Non-billable Hours

I was thinking long and hard about what I would post this week. I knew it would be really full with clients. On a normal week, I try to see clients 3-4 days out of the week. It doesn’t seem like a lot, especially based off of a normal work day – but it is. I scheduled this week to be 5 days with clients because two of them have a deadline coming up pretty soon.

As I was looking at my week spread out on my calendar, I had to wonder why I felt so overwhelmed by five 6-hour days. I started my β€œadult” life working a normal 5-day 40 hour (or more) work week about an hour from my house. Even when I got a job closer to home, I was working a β€œreal” schedule that was much more demanding than what next week looks like on paper. So why was I so overwhelmed? Why did I already know how hard it would be to get through the week?

The answer is easy: non-billable hours. When I was working for an engineering company, I learned what these are. It means work that clients aren’t paying us for. The admin work, cleaning up, organizing files… anything that isn’t directly related to a client and making the company money. As an engineer, I could still see that as working. It was done while I was at the office, usually at my desk, and stopped when I clocked out. Now that I’m running my own business and don’t have an office to drive to, it’s easier to blur the line between working and not working.

The other day, Jarod and I were having a conversation about employees, business plans, and growth goals at dinner. He stopped and looked at me and asked β€œhow much do you think you work a week?” and I responded with β€œwell… I had this many clients so that comes out to these hours.” But that’s not what he meant. He pointed out that I was working during dinner. I was writing down plans, unable to turn off my brain and just enjoy dinner… essentially using him as a bouncing board for my thoughts. Which was fine, but I didn’t even think of it as working. He made me reflect a little on my time β€œoutside” of work. How much of my day is filled with excel spreadsheets, answering calls and texts, and even moving schedules around thinking about how the next few weeks need to go to make space for return clients while also being open for new ones. All things considered, it turns out I’m actually working closer to 50 or 60 hours a week even when I’m only seeing clients for 18-24 of them.

I’m running a small business and only have one employee. I don’t see this amount changing a bunch in the near future. However, this conversation did open my eyes a little bit. Now when I’m on a walk I actively try to leave work at home. I have started making boundaries like not working after 7pm – any client who won’t wait until the next morning probably isn’t one I want to work with anyway. When I hired Abbie, I made the decision not to work with clients on Sundays – now I’ve modified that to say I will not work at all on Sunday. No excel, no messaging clients, and I’m REALLY trying not to think about the next week and get stressed out about all the things that need done.

Stating boundaries and sticking to them are two very different things, but I’m trying. I didn’t realize the mental load I was taking on by never β€œclocking out” of work and always thinking about what was coming next. What boundaries do other small business owners make? How do you balance being there for clients with keeping your own space? 😊 As always, if you take any fun pictures or videos, tag me on Instagram @SmileMakePeopleWonder and use the hashtag #DandelionSmiles. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the next exciting idea!

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