set a few rules for myself:
1) I follow my ‘to do’ list religiously
I make a ‘to do’ list every morning and put the hardest tasks first. Then I force myself to follow it. I also throw in a few easy tasks so that I feel good when I tick them off.
2) I use social media as a reward
I spend a lot of time on social media, because a) I enjoy it and b) It brings me business. I usually check in the morning and then randomly throughout the day. I take the, ‘if you finish these five pages of copy you can check Facebook’ approach.
3) I don’t sweat the small stuff
I don’t agonise too much over what to write in posts, spelling mistakes in status updates or image choices. There’s a formal marketing plan to stick to. I also make quick decisions – if a client comes to me and I don’t have time to do the work, or feel the job isn’t right, I email them straight away and tell them. No messing about.
4) I don’t spend much time on the phone
Most days I don’t answer my phone. I get a lot of enquires, and if I spoke to everyone, I’d never get anything done. Instead, I set aside time to be available and respond to calls – max 30 or so minutes a day.
5) I don’t meet clients
Travelling to meetings is a huge time eater and I don’t think it’s at all necessary. I won’t meet a client unless it’s a big budget job or an ongoing relationship, and even then they have to twist my arm. Skype and the phone works fine for me.
6) I don’t track my time
I used to fanny around using timesheet tools and time trackers, but they just became another thing to do – another thing to feel guilty about. So I stopped. Instead, I use good old common sense to ensure I spend sufficient time writing.
7) I don’t crap around with leads
If a new customer contacts me, I send them my brief and give them a quick ballpark. This separates the wheat from the chaff PDQ (pretty damn quick). I’m much better at spotting the tire kickers, the time wasters and the PITA clients than I used to be. This means I do less work, but for better projects and cooler clients.
I don’t follow up on dead leads – again it’s just another thing to keep track of. If I send a quote and don’t hear back – so be it, another client is always right around the corner.
8) I’ve stopped doing favours
I no longer do work free of charge for mates, I don’t spend hours answering question from aspiring copywriters (who rarely say thanks), I don’t give out free advice and I only work on one pro-bono charity client a year. It’s harsh, but I feel I’ve done my fair share of giving back – now I want to focus on my family and myself. Learning to say no was one of my finest time saving achievements.
9) I don’t network
I find networking events a bit painful and tedious – so I avoid them.
Before I became a copywriter, I worked as a digital producer for many years and, over time, moved up to managing teams of creative, producers and coders.
I have an innate love of process, spreadsheets and file structures.
I use a few tools from those days to help me:
- Set email templates for each stage of the project process – which I can then customise.
- A WIP (work in progress) spreadsheet where I keep track of each job’s status.
- Word templates for briefs, copy decks, etc.
I’ve learned to outsource
When I started, I did everything myself, coding, accounting, etc. These days I outsource. I tried a Virtual Assistant briefly to help with for the admin stuff but it didn’t work for me. Admin is my favourite bit!
Instead, I use the following :
- Editor: I use an editor on some jobs to polish my work or give me a new angle.
- Proofreader: I use a proofreader for all my copy and blogs – but not status updates (hence the typos!).
- Developer: I use a developer to maintain my site. Yes, I do the odd bit myself and upload blogs, but anything beyond that I leave to the experts.
- Bookkeeper: I have a bookkeeper and accountant, so I don’t have to do my own BAS or tax return.
- Designer: I use a designer/illustrator to create some of the graphics for my site, but also, if I need down time between copy jobs, I create my own (like the awesome one for this post).
I have no idea how much I spend on this each month – I should really sit down and work it out one day – but I know that if I were to try and do some of these tasks myself, I’d be wasting precious money-earning time.
One thing I haven’t done is to employ a junior copywriter because a) I don’t want to have the stress of staff and b) I’m a perfectionist and always end up rewriting any copy that I sub contract out. I know I could earn more if I did this, but I’ve decided it’s not for me.
I’ve found great tools
These days there’s software or an app for pretty much everything. Here are some I use:
- XERO: For accounting, raising invoices, etc. – although I do still track a few things in good old Excel.
- HootSuite and Buffer: When I read an article I generally save it or buffer it. Sometimes when I’m feeling especially good I’ll spend an hour or so creating posts in HootSuite to last the week.
- Lighthouse: A bug ticketing system that makes briefing my developer super easy.
- Slickplan: I use this to create super cool sitemaps quickly.
- Balsamiq: I use this to create super cool wireframes quickly.
- PicMonkey: I use this to create super cool images quickly.
I do one thing at a time
Apart from the regular work, I try to do one NEW cool thing a month – so recently that’s been:
- Adding adverts to my site.
- Installing a live chat.
- Setting up an affiliate program.
- Recording some ‘how to’ videos.
Next on my list are:
- Making my site responsive
- Creating a per-blog email list and updating my site accordingly.
- Creating an Explainer video for my Home page.
- Writing a free mini ebook for my site.
- Setting up an online course with a fellow copywriting pal.
I don’t have any set timelines for doing these, it will happen when the urge takes me and the time is right and when I can be arsed.
I have a few super powers
Okay I’ll admit I do have a few super powers up my sleeve:
- I have a 95wpm typing speed.
- When things are going well for me I can produce ideas and copy very quickly.
- I read quickly – scanning an article for salient points. This lets me the absorb information I need.
- I’m a uber multitasker – I can write a blog while watching Breaking Bad and stroking the dog.
The image versus the reality
So, you’re probably thinking that this all sounds very positive and inspiring.
But there are, of course, two (or sometimes three) sides to every story.
You only see the good times. The blogs, the clients, the sarcastic status updates, but here are some facts about my life that you might not have realised:
- I don’t exercise enough – I did the Sydney half marathon a few years back – now I barely exercise other than walking the dog. This gets me down a bit.
- I don’t eat that well – I try to make a good family meal a few days a week and my husband does the same, but often, we just have salad and fish fingers or toasties for dinner.
- I don’t see my friends as much as I’d like to – I have limited time to be social – this makes my friends cross with me.
- My husband and I are like ships in the night (or ‘shits’ in the night as he likes to say). Although we sit in the same office for most of the week, we rarely get any quality ‘us’ time.
- I’m a little distracted – my son get’s heaps of mum time but I do sometimes watch Peppa Pig with one eye on the iPad.
- I don’t get much me time – I rarely spend time lazing on the beach reading a book.
In my life my son comes first, then the dog, my husband, the house, and me a very distant last. Every month or so I do check myself and try to redress the work life balance, but it’s a constant battle.
So – there you go – that’s how I get it all done.
But when I say ‘all’ – it’s not really all, at all.
You see, just like you, I look at other business owners and think, “Wow, how does he/she find time to create that, go there, do this?”
I try not to compare the worst of myself with the best of someone else.
I try hard to be satisfied with my achievements and to accept the limitations on my time.
But it’s tough, right?
Over to you
How do you manage your time? Do you have any tips from others? Do you fret that you’re not doing enough?
Did you like this post?
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