January 17, 2022

Long term goals: how to work less as a freelancer

Written by Olivia Bufton

We’re a couple of weeks into January, so how are the New Year’s Resolutions going? The beginning of the year is always a good time for freelancers to review their priorities and set their goals for their business going forward. One goal that you might have for 2022 is to try and work less. There are lots of reasons that freelancers might look to reduce their workload. Perhaps you’re seeking a better work/life balance. You could be looking to wind down towards retirement, head back to education or seek a permanent role. Or perhaps you have new responsibilities like caring for family members or young children that make it important that work doesn’t take over your life. 

Freelancing is perfect for people who want to try and reduce their working hours. With the right skills, experience, and some business-savvy decisions, it’s one career where you have the opportunity to work less and still manage to earn enough to meet your goals. In this article, we’ve put together some of our top tips for freelancers who are looking to reduce their workload without losing their income. 

Work smarter 

If you’re looking to work fewer hours in the week, then that time that you do spend at your laptop needs to be extremely focused. Cut out on unnecessary distractions like social media and web browsing (disabling your Wi-Fi and turning off your mobile can help with this if you don’t need them for your freelance work). If you’re working from home, try and avoid being lured into other tasks like laundry and housework – all that can wait until later. If you’re in a co-working space, make sure that you take some headphones or similar to indicate to other people that you don’t want to be disturbed. 

Try to avoid getting drawn into lots of unnecessary Zoom meetings with clients or collaborators. – while meetings can be useful, they are also a huge time drain. Make sure calls are focused and purposeful. Setting a shorter time limit (30 minutes instead of an hour, for example) can help keep things snappy. You could also multitask with walking meetings, combining some physical exercise and fresh air with your discussion time. 

Put a price on time 

Even for experienced freelancers, it can be difficult to estimate how much time a job will take when you first quote for it. Use your experience to allocate time carefully and, when you estimate jobs, always build in a little wiggle room for yourself. Make sure you clamp down hard on any scope creep from clients and don’t be afraid to discuss extra charges for additional work or demands that get added in after the initial brief. You can find more tips for managing scope creep in our blog

Specialise 

Specialising in a particular skill or sector can be a real bonus for freelancers looking to create extra time for themselves. Done right, finding a niche and specialism can mean that you can command a higher rate for your services. You could then decide to work fewer hours for the same money. It can also save you time having to keep up with developments over several aspects of your job or affecting lots of different sectors – you can just monitor the things that most matter to your work and clients. We’ve put together a guide on how to set yourself up as a self-employed specialist on the blog

Review your freelance rates 

This leads nicely onto our next recommendation for getting yourself to a position where you can work less: it’s time to review (and probably increase) your rates. Many freelancers are underselling themselves, particularly with the cost of living set to continue to rise, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting paid fairly for your work. This is particularly the case if you started freelancing a while ago and haven’t ever put your prices up. 

Nurture your existing clients 

Chasing new business, negotiating contracts, advertising your services – these are all time-consuming activities for freelancers and are often carried out without payment. One of the best ways to save yourself time is by growing your relationships with your existing clients and trying to cultivate more work out of these existing connections where possible. It saves the labour-intensive work of chasing new clients, and the best thing about it is you already know lots about your clients and what their needs are. You don’t need to get up to speed on everything from scratch each time. There’s a lot to be said for sticking with what you know. You can also focus energy on clients who you know pay well, on time, are easy to work with and don’t make outrageous demands. 

Outsource fiddly or labour-intensive jobs 

If your business finances are looking healthy, and there are jobs that you find particularly time-consuming, you could consider engaging other freelancers or businesses to share the load. For example, if numbers do your head in, you could consider getting an accountant to help manage your books and finances. If you find Twitter and Facebook a bit of a time-vacuum, you could hire a social media freelancer to look after your channels. If you can find someone skilled who can do things quicker than you, getting in the right people can save you time and money in the long run. 

Get good business insurance sorted 

One thing that we here at Dinghy can look after for you is your freelancer insurance. Dealing with a legal challenge in the course of your work can be expensive, obviously, but one thing that many freelancers aren’t prepared for is the drain on time that it can take. With Dinghy, you’ll have a team of legal experts assigned to your case and they’ll handle everything for you so that you are free to keep working. This allows you to stay focused on your freelance goals and keep that work-life balance in check. Even for lower-level problems, like unpaid invoices, Dinghy is there to share the burden and free up your time. Our Freelancer Assist service comes bundled with every Dinghy policy and will help you recover debt from clients. To find out more about how Dinghy freelancer insurance can support your business, visit our website

About Olivia Bufton

Read more blog posts by Olivia Bufton


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