Fully Booked VA Blog

Focusing on Your Highest ROI Activities Equals Freelancer Success

Many of you have told me that you struggle with not having enough time.

Trust me, I GET THAT! I work full-time (some would argue more than full-time) in my online business and I STILL run out of time every week.

Every day really.

But here’s the thing, it’s not how many hours you work – it’s how much you get out of each hour.

Boom! Mind blown, right?

It’s not a new concept, but it’s a really great reminder to those of us that feel like we need more than 24 hours in a day.

Work Will Only Take up as Much Time as You Give It

Another huge mentality shift. But also totally true.

I feel like I beat “my story” to death, but when I was building my freelance business, I did so on the side of a full-time job and with two small children (one of whom I was still nursing) in tow. So I did what any other sane person would do.

I set my alarm each morning for 4:30am.

And I snuck downstairs trying to be as quiet as possible, so as not to wake up my two-year-old son (at the time) that loves any excuse to wake up early and hang out with mama. When successful, I hustled on my freelance business for an hour or two before I had to get in the shower and get ready for work at my day job.

I’d use my lunch break to check email and follow up on pitches I sent. And then worked for another hour or so in the evening.

And when I had client work to complete, I’d often carve out nap times or whenever I could on the weekends. It wasn’t ideal, but I was kind of trying to work two jobs there for awhile.

So it kind of had to work that way (if I ever wanted to build my business big enough to be able to quit my day job that is).

I Wasn’t Alone

One thing I’ve always had going for me is a super supportive husband. I’m not saying I couldn’t have done it without him, but it would have been SO MUCH harder.

So those of you that are struggling on your own, with small kids in tow – I feel for you. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do this though. Or that you have to prioritize your work over family all of the time.

You can do this. You just have to be uber prepared to…

focusing-on-highest-roi-activities-for-freelancers-1Use Your Time Wisely

If you only have limited time to get your new freelance business off the ground, you have to realize that EVERY hour counts.

And that you need to have a plan for how you’re going to spend your time. Or it’ll go by in a flash and you won’t have anything to show for it.

Happens all of the time, right?

Don’t let it. Here are my four best tips for using your time wisely and getting the results you want.

1. Set Aside Specific Times to Work

Here’s the thing, if you want clients to hire you to write or as a VA (or whatever your freelance calling is), you have to have time to complete the work.

If you don’t… well, this might not be the right time for you to start a new business.

Do you have to have 20 hours per week? Nope. Sally didn’t and she was still successful in building a lucrative writing business.

What’s the minimum amount of time you should have? I would say at least 2-5 hours per week, but 10+ would be ideal.

Regardless, figure out how much time YOU do have and then budget it accordingly in your calendar. Then when it comes time to get to work, don’t sacrifice it for anything.

I.e. If you don’t yet have any clients, don’t not work on your business during the allocated time, because you “don’t have anything to do.” You do have stuff to do. It’s called prospecting!

And prospecting is really your number one job as you get going. It’s not building a perfect website or even having the perfect samples or resume. It’s about marketing yourself first and foremost – and spending the leftover time working on those things.

2. Have a Plan for How to Spend Your Time

So now that you know when you can work each day of the week (and this can fluctuate by the way, but the more consistent you are, the easier it’ll be for you to stick to it), you need to have a plan for how you’ll spend that time.

You need to pre-plan your work sessions, so you know EXACTLY what you’re going to focus on in that time. If you don’t, it’s too easy to get distracted, sucked into blog post after blog post or down the social media rabbit hole.

3. Don’t Try to Do Too Many Things at Once

So now that you know when you’re going to work and what you’re going to do, don’t let overwhelm get the best of you.

I.e. Figure out what your MIT’s (most important tasks) are and then order them in priority. Then focus on the first one. And don’t do ANYTHING else until it’s finished.

Put your phone on silent or “do not disturb.” Close out ALL extra browsers. Use one of those fancy programs to block yourself from Facebook or Gmail if you have to. Whatever you need to do to focus ON ONE THING AT A TIME, do it!

At most, you probably want to give yourself 3-5 items to tackle in any given work session. Any more is probably overkill. If you blow through your initial list, great! That means you can tackle the next thing or wrap up early for the day (that’s the biggest perk of working for yourself, right?).

4. Concentrate on the Highest ROI Items First

Not sure what item should be the most important one? Or the one that should come first?

Calculate each to do list item’s potential ROI (return on investment). Again, pitching or prospecting for new work is probably going to end up at the top. Because without marketing your business, you’re probably not going to land clients and if you never land any clients…

Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle is a great illustration of this. Things are either:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important, but not Urgent
  3. Not Important and Urgent
  4. Not Important and not Urgent

And that’s the order that they should show up on our to do lists. But often we prioritize the not important and urgent over the important, but not urgent. I.e. Answering email vs. researching companies to pitch.

But it’s usually the important, not urgent that will get us the best long-term results – the ones with the highest ROI. What are those activities for your business?

Putting It All Together

My challenge to you – whether you have lots of time to work on your business or not – would be to start by figuring out how much time you’re willing to give yourself on any given day or week and block it out in your calendar.

Next, figure out what absolutely must get done (your MIT’s), prioritize them based on importance and potential ROI and then schedule them into the calendar blocks that you’ve set aside. Then keep yourself on track by limiting distractions at all costs.

Celebrate your small wins when you’re done. Then move on to task number two. And do it all again. And over time spot check to make sure that what you’re focusing on really is important, rather than just masking itself as important.

What’s one thing that is urgent, but not important that you find yourself spending too much time on? 

Mine would probably be email…

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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