Guide to time management for freelancers

As a freelancer, time equals money. Take your freelancing career to the next level with this guide to time management for freelancers.

Guide to time management for freelancers

Becoming a freelancer can be a highly rewarding and lucrative career under the right circumstances. In fact, you will likely be surprised at the amount of revenue you are able to generate once you build up your client base.

In order to work efficiently, however, you’re going to need to prioritize how you manage your time. So, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about time management for freelancers.

Plan your tasks ahead of time

One of the most efficient ways that you can manage your time as a freelance professional is through planning your tasks for the upcoming week. In practice, many successful freelancers dedicate time on Sunday evening in order to map out the projects they need to work on over the next few days.

Depending on your workload and the type of projects you have lined up, you may even need to arrange them in a specific order.

For example, many people are most productive toward the beginning of the week as opposed to Thursday or Friday. This means that it is often in your best interest to tackle larger projects on Monday or Tuesday.

The same can be said about work that is notably mentally intensive.

Regardless of how you arrange your schedule for the upcoming week, taking the time to establish it will ensure that you are ready to get straight to work on Monday morning. Starting your week off strong is essential when it comes to maintaining productivity throughout the rest of the week.

You could also use this planning period to leverage our proposals and contracts tool that allows freelancers to quickly create necessary documents. This can easily keep you more organized and create a better client experience.

Set a work schedule and adhere to it

This is often one of the most difficult obstacles for freelancers to overcome. And, it is directly due to the fact that working as a freelancer comes with so much flexibility.

In fact, many people who transition into a freelance career take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in almost immediately. Unfortunately, this can result in the development of unproductive habits, such as regularly staying up into the early hours of the morning.

While this isn't an issue if you happen to be most productive during the evenings and nights, many people get the most work done in the morning (especially before noon). But, if you are constantly waking up at noon or 1 PM, you may not work as efficiently as you could.

This is especially true for those who have other obligations they need to handle during the evenings, such as spending time with their family.

Luckily, though, this is a relatively simple issue to overcome. You should do your best to set a work schedule that you have no trouble adhering to. If you are someone who just can’t seem to get up early in the morning, you can adjust your work schedule accordingly.

But, this won’t do you much good if you don’t hold yourself accountable!

Try working in ‘sprints’

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it can be thought of as the mental counterpart to an actual sprint. To clarify, it refers to a window of time where you focus entirely on your task at hand.

This means that you don’t check your phone, get up from your desk, etc. until that duration of time has concluded. After the sprint is over, you can take a short break.

The length of this break should be proportional to the amount of time that you spent working. So, you shouldn’t be spending 30 minutes watching Netflix after you worked intensively for 30 minutes. As a general rule of thumb, your break should be approximately 20% of your sprint.

In a scenario where you dedicate a full hour to completing a task that requires a high amount of involvement, it’s reasonable to take a 12-minute break.

Afterward, you can repeat the process. It is important, though, that you only utilize this method for a portion of your workday.

Depending on the niche that you focus on, it’s not always practical to work in this fashion. Instead, you can utilize a handful of sprints early during the workday and then work at a less intensive pace later on.

Figure out when you are most productive

Part of setting a schedule that works for you is figuring out when you are most productive. As previously mentioned, some people tend to get the most work done during the morning. Others may find that they are most productive late at night, and some freelancers fall somewhere in the middle.

If you aren’t able to determine the window of time in which you work most efficiently, you run the risk of consistently falling short of your goals. Additionally, handling this responsibility can be deceptively difficult.

You may find that you tend to get the most work done early in the morning but can’t consistently wake up early enough to do so. This may lead you to slightly modifying your schedule as the week goes on.

Depending on what works for you as an individual, it may take some trial and error. But, you will eventually figure out when you work best.

Work in a comfortable environment

This is yet another common pitfall that new freelancers fall victim to. Although it might not seem significant, the environment in which you work can have a large impact on your overall productivity.

And, this doesn’t simply mean that you should only strive to eliminate background noise.

