7 Effective Time Management Tips For Freelancers
Freelancing

7 Effective Time Management Tips For Freelancers

By
Derek Abram
|
CEO of Prio
|
5 min read

Ask any successful entrepreneur, and they’ll tell you that time is money. 

If you are a freelancer, you’re pretty much an entrepreneur as well, considering you work for yourself, and the amount of effort you put in reflects how much money you make at the end of the month.

Time management for freelancers is an essential skill to ensure success. Without an organizational structure to enforce discipline or a boss breathing down your neck, freelance schedules can go awry very easily. 

This can lead to multiple difficult situations, ranging from missed deadlines and decreased productivity to even losing out on clientele in the long run.

Here are seven time management tips for freelancers to help you stay ahead of the curve and make sure you never miss out on either a delivery or an opportunity. 

Seven essential time management tips

1. Set your working hours

Working as a freelancer means you are your own boss, and that means you get to decide when you want to work. As exciting as this sounds, it can easily lead to procrastination and lethargy if you do not decide your daily working hours.

Now, you can decide whether you want to work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or even if you’d like to stagger your working hours throughout the day. You also get the freedom to decide when you want your breaks and for how long.

However, here are a couple of factors you ought to consider while deciding your working hours. 

To begin with, if you do not put in the number of hours every day that the project requires, you’re soon going to find yourself behind schedule, being forced to do a rushed job. This may negatively impact the overall quality of your output.

Another thing you will need to keep in mind is the working hours of your clients. Even if you aren’t in front of your computer during those hours, you will still need to make sure you are available on your phone to answer calls from them. 

Being non-responsive could lead to your clients moving on to more proactive resources for future gigs. 

2. Create a routine

Creating a daily routine or schedule and sticking to it is a great way of bringing about a certain amount of discipline into your work life and making sure your day is productive. 

Ideally, we’d plan your day into three sections.

Planning

The first section of your day actually ought to be at the end of the previous working day, when you make a list of all the things you need to work on the next day. 

Then, organize that list in order of priority. That way, you know which tasks need to be done first and will require the most effort, and which tasks can be handled during your downtime.

The next thing you ought to do is to start scheduling tasks into hourly sections based on your priority list and your working hours. 

However, be sure to leave your schedule flexible enough for you to be able to make space for unforeseen tasks, changes, and errands.

Finally, make sure you have enough food stocked up to get you through the day and make sure you get enough sleep to wake up feeling fresh.

Execution

Waking up early is a great habit, even if you do not need to start work until later in the morning. 

Early mornings are quieter than the rest of the day and are conducive to working on things that require a lot of focus as well as on creative tasks.

Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast before your working day actually begins. 

Always begin with the most important or challenging task for the day. Once that is out of the way, the rest of the day becomes easy to handle.

Use your non-productive hours to finish off smaller tasks and run errands if you need to.

Decide at what time you’d like to finish your day. Working as a freelancer gives you the freedom to decide when you feel like your day is done. 

However, be sure you aren’t carrying an extra load of work over to the next day.

Breaks and other essentials

We’ve all heard that old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” 

While planning your working day, be sure to include enough breaks, Otherwise, you may find yourself burning out and unable to focus.

It is also important to ensure your day includes the time and provision for healthy meals and to take time out every day for yourself, be it to read a book, exercise, or pursue a hobby.

3. Consider using a project management tool

Using a project management tool is a great way to streamline your tasks and optimize your productivity. We’ve shortlisted some of the most widely-used and efficient project management tools for your perusal.

Todoist

Todoist allows you to make a daily to-do list, customizing it to give you more control of your projects. 

The tool allows you to set reminders, add notes to tasks, set deadlines, and a lot more to make your daily schedule more organized.

Trello

Trello is another popular project management tracker that allows you to define different benchmarks and parameters for your tasks, and to move them from one column to another depending on which stage of the project the task is at. 

This makes it easy for freelancers to track progress and stick to timelines. 

Asana

Asana is a versatile project management tool that is very popular with the graphic designer community, among others. This is because it allows designers to store resources like hex codes, fonts, and mood boards, particularly for ongoing projects.

In addition, Asana allows you to invite others for collaborative efforts on projects, schedule meetings, sync with Google Calendar, and a lot more to help you streamline your freelance projects. 

Google apps

Google apps include things most of us use every day, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. 

While Gmail helps you track communications with your clients, Google Calendar helps you mark deadlines and set up reminders, making sure you stay on top of your schedule. 

Google docs allow you to work online and access your work while you’re on the move, even from your smartphone. 

4. Use a time tracker

A freelance project tracker and time tracker are great tools to help you track exactly how much time you spend working on a project and compare your efforts to the revenue you are generating for yourself. 

That way, if you notice you’re spending more time on a project than is justified by the revenue being generated, you may be able to renegotiate your payment terms to include some overtime.

Prio has an efficient and easy-to-use timesheet and time card calculator. All you need to do is enter your full name, choose a start date as well as an end date for your project, and your hourly pay (including overtime charges if applicable). Enter your daily start time and end time, as well as planned breaks. 

The tool calculates how much you ought to be paid every day after taking break times into account. You can save your timesheet as a PDF or choose to export it as an Excel-compatible file. 

5. Document your efforts

One of the hardest things to do when you’re working for yourself is to figure out if your day has actually been productive or not. An easy way to do that is to document your daily work day.

That way, you know how many hours were spent actually working versus how many hours your mind was occupied by distractions like chores at home and social media. 

This sort of insight goes a long way toward helping you inculcate a more productive routine.

6. Take breaks

While it is a great thing to work hard and be motivated, you ought to also remember that if you push yourself too hard, you risk crashing and burning out. 

This makes it important to make sure you do not work beyond a certain number of hours every day and make time for yourself.

Of course, there will always be exceptions, like rushed deadlines for certain clients and redoing work to get it right, all of which will require you to push yourself beyond your regular working hours.

That makes it all the more important to recognize when work pressure is getting to you and take a day or two off for yourself as well.

Ensure that you get to come back refreshed and infused with energy to dive headfirst into your work again.

7. Learn when to say no

While being proactive with your clients and working hard to meet deadlines goes a long way in getting you consistent volumes of work, it is equally important for you as a freelancer to learn when to say no.

Without establishing boundaries about how much work you can practically do within a particular time frame, you may find yourself with more on your plate than you can handle. 

That would lead to delays in deliveries and could negatively impact the quality of your work. 

In such situations, you may be better off refusing to take up extra work or renegotiating the delivery timelines. 

One of the most empowering things about working as a freelancer is that you get to make choices that work for you, and this is one of the best examples of how to wield that power! 

Conclusion 

One of the most important pieces of being a successful freelancer is effective time management. Really, it all comes down to proper scheduling, staying on top of deadlines, and making use of the many tools and apps that are available on the market.

The perfect time management schedule for freelancers is formed after trial and error. So, first and foremost, start somewhere and then work your way up to build a schedule and routine that works best for you.

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