One of the trickiest parts of being a freelancer is juggling a variety of work assignments and a variety of clients at once. This is a good problem to have, as variety means lots of work!
But the reality is that as your own boss, you need to make sure you manage your workloads, meet deadlines, and have adequate time to do quality work.
Besides current workload, you’ll probably also be looking for new work, so doing job searches, networking, and writing proposal templates can be added to the list, along with administrative work like creating invoice templates and tax preparation. Add to that the fact you want to be sure to build time for personal wellness, exercise and time with friends and family.
This can all seem overwhelming. And overwhelmed can mean wasted time doing mundane, invaluable work, with lots of distractions, followed by panic as deadlines approach.
One way to ensure you have time to do quality work and get it done to deadline is to time block. This means scheduling your time to focus on one task and limit distractions. It doesn’t always mean getting everything done at once related to that task, but it means focusing on the task at hand rather than do a multitude of tasks at once.
After all, dedicating time and getting into a focused, distraction-free state of mind is far more worthwhile than a wasted afternoon distracted by less valuable work. You can even use tools to eliminate distractions as part of your time blocking strategy, such as putting your cell phone on Do Not Disturb.
But it’s much more than that. So let’s dive into time blocking, and explore how to time block so that you can maximize your work and elevate its quality.
If you think about it, we’re all accustomed to time blocking already. After all, a large majority of us use some form of calendar, usually an electronic one, and sync it up on our smartphones, laptops and tablets. We are all used to booking appointments, setting reminders and including travel time, for instance. Bonsai has additional advice for managing your time as a freelancer.
So why not use a similar system for getting our work done? Why not figure out how to time block, as a productivity tool and so much more.
Rather than leave our workdays to a haphazard schedule of jumping from one task to the next, why not schedule our work like we schedule appointments with clients? Forget about working in the traditional 9-5 setting, where you fill the time with tasks until the workday is done. Time blocking is about working until the task is completed, leaving you free time for your life – or other important work.
There are a variety of reasons why you should time block. Here are a few:
That’s not to say your workday is always in a Monday-Friday, 9-5 timeframe. There will be times when you work nights or weekends, either by choice or by necessity. As Matt Nishiguchi points out, “It is possible to work regular office hours as a freelancer, but chances are that you’ll also need to be prepared to stretch these limits every once in a while, particular when you’re just starting out.”
But even if you’re working odd hours compared to regular office workers or your clients, time blocking will help.
So let’s look at how to time block.
The basic way to think of time blocking is to consider your list of things to do, and schedule it in your calendar. But rather than leave the day to chance, you block time for each work project, and in that time frame, that’s the work you do. Nothing else.
Learning how to time block includes figuring out what work needs to be done every day, every month, and every year. You can start with that schedule and then build projects around it.
For instance, each day you will likely want to:
So perhaps you book an hour each day to handle these tasks. You can even communicate these as “office hours” on your voicemail or email signature, and clients or colleagues will appreciate knowing when they can reach you. It also means you don’t check every hour – which can take some discipline but will result in increased productivity.
You’ll also have to consider bi-weekly or monthly work, like freelance invoicing. And then there are annual tasks like tax preparation. These can all be put in your calendar at the start of the year.
Then you’ll consider upcoming work and schedule that. If you have a presentation on Thursday, you can block two hours on Monday and two hours on Tuesday, for instance. Dedicating several hours to a single task will help eliminate distractions and enable you to strengthen your focus.
Some people do find it effective to set time limits, such as a two-hour block. They can then move on to another task, as some variety in the workday is valuable to them and keeps them fresh. For others, it’s better to focus an entire day on a project until it’s done.
Whichever works for you, time blocking helps you limit distractions and get work done faster, and hopefully diminish the feelings of being overwhelmed. Time blocking can help you create a daily routine, while maximizing time available and ensuring you don’t take on too much work.
One important consideration when you’re time blocking is to schedule your most important work when you do your best work. If you’re a morning person, for instance, book the start of the day for the work that takes the most concentration and effort.
Let’s say you have an important project that needs to get done. You book 8-11 a.m. to work on the project, then book your “administrative” or “office hours” from 11 a.m. to noon. This allows you to focus on the most difficult work during your freshest time of the day, followed by less difficult work.
If you have a particularly large project that demands your attention, you can book an entire day to work on it until it’s done. You can communicate that you won’t be available that day. If you need support for project management tools specifically, Bonsai has got you covered.
Scheduling your workday will help ensure everything gets done. But that’s your workday. As a freelancer, it’s easy to fill every waking moment with work, particularly as you’re establishing yourself. But in order to remain effective, you need to think about other aspects of your life as well.
Time blocking can help. Perhaps you want to be sure to schedule three exercise sessions each week. Maybe you want to make lunch for your family once a week. Perhaps you have one afternoon a week that’s free from work, so that you can go for a hike. Time blocking can support your personal priorities as well. Besides time management, Bonsai can help with additional tips that every freelancer should know.
So we’ve figured out the basics of time blocking. Let’s work on an example. We’re going to work in one-hour blocks, but you’re free to do what’s best for you, down to 15-minute intervals if that’s what works.
This is simply an example to show how regular work (“office” time, invoicing and tax prep) combines with emergent work (presentation and project work), searching for new work, and personal time. There are also some blocks left free for anything that comes up that week, or for some additional personal time. Some evening work is even accounted for. However you choose to do it, using a system for time blocking can help keep your mind and office clear and chaos-free.
Time blocking can be an extremely effective way for freelancers to manage their time, maximize productivity, and keep their sanity! After all, without a focus to our work, “Parkinson's Law” states: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Rather than flounder through a long day and finish feeling like nothing got done, establish your schedule in advance, focus on each block of work, and finish your day with a sense of accomplishment – and maybe with some free time. If you’re ready to try Bonsai, sign up for a free trial.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?