At long last, you’ve achieved the ultimate dream: working for yourself. You're a solo PR pro now!
Finally, you have almost complete control over your career. You can choose when you work, where you work from, the types of projects you do and your ideal client profile.
But being your own boss is far from easy.
Once you’re set free, time management can become quite difficult. You may often find yourself wasting time — or, you may end up working non-stop. If you want to be a successful solopreneur and take your PR business to the next level, though, this is a skill you absolutely need to build and fine-tune.
Here are five tips on how to manage your time as the amazing solo PR pro you are.
1. Get clear on your ideal schedule
For the most part, you get to choose exactly what you want your days (and weeks) to look like. As you think through this, here are some key questions to answer:
- How many hours a week do you want to work?
- How many days — and what days — do you want to work?
- What times of day are you most productive?
- Are there any regularly-scheduled non-work things you want or need to do (e.g., yoga class, book club, driving your kids to soccer practice)?
- How do you feel about working on weekends?
There are no wrong answers — except for the ones that simply don’t work for you.
If you want to stick to a traditional 9-to-5, Monday through Friday, do it! If you have trouble functioning before 10 in the morning, don’t force yourself to. Figuring out what will work best for you and planning around that will be much more effective than operating on a whim.
2. Block off your time on your calendar
Now that you’ve figured out the general days and times you want to work, get your calendar out — paper or digital, it doesn’t matter. Go through each day and set aside specific blocks of time for different appointments and tasks.
For instance, you could save all client meetings for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, dedicate Friday mornings for pitch brainstorming, or save two hours every Monday for researching potential new clients. Everything you need to accomplish should have a time slot.
However, don’t overestimate how quickly you can complete a task. Sometimes things take longer than you anticipate, whether it’s because it’s a trickier assignment, you’re having an off day, you get interrupted or distracted or something else. If you can normally write a client byline in 60 minutes, for example, set aside two hours. You’ll be incredibly thankful for this extra time, as it’ll help you avoid committing to too much.
If you’re not sure how long things usually take you, that’s okay! For a few days or weeks, try tracking your time with a tool like Toggl or ClickUp to get a better idea.
|Want to figure out if you can really take on that extra client? Download Solo PR Pro’s Weekly Hour Projection spreadsheet.|
3. Write down non-work commitments, too
Here’s a little secret society doesn’t want you to know: Your personal obligations and hobbies are just as important as your professional commitments (if not more than). A fitness class, your morning run, errands, time to unwind — whatever it is, add it to your calendar just like you would a meeting with a client or journalist.
You must build these things into your schedule. Otherwise, it’ll be way too easy to choose professional over personal and to fill that time with more and more work — a fantastic recipe for burnout and job resentment.
Take care to really honor these personal to-do list items. If you wouldn’t cancel on someone else, why would you cancel on yourself?
4. Define your boundaries — and stick to them
Yes, you have clients, and you want to do great work for them, make them happy, and — in most cases — retain them. But, no matter what, you are the boss, not your clients.
This means you need to establish pretty strict boundaries and be very clear about them with other people. For example, if you only start work at 8:30 a.m. each day, don’t allow a client to pressure you into a regular 7 a.m. meeting. (And hey, if saying no angers them, that’s a pretty good sign they’re not a great fit for your business.)
You define the way you work, and you are responsible for sticking to those boundaries. Because while people should respect them, they also can’t read your mind. If you don’t set a crystal clear precedent early on, you’ll quickly lose control of your time.
5. Hold yourself accountable
We all know sticking to a schedule can be, well, a little harder than it sounds.
But to be honest, not only is your career on the line here, but your wellbeing, too. If you don’t follow through on what you commit to (at least most of the time), you’ll likely find yourself struggling with your work, feeling overwhelmed and not spending enough time on you.
If accountability is something you struggle with, here are a few ideas of how to get better at it:
- Reward yourself for completing your daily to-do list
- Have an accountability buddy
- Try an app that helps you focus, like Forest, RescueTime or Focusmate
And remember: Just think about how good you’ll feel when you complete a week — or even a day! — where you stuck to the schedule you planned out for yourself.
Time management isn’t easy, especially when you’re working for yourself. As you move forward, figure out what works best for you and don’t be afraid to adjust. Good luck!
We want to hear from you! What tips and tricks do you use to manage your time? Let us know in the comments or on social media using #solopr!