Freelance Friday: Time Management Tips for Freelancers
February 24th, 2017 by
This blog is part of our Freelance Friday series, where we discuss everything and anything related to freelancing. If you are a freelance writer and are looking for additional work, consider applying at Search Influence.
Freelancers often need to be jacks-of-all-trades. And with so many balls in the air, strict time management is a necessity. So, how do you get it all done without letting work overtake your life?
Here are 10 time management tips for freelancers:
Make a Schedule and Stick to It!
This may be the most obvious time management tip, and it is certainly the most important. We have talked about making schedules before and avoiding burnout—quite a lot actually. There are tons of time management tools and apps that can help you stay on schedule. Keeping a detailed, editable calendar (we like Google Calendar) is essential. But don’t discredit good old pen and paper, as analog to-do lists (such as bullet journals) are making a comeback in a big way!
Don’t Take on More Than You Can Handle
Under-estimate and over-deliver should be every freelancer’s motto. There is only so much you can do in a given day. As long as you stick to your schedule and analyze your own productivity, you should have no problem knowing exactly what you can and cannot do. Use this information to negotiate deadlines and plan your day.
Estimate Your Time Generously
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip, and it goes not only for negotiating deadlines with your clients but also how you schedule your day. You should know approximately how long it will take you to complete a task, so give yourself a little more time to ensure that it is done properly or provide a buffer in case something unexpected comes up. Any leftover time can be put to good use elsewhere.
Make the Most of the ‘In-Between Time’
Get out of a meeting a few minutes early, or have some time before your next phone call? Use that time to tackle small tasks on your lists, check email, or double check the rest of your schedule to make sure it is still achievable overall.
Most people procrastinate to avoid doing tough tasks. Tackling hard tasks with a full head of steam will always benefit you most. Deal with something once, and do it now. Afterward, it is off your mind and you can turn your full attention to the next (easier) task at hand. Easy tasks can start your day on a positive note or fill in times when you may feel stuck.
Gain Ground Early in the Day
They say the early bird gets the worm. Well, the early freelancer gets the work done on time. Take care of some easy tasks first. Completion (and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it) can increase your energy and establish a positive mind frame. Combined, these boosters will help set the standard for consistent forward motion on the rest of the day’s tasks.
Prioritization can be tricky, with lots of factors figuring in. There are hard tasks and easy ones, pending due dates and long-term projects, ones that pay more and ones that are more personally beneficial. Decide what is best for you on that day. Deadlines are typically the most important. As mentioned before, knocking out a few easy tasks first thing in the morning is always a great way to get started, but don’t fall into the trap of avoiding harder, more time-consuming tasks.
Limit Information Intake
You can never have too much information. Unfortunately, you don’t have the time to collect all of that information. After a while, a lot of research starts to yield repetitive results. So, sure, you can continue searching for that new nugget, but when you are staring down the pipe at an encroaching deadline, it may not be the best plan of action.
Same goes for daily activities. Avoid scheduling 3–4 meetings or phone calls in a row. While that may seem like an effective way to schedule things, it won’t necessarily help in the long run. After you sit back down at your desk ready to work, how well are you going to remember everything from that first meeting?
Everyone knows that distractions can come in many forms, especially for a freelancer–emails, social media, family members, pets, TV, your perfect comfy bed, etc. The tricky part is avoiding these dangers while working. There are a ton of apps to help you work distraction-free. But ultimately, this comes down to self-discipline. As a freelancer, you and only you are accountable for yourself. Don’t let anything distract you from that.
Don’t Overwork Yourself
Work is important, but it is not the only thing. Working late into the night or through your lunch break may be needed to hit that deadline, but it will often catch up to you in the end. If you are tired or burnt out, your work will suffer and often take longer to complete, which compounds your issues.