Does lack of time put you under pressure?
If you run a micro business that offers a service, one of the things you’ve probably found hardest to do is to put a value on your time.
And what’s even harder is actually making sure that what you charge for your time is value for money for your client and an accurate reflection of your experience in the sector you work in.
It’s a challenge a lot of micro business owners struggle with and it’s something that can eventually lead to resentment, bad feelings and stress.
One of my businesses works helping micro businesses to develop and flourish. I find I’m very good at advising others how to value themselves, based on years of experience running micro businesses in different sectors, but did not always heed my own advice when it came to creating my own price tag.
Are you undervaluing yourself?
However at the beginning of 2013 that all changed. I looked at what I had done in the last quarter of 2012 and was shocked when I worked out just how much work I had done for free that also generated me no benefit whatsoever.
In fact, according to my calculations my unpaid time in that period was around 60%.
Although maths was never my strong point at school, commerce / business studies was and I know when I have been undervalued and when I have made a loss.
This realisation was a stressful wake-up!
Understanding what is free & what is paid for time
I think I should make it clear at this stage that I actually knew at the beginning of the year that a lot of the work I would be doing would come with no remuneration. That’s because in January 2012, Tony Robinson OBE and I launched Enterprise Rockers – a community interest company founded to make life in micro business better and fairer.
We were adamant that this C.I.C. would remain independent from Government funding, bank sponsorship or donations from corporate organisations who were only interested in getting their name in front of lots of micro business owners and were not interested in improving the life of those that employ between 0 and 9.
Tony and I had agreed that we would fund Enterprise Rockers ourselves, with the support of other micro business owners who donated time or services to help us generate what we refer to as the ‘Power of Plenty’, until we had built relationships with those who were happy to help us create a sustainable business model.
Now I understood this part of my work would be gratis.
It was work where my services had been taken advantage of that irritated me and in most cases the person to blame for this was me.
Remember – Volunteering cannot be a full time role if you run a micro business but giving something back is rewarding. If you want to give something back to a charity, a community group or national organisation ensure time is set aside in your diary to do so and apportion the amount of time you can afford to volunteer.
Set yourself some ground rules
So after beating myself up a bit about my findings (not in the literal sense of course) I decided to set myself 6 ground rules that I would follow when asked to do any work:
- Will it bring me income ?
- Will it bring me happiness ?
- Will it bring me promotion to generate either income or happiness ?
- When asked to help deliver a project or programme will the organisation I am working with just be ticking boxes or will they have the clients personal and business development interests at the heart of what they are doing ?
- Do the people I will be working with actually have adequate experience & knowledge of the product or service they are delivering or want to deliver ?
- I will not work with Twits ! (or any other appropriate word I chose to replace the word Twit with)
Respect your time and don’t be a pushover
Whatever service your micro business delivers and whatever your main objectives are within that business, set some ground rules to follow so you can ensure you have a focus for the work you want to do and the customers you want to work with.
You’ll find doing this stops people taking advantage of your expertise and gives you a greater sense of satisfaction when working with the clients you have chosen.
In addition, it’s important to develop smart working practices that support you and your business. For example:
1. Buddy up
If you are faced with frustrating times when running your micro business seek advice from a micro biz buddy who will have experiences to share to help overcome your dilemmas and if they cannot help then they may have a micro biz mate who can.
2. Build your network
The more micro business owners you surround yourself with the better support you will get. But remember to share good news stories as well as business irritations and ensure you return any favours – do not let it be a one way street or this again is undervaluing the time of those supporting you.
3. Be realistic with your time
If you want to volunteer some of your time to good causes then make sure it is a realistic amount of time that your micro business can afford to loose you for.
4. Manage your schedule
To assist with apportioning your time divide your daily diary into 4 sections and only arrange one meeting, appointment or event per time slot (advice given to me by one of my micro biz mates)
- Early – 7.00am until 10.00am
- Morning – 10.00am until 1.00pm
- Afternoon – 1.00pm until 4.00pm
- Late – 4.00pm until 7.00pm
Most importantly of all calculate your worth efficiently – remember overvaluing yourself can be as bad as undervaluing the service you offer.
Over to you
Have you found you’ve been undervaluing your time? Does working for free stress you out and cause you to question your approach to micro business life? It would be great to hear other examples and experiences so please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Today’s Micro Action
Is your micro business earning enough to support your goals and personal dreams? So you find yourself working stupid hours yet still struggle to make ends meet? Is it causing you stress? If so, it’s well worth taking some time today to figure out if you’re missing out on potential income by giving away too much of yourself for free or by not charging enough.
Our freelance calculator is a good place to start, and you can support this by taking a close look at your working practices and deciding what new boundaries you need to put up. Take some time to ponder on these issues today and see if you can create an action plan.