Independent Contractor: How Do I Make It All Work?

When I started on my journey as an independent contractor a few years ago, I had no idea how my time management should work. I had only ever worked full-time, salaried positions that didn’t require me to track hours and part-time positions that worked exclusively on a punch-in/punch out. As I waded into the world of contracting out my services to various organizations, I quickly learned that setting up my daily and weekly schedule was entirely up to me.

If I’m honest, some weeks were tough. I either budgeted way too much time for projects and messed up my weekly flow, or I didn’t give myself enough time for things that turned into bigger issues, and ended up working through the entire weekend. It was also stressful financially to figure out how much I may be making in a given month based on how much work I was given to do by the client. However, I have figured out what works for me, and I think it might work for you, too!

  • Work with clients on a monthly, not hourly, contract. – I learned this through my work with Belay. For my line of administrative work and social media management, it makes more sense to work on a monthly contract. For example:
    • Social Media Manager: For $XX/month, I will provide X number of social media posts, engagement on all posts, statistics reporting, and other ad hoc design
      • This is great for you and the client, because you can budget your time for the project rather than just to meet a goal for hours, and the client always knows what to expect for deliverables and their bottom line.
    • Administrative Assistant: For $XX/month, I will provide a defined list of administrative duties that will take me approximately 60 hours/month. If all 60 hours are not used by the client, they can be rolled into next month. If the client needs more hours for a big project, we can agree on a rate.
      • Again, this gives you and the client flexibility and stability. You are able to flex your hours as needed, and the client can budget the hours they need, too, based on projects that may be coming down the pipeline. And again, you both always know how much money is going out and how much is coming in. 
  • Time block, time block, time block.  – We know by now that mutli-tasking does not work. Instead, set yourself up for success by blocking off time that you will focus on one client, without checking messages or emails for other projects. Plan to check in on everything every 90 minutes or so, and set a precedent with your clients that you will always respond to a message within a set amount of time. This gives you freedom while giving the client peace of mind.
  • Keep regular work hours. – The hardest part of being a work-from-home contractor is keeping regular work hours for yourself. It is all too easy to open the laptop while watching TV at night or while having Saturday morning coffee. Treat your workspace like an actual cubicle, and build routines for yourself to open and close your day. This will help your brain to know when to power up and when to shut it down, and will also help you keep healthy boundaries with your clients.

There will always be more that you could do, more you could take on, and more you wish you could have gotten done. The best thing you can do for yourself and for your clients is to build healthy, realistic expectations that keep you from burnout and give your clients peace of mind. This is just one part of giving your career Altitude (Step 4).

Do you think any of these tricks might work for you? Let us know your best independent contractor tips in the comments below!

Laura Robinson is a project manager, MDiv student, and enneagram enthusiast. She enjoys serving alongside her husband at her local church, learning about the Church’s role in social justice, and tending to her houseplants. Laura is a Charlotte, NC native living in Southern California, and she can be found on Instagram @lauraallycerobinson.

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