How to manage time as a beginner freelancer

When you become a freelancer, it can be difficult to manage work time and free time. Here's how you can manage your time more effectively as a freelance worker.

How to manage time as a beginner freelancer

Working as a freelancer has its advantages. One of the best perks is the freedom to work where and when you want. 

But freelancing requires discipline. You have to manage your time effectively and minimize distractions if you want to be successful and productive.

If you're new to freelancing or trying to find ways to balance your freelance work and personal life, we can help. Here are some tips to help you manage your time as a freelance worker.

Develop a schedule

Most freelancers love the freedom to set their own schedules. But if you're used to having a boss who sets the rules, managing your own work schedule can be tricky.

Distractions are everywhere. You have to learn to focus on your work, and that takes some planning and self-discipline. 

Create a schedule that works for your life. If you have children and family responsibilities, consider the times you can focus on your work.

Build your schedule around your life and stick to it as much as possible. You'll feel more productive if you stay focused and hold yourself accountable to a set schedule.

Get into a daily groove 

Find a process that works for you - something that sets the tone of your day and helps you stay on track. If you're used to working from a physical planner, to-do list, or whiteboard, roll with that.

For those that like everything in one place, try a digital freelance management platform. Hectic offers a home base feature that lets you see your freelance business at a glance so you always know what needs to get done today, what upcoming deadlines you have, and where your work, proposals or contracts sit. 

Hectic can even remind you about tasks that need your attention, like sending a reminder about an unpaid invoice. (Get that money!)

Create an optimal workspace

As a freelancer, you can work from anywhere. But most freelancers work from home.

If you'll be working at home, try to separate your living space from your working space. Have a place where you can store all the supplies you need, whether that's a home office, a back porch, or the corner of your bedroom.

You want your workspace to have good lighting and be a place where you can concentrate. Some freelancers need quiet while others prefer to work in a busy cafe or communal space.

The trick is to find the right fit for you. The perfect place to work is somewhere you feel calm, comfortable, and productive.

Minimize distractions 

Distractions are everywhere. For a freelancer, eliminating distractions is necessary for a productive day.

Checking emails, replying to texts, and surfing social media can disrupt your workflow and your productivity. Set aside a few minutes in the day to take care of these tasks but try to avoid them while you're working.

If you work at home and people are around, make sure they understand that you are working. If you can't work from home, find a workspace that suits your needs.

As a freelancer, your salary depends on your ability to work and focus. It's worth your time to try and minimize any distractions that tend to steal your attention.

Set timelines and deadlines

Sticking to fixed routines helps many freelancers stay focused on the work they must accomplish. Holding yourself accountable to timelines and deadlines can keep you moving ahead and growing your business

One way to stay focused during your workday is to focus on how you will handle each project that comes your way. Consider the following:

  • Your current project
  • The stage of the project
  • The time you need to complete it
  • When the project is due 

If you don't have a certain deadline, set a reasonable deadline yourself.

Some freelancers use time tracking tools to help them stay on task. Hectic offers a convenient and flexible time tracking tool so that you can bill for the right amount of hours you've worked or get an idea of how long a project takes you. 

Avoid multitasking

Multitasking may seem like a good idea, but it rarely works out for the best. Multitasking scatters your energy, overloads your brain, and keeps you from doing your best.

It's exhausting to try to accomplish multiple jobs at once. This can raise your stress level and lead to burnout. 

Rushing from task to task causes you to lose focus and can zap your creativity as well. Although you may have many things to do, try to handle each job one at a time.

Of course, some days will be busier than others. But maintaining a schedule and focusing on the task at hand will help you keep your sanity and perform your best work for your clients.

Learn to say no

Taking on lots of work may seem like a great idea. After all, more work equals more money.

But taking on more work than you can handle can be a real problem for a freelancer. When you have more than you can manage, the work suffers and so does your personal life.

An important aspect of time management is knowing when to say no. If you have a big project to work on or an important deadline looming, it's not the time to take on more work.

Speak up. Ask the client if they can wait or ask for an extension if you need one.

Doing the best job for each client will keep them coming back. Trying to please everyone will overload you and affect the quality of the work you do. 

