I got a great and insightful question from one of the Pro-Lancers on my email list last week. And I think the answer will be eye-opening for you as well, so I wanted to share it here.
last week I revealed my final income numbers for 2022, along with how many hours I had to work to get there.
And a savvy reader named Josh replied asking…
“I’ve been tracking my time as a copywriter in Toggl for the last 10 years. And it’s always interesting to see how it compares to others…
Curious – do you include all your non-billable time in your total hours too? And if so, about what % of it is non-billable?”
First, here’s why this is such a smart question. (And credit to Josh for bringing it up.)
When it comes to running your freelance business, there are really only three primary metrics you need to know.
I’ve already written about them in detail in the article above. So I’m not going to go through all of them again here.
The key thing to remember is that you have to account for the time you spend on non-client projects when you project how many hours you want to work.
And The Percentage Of Time You Need To Spend On Non-Client Work Shows You How Efficient Your Business Is
Since the more time you can spend on client work, the more money you can make.
While the more time you’re forced to “waste” on non-client work, the more total hours you need to work in order to make the same income.
Also, for most freelancers, the majority of the time they spend outside of client projects goes toward finding new clients.
Which means if you use less-efficient strategies for getting clients, you might need to spend half your time — or more! — posting on social media or sending cold pitches in order to fill up the rest of your calendar with work.
Whereas if you can make new clients come to you with my 30-Second Referrals method, or by building your network at live events, you can cut your non-client hours way down.
So keeping an eye on the percentage of your time that you spend on non-client work tells you how efficient your client-acquisition system is.
And if it takes you less time to acquire a client, you can use the extra time you save to do more paid work. (Which means your income goes up.)
Or you can decide to take the time you save and work fewer hours — while making the same income. (Which means your effective hourly rate goes up.)
But either way you slice it, spending less time to acquire a client improves your business metrics.
And it helps you avoid getting overwhelmed, since you can grow your income without having to work long hours.
Which is why keeping an eye on the percentage of your time that goes to non-client work is so smart.
My Recommendation Is That You Try To Spend No More Than 25% Of Your Time On Non-Client Work
And if you can get it down to 20%, even better.
That’s actually where my numbers ended up last year. Which is what I said to Josh when I answered his question…
For context, last year I worked a total of 982 hours. So Josh was asking whether that was just client work or total.
And I told him…
“Yes those 982 hours are the total time I spent on my freelance business — including the non-billable stuff like taxes, bookkeeping, etc.
I wound up with 80% of those hours being dedicated to client work.”
And that means the 20% went to non-client work.
Then I shared the following chart from my dashboard with him…
The blue segment of the bars below is the billable/client-work time. The red segment of the bars is the non-billable time. And the horizontal dashed line is the average for the year.
So now you see why knowing how much time you “waste” on non-client work is so important.
And if you don’t already, I encourage you to start keeping an eye on it.
Now Let Me Show You How To Make Freelance Clients Come To You — Like Clockwork — Using A Simple, 30-Second Conversation…
All the details are inside my free business blueprint 30-Second Referrals.
With this free PDF, you’ll discover how to use a simple, 30-second conversation to get two referrals from every single client you sign. (I’ll even show you exactly what to say during this conversation with my word-for-word script on page 13.)
That way, you can make clients come to you like clockwork. And you can fill your pipeline with more new business than you can handle.
But there is a small catch…
30-Second Referrals is only available to members The Freelance Like A Pro email list.
So enter your best real email below to join us and claim your free copy of 30-Second Referrals now. (And you’ll get my members-only emails to help you run a more profitable and stress-free freelance business, too.)
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Thanks for the freelancing guide and the emails that you've been sending out — the 30-second referral method is so stupidly simple, that it's genius!Connor Inch, Freelance Copywriter