When I first started working for myself, I was like: OH HEY I HAVE ALL THESE HOURS! LOOK AT THEM IN ALL THEIR GLOWY DELIGHT!
If the idea was to “be booked,” then great—I would be motherfauxing booked. (Get it? It’s the faux fuck, and it’s coming to a screen near you.)
The surprise, of course, was that getting the work wasn’t the hard part: it was planning out the work. What I didn’t realize, then, is that time is independent of energy. Just because you’ve got eight hours of available time doesn’t mean you have eight hours of available stamina. And it’s so critical to understand the difference.
I call this your mental exchange rate.
Everyone’s is different. Every industry is different.
For example, I know that, without fail, it will take me at least one full hour to write a first draft of a single page of web copy. However, I can only write three pages of copy, at the max, before my mental prowess begins to suffer, and I’ve got to pack it in for the day.
For me, that means that for every eight hour work day, I get three hours of copywriting time.
It’s an 8:3 ratio.
So if I have a client project that requires eight pages of copy, I can’t just assume I’ll take an eight-hour block of time and work on it all in one fell swoop. Doesn’t work that way. I’ve got to budget at LEAST three full days of time, drafting three pages each day, in order to simply develop the first set of drafts. Naturally, you won’t just be working with one client at a time either, so then you’ve got to account for multiple projects as well. Then, of course, there will be multiple rounds of re-writes and editing and client communication and discussions, all of which will take just as long for each page, multiplied by rounds. There's a lot of multiplication going on here!
This is why it’s so important to track your time and know the rate at which you work.
You need that to be able to plan—and give clients accurate deadlines.
And you also need it for the integrity of your work. There’s nothing worse than rushing through a job for the sake of an arbitrary deadline. And yet, people do it every day—not because they don’t know how to meet deadlines.
But because they don’t know how to set them.