Before you add to your workload ask yourself:

  • Do I have the time for this project?
  • Does the project align with my skills?
  • Is the pay fair for this project?
  • Will this project contribute to my portfolio? 

It's okay to say no. Overloading yourself with too much work isn't good for your productivity or your well-being. 

Take regular breaks

As a freelancer, you have to schedule your working hours. But you also need to schedule a time for breaks. 

When you're in a rhythm, you may not want to stop or take a break. However, taking a few moments to get some fresh air or a little exercise can actually improve your work.

Take the time to stop and take a walk, eat a snack, listen to music, or anything you enjoy. Your mind and body need a break from work.

Taking breaks every day gives you a chance to regroup and can help prevent burnout.

Break up large tasks

Breaking large projects into smaller tasks can help you learn how to manage your time as a freelancer. This practice, called "chunking," allows you to focus on individual steps to achieve a larger goal.

Working on everything at once is overwhelming. Breaking your workload into small, manageable tasks can help you focus on the details and do your best work.

Here are some tips for breaking large jobs into smaller chunks:

  • Create a plan
  • Focus on one task at a time
  • Avoid multitasking or switching back and forth between tasks
  • Set self-imposed deadlines to keep yourself on track (Use Hectic to give your individual tasks their own deadlines. 

Track your success

Each successful freelance project is good for your business. It's one more addition to your portfolio and one more reference for your next client.

It's easy to get busy with new jobs and forget how much you've accomplished. Take the time to keep track of your progress and performance. 

Your successes should be a motivating factor to keep you moving forward. This is also a great way to see what kind of projects you've had success with and which ones you truly enjoy.

This helps you think about the future and what kinds of projects you want to take on. The more success you have, the more opportunities you'll have to work on projects you're passionate about.

Work in short bursts

Some freelancers find that working in short bursts helps them maintain focus. This is called the "Pomodoro Technique."

The idea is simple. Work non-stop for 25 minutes at a time and then take a short break for five minutes.

Take a walk, have some tea, read a few pages or anything you enjoy. Then, get right back to work and do it again.

The short breaks allow you to detach from work for a few minutes and then regain focus to power through your day.

Treat freelancing as your job 

Many freelancers find that treating their freelance responsibilities as a job helps them manage their time. Getting up at the same time and following a morning routine helps you prepare for the day ahead.

Following the same schedule day after day helps you create a working rhythm. Don't try to work in your pajamas or work from bed.

Getting ready for the day helps put you in the right mindset for work and helps you maintain your professionalism. It can also help keep your home life and your work life from blending together.

Whatever schedule you choose, let your clients know when you are working and when you're available. If you choose to follow a daily schedule, stick to it as much as possible.

Freelancing gives you more freedom than a typical job, but you have to be self-driven and focused to be successful at it.

Stay organized

If you're disorganized, you may be wasting valuable time. As a freelancer, you're in charge of your workspace, your schedule, your marketing, and your materials.

If you're always searching for your notes, files, or other items, you're wasting the time you could be working. Staying organized is key for a successful freelancer. 

Using an organizational app or Google Drive can be a good way to keep track of all your work, important documents, and progress. You can create timesheets, folders for individual clients, files with login information, and more.

Taking the time to organize everything you need for work will save you lots of time and frustration later. If you spend too much time looking for information each day, take a day to organize your work life. It's definitely worth the effort.

Take care of yourself

Quitting your day job to become a freelancer can be a scary endeavor. You worry that if you don't work constantly, you may not be able to take care of your family or pay the bills.

Being busy is good but being overloaded is not. Too much work and too much stress can take a toll on your health.

It's important to take the time to eat right, get some exercise, and get the rest you need. Part of managing your schedule is creating a balanced life.

Take a day off now and then. Do things you enjoy.

When you're healthy and feeling good, you'll be happier and more productive too.   

Manage your time as a freelancer

There are no set rules for how to manage your time as a freelancer. You just have to find what works for you, and that takes time.

Freelancing for a living offers you the freedom a nine-to-five job cannot. But being successful in freelancing takes a marketable skill, dedication, and self-discipline.

The goal is to earn a healthy living while balancing a happy personal and work life. If you are hoping to become a freelancer or are looking for ways to manage your time as a freelancer, we can help. Visit our website to learn more.