Your work environment should be both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. In fact, some of the best investments that you can make for your workspace are those that make it more visually appealing.

This typically includes artwork, plants, lighting, etc. Of course, this will all depend on your personal taste.

Sometimes, the most comfortable work environment may not be located in your living space. After all, there is the common stereotype of freelance workers typing away on their laptops at a coffee shop.

Regardless of where you choose to work, an environment that puts your mind at ease will allow you to reach peak levels of productivity, which directly translates into making more money.

Track your time as you work

As you might guess, it's essential to track the time that you spend working on projects. Not only will this allow you to more accurately bill your clients, but it will also provide insight into how much actual work you have gotten done that day.

However, there is an additional benefit that many people tend to overlook.

When you track your time as you work, it will help keep you more productive. This is due to the fact that you are actively aware of the time that is passing while working on a project.

To elaborate, let’s imagine two identical scenarios where one involves active time tracking and the other doesn’t. Inevitably, you will end up cracking your knuckles, leaning back in your chair for a moment, or otherwise briefly pausing from the work you’re doing.

If you are tracking your time, you will immediately know how much time has already passed while working on the project and how much time you spending in that intermission state. If you aren't tracking your time, however, it can be fairly easy to get ‘lost’ during a project.

This means that you could assume far less time has passed than actually has. Similarly, you may get caught up daydreaming and waste 10 minutes when you should have only taken a brief 30-second pause.

For this reason, Hectic offers a premier time tracking tool that is designed specifically for freelancers. Not only will it help you hold yourself accountable, but it can also drastically streamline the client billing process.

Eliminate distractions

It should come as no surprise that a failure to eliminate distractions in your workspace can make it virtually impossible to reach peak levels of productivity. In some cases, you might find that hours have passed with very little work having been accomplished.

To make matters more complicated, it's not exactly easy to eliminate things in a work environment that might distract you. After all, it only takes a few seconds to check social media, your email, or search something on Google to pull you out of your flow state.

For those who need to tend to family members, pets, etc., this situation becomes even more difficult to handle.

The only solution is to do everything you can to eliminate distractions that may prevent you from reaching peak productivity. If you find that you constantly check your phone, try keeping it outside of arm’s reach (or even keep it in another room).

For those who have trouble staying off of Google or other websites, there are web browser extensions that you can download that intentionally restrict your access to non-whitelisted sites. Making minor changes to your daily work routine in this manner will cumulatively result in a drastic increase in productivity.

Don’t overreach

You can’t expect to properly manage your time if you overload yourself with work on a regular basis.

It’s understandable that you may occasionally have to handle a large number of projects within a short period of time in order to meet a deadline. If you find yourself constantly falling short of your goals, though, you won't be able to work as efficiently as you could.

This issue often occurs when freelancers schedule work based on how long they anticipate it will take to complete each project. The main issue here is that you won’t always be able to consistently work at peak levels.

For instance, let’s assume that you are planning to work on four separate projects within a single day. You expect each project to take approximately two hours to complete.

In reality, you may be able to complete the first two at this pace, but the second two may begin to take longer than anticipated. This could easily end up with you working far later than you planned to, missing deadlines, etc.

Instead, you should assume that each project will take longer than you first expect for you to complete. So, allotting 2.5 hours for each project in the above scenario would be more realistic.

Our project management tool will allow you to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of your upcoming deadlines.

Change things up every once in a while

Despite all of the flexibility that a freelance lifestyle brings, it can be notoriously easy to fall into a slump when it comes to managing your time. In some cases, you may even begin to feel that your freelance work is resembling a typical 9-to-5 job.

In this scenario, it might be time to make some changes to your daily routine. Working in a different location, changing what type of work you typically complete first, and altering your schedule are all potential solutions.

There’s also no need to do this indefinitely — sometimes, just a few days is all it takes. So, keep this in mind if you find yourself feeling less motivated or as if you aren’t making the most of your time.

Time management for freelancers can seem difficult

But, it’s not as complicated as you might initially think. From here, you can ensure that you fully understand time management for freelancers and stay as productive as possible throughout your career.