The 9-step guide to better time management for freelancers

Are you a freelancer wondering how to get the most out of your time and be as productive as possible? Discover these 9 steps to better time management.
The 9-step guide to better time management for freelancers
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Statistics show that the number one reason people choose to freelance is to gain flexibility in their schedules.

However, with a flexible schedule also comes a few pitfalls. Flexibility can bring you enhanced work-life balance and fulfillment—but it can also be a recipe for procrastination, disorganization, and lowered productivity.

Fortunately, there are plenty of productivity hacks you can implement for better time management and more efficient freelancing.

We know how hard it can be to take control of your time and how you spend your days. This is why we have compiled a list of the top freelance tips for managing your time like an absolute boss.

Ready to rock freelance time management? Stay with us as we show you how to crack the code.

1. Create boundaries

One of the first and most vital freelance tips is to create boundaries.

If you are new to freelancing, it can feel liberating not having a boss or manager policing the hours you're working. However, you might notice that it's also harder to get work done. Not only do you have to exercise extra self-discipline, but you may find that people struggle to respect your time now that you're working for yourself.

This could look like well-meaning invitations to social events on weekdays, or people just dropping by. It could also look like blatant land grabs for your time, like being asked to babysit or help out, because "you know, you're not really working, you're just freelancing."

It's critical that you nip these requests in the bud and create the necessary boundaries around your working time. Sure, there might be an occasion here and there where you want to book yourself off. But this should be on your terms, because you want to, not because people are assuming you have unending amounts of free time.

2. Create a custom schedule

Along with creating boundaries and making it clear to people that your freelance working hours require respected—you should also devise a schedule for yourself.

For many people, this might look very much like a schedule you might have at a regular job. However, feel free to customize and tweak it to suit your needs. Having flexibility is, after all, a top perk of being your own boss, so use it to your advantage!

Do you work best early in the morning? Maybe schedule your day so you do most of your deep work between 7 am and 10 am. Or, if you're a night owl, leverage that time to make the most of your focus when it's at its peak.

You might also have certain responsibilities during the day, such as homeschooling, or school drop-offs. Make sure you account for these in your schedule.

3. Eliminate as many distractions as possible

The next step on how to manage time better is to eliminate distractions before they even appear.

According to survey results, 86% of freelancers work from home during the week.

Although working from home can be great for mental wellbeing and productivity, it can also be a source of unending distractions.

From putting the washing in, to cleaning out the garage, you can find unlimited ways to distract yourself from sitting down to work. Next thing you know you might find you're watching Netflix at 10 am or going down a 3-hour Tiktok rabbit hole.

Identify self-created and outside distractions and take action

The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to distractions is that some are self-created, and some come from outside.

For instance, someone calling you during a workday is an outside distraction. Going on Tiktok is self-created distraction/procrastination.

Analyze your working environment and try to make it as distraction-free as possible. For instance, you can:

  • Turn your phone on silent
  • Install a social media site blocker
  • Make it a habit to only shop online "after hours"
  • Ask those around you not to disturb you
  • Turn off your TV (even if it's not playing anything)

If you notice you have a habit of creating certain types of distractions, such as idly checking online specials, browsing Facebook, or getting sucked into a series during the day, take as many steps as possible to distance these distractions and make them harder to access.

For instance, let's say you find yourself binging a series when you're supposed to be working. In this scenario, you can turn off your TV so it takes extra effort to start a new episode. You could also unplug the TV to serve as an extra roadblock.

Failing that, you could try leaving your house completely and working at a co-working space or coffee shop for a few days to break the cycle.

If you're struggling with interruptions from family and friends, try asking them to pretend you aren't at home during your working hours. This might sound extreme, but it is one of the most effective ways for dodging distractions and taking control of your working time.

4. Create rituals

Another powerful hack for freelance time management is creating rituals. Our brains and body recognize patterns, and having certain "getting to work" rituals can help you bust through procrastination.

If you have a specific ritual you carry out before starting work each day, this will send signals to your mind and body that it's time to settle down and focus. This could look like making a cup of coffee, consulting your calendar, checking your diary, or playing music to help with concentration.

