Are you keeping your calendar full with meeting new people but can’t seem to find the time to get any work done? As a freelance writer and entrepreneur when do you draw the line of working in your business (networking) instead of on your business (working on client work, admin, etc)?
Sure, it’s important to meet old and new friends at power lunches, breakfast meetings and evening networking events, but you have to try not to overextend yourself to the point of not meeting your deadlines or overpromising your delivery. A few years ago I was volunteering to lead a monthly open mic, a monthly morning networking writing group and book club, as well as attending my weekly women’s networking referral group. I had client work due on Thursday, the same day as the morning networking group, and had to tell the client I couldn’t finish her work. It was at that point I knew I had to let some of my networking go and today I’m always cognizant letting outside activities that could be classified as work get in the way of work.
Now that we’re in the month of December there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done if we don’t plan smart.
Here are a few of my tips and suggestions:
Yes, networking is important so folks don’t think you’ve dropped out of circulation, but try not to have a networking event going on every day. Middle of the day events do take a lot of time in terms of getting ready for them, and driving there and back. Ask yourself if you can afford not to work on your project for a three hour block. If you can’t, either don’t make the event or see if you sacrifice some time (or sleep—not really recommended) elsewhere.
Designate a day for only getting your own work done—it doesn’t have to be a weekday if that’s easier for you, but on this day, you should try to keep out-of-the-office meetings to a minimum so you have concentrated time to write/work without distractions.
Look at your deadlines and if you can help it don’t schedule a networking event right before a deadline. Give yourself room to breathe! If you can’t escape the social commitment, then frontload your activities, giving yourself plenty of time so you don’t end up cramming and delivering sloppy work to your client.
Prioritize your networking. Make sure you’re not networking to avoid work—what are your goals for this event? Do you want to reconnect with former acquaintances, do you want to establish a toehold with a certain brand or do you want to see a particular speaker/workshop leader at a luncheon?
Designate a networking policy. Maybe your policy is that you don’t attend two evening events back to back or you limit yourself to a networking luncheon once a month. Whatever your policy is, make sure you stick to it.
After networking, are you following up on your new contacts and do you see added benefits from the time you spent outside the office networking? If so, bravo! Your networking is paying off and leading to better work for you.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or not as productive, limit your outside activity and adjust accordingly. Pay attention to the signals and remember is OK to say, “No” and protect your time! As a freelancer, time is our most precious commodity.
What tips do you have about maintaining a networking/working balance that I have not mentioned?