Besides these small rituals, having an established morning routine can also help keep you on track. Once you have created habits and routines, they are easier to carry out because you don't have to think about them. Instead, you just automatically fall into your routine, and next thing you know you're sitting at your desk and tackling the workday.

5. Try out some tested time management techniques

Do you struggle to maintain focus? If so, you might want to try out some tested time management techniques. These include the:

  • Pomodoro method
  • The Getting Things Done method
  • Time blocking
  • Calendar blocking
  • Setting time limits on tasks

If you typically work best in shorter bursts, the Pomodoro method might be the best.

On the other hand, if you have great focus stamina, but get too micro and perfectionistic, setting time limits for tasks could keep you from wasting time on unimportant details.

6. Track your time

If you want to master time management, it's essential that you track your time. Not only does this help you accurately bill clients, but it also gives you insight into how you spend your hours.

For instance, it might feel like you're working all the time as a freelancer and have literally zero downtime. However, if you start tracking your time accurately, you might find that there are wasted hours in the day. By putting these to work, you can earn more, meet deadlines quicker, and win back more dedicated free time you can enjoy properly.

The secret to effective time tracking is to have the right tool. That is why Hectic includes a seamless, simple, and efficient time tracking feature that is tightly synced with your invoices and project deliverables.

7. Use a project management tool

One of the ultimate freelance time management tips is to use a project management tool.

Whether you have 2 clients or 20, a good project management tool can save you endless amounts of time. It will also keep your deliverables organized, help you stay on top of deadlines, and create a professional experience for your clients.

Our project management feature is built specifically for freelancers. It allows you to collaborate with both clients and other freelancers, see the status of all your projects at a glance, and visualize your deliverables.

8. Break up deliverables into bite-sized chunks

Speaking of deliverables, managing these smartly is an essential ingredient for effective freelance time management.

It's no good to only focus on far-away deadlines. Instead, you need to analyze what needs to happen and by when for you to meet a deadline. Breaking your projects down into deliverables will help you stay on track from week to week and, ultimately, deliver on your project deadlines like a pro.

Hectic can help you manage your deliverables. Not only does it make creating deliverables as easy as 1-2-3, but you can also manage them right from your dashboard in the Hectic app.

Whether you're working from your pc, or are on the go on a mobile device, Hectic will be right at your fingertips. Whether you're working from desktop, or have installed the Hectic app on Android, changes to deliverables will update and sync in real-time.

Not an Android user? No problem. Hectic is also available in app form for apple devices.

9. Take full days off

Freelancers work an average of 43 hours per week. This is very similar to a regular 9-5 job, except that your work hours aren't confined to weekdays.

If you aren't practicing efficient freelancing, it can be easy for work to bleed from weekdays into weekends. Instead of doing full workdays and taking full off-days, you might find yourself working each and every single day, while still getting the same amount of work done as someone who takes weekends off.

Do your best to structure your week so you can take full days off to completely disconnect from work.

Streamline time management with Hectic

Having the right tips and productivity hacks up your sleeve can go a long way to helping you master freelance time management.

The other key component to efficient freelancing is utilizing the right tools.

Hectic was built by freelancers for freelancers and includes everything you need to level up your freelancing business. From managing clients to time tracking, generating invoices, proposal and contract creation, and accounting, Hectic takes the drudgery out of being your own boss and puts you firmly in the driver's seat.

Get started for free today!

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Geoffrey Mina
Geoff has always focused on building technology solutions that solve real-world problems for real people. Over the years he’s developed a reputation for optimizing strategy for efficiency and high-performance outputs. In other words, he’s skilled at selecting the right strategic paths for organizations but can also mobilize workforces to execute action plans and critical initiatives. He’s passionate about building high-performance teams, inspiring them to push beyond their limits and perform at levels not thought possible.
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Hey, Freelancer.
Control your freelance business so it stops controlling you. From client to project management, time tracking, invoicing, and everything in-between — Stay on top of it all in one intuitive platform with Hectic.

I highly recommend this platform if you're a freelancer seeking a client/project management system that allows you to focus on nothing else but the quality of your work.

Jason Little