Time is a finite resource. No matter how much you love your job, you only have so many hours in the day to complete assignments and stay productive. And as a freelancer, you’re probably even more aware of your time usage than most desk-based workers. As an independent worker, it’s up to you to manage your time efficiently and stay focused on the task at hand.
How to Manage Your Time as a Freelancer
Whether you work from home or have flexible office hours, staying on top of things can be tricky – especially if you tend to procrastinate or get easily distracted by new opportunities and exciting side projects. Whether it’s work, family, or personal commitments that leave you feeling stretched thin, keeping track of your time as a freelancer is essential for getting the most out of working independently. Here are some valuable tips on managing your time as a freelancer and staying focused wherever possible.
Plan your Day the Night Before
If you’re struggling to stay organized as a freelancer, one of the easiest ways to regain control of your time is to plan out your work schedule in advance. Yet this isn’t something you should only be done when facing a particularly hectic work period. Looking at your week and month and clearly outlining your working hours is essential for maintaining a realistic and consistent work-life balance.
For example, if you know you have a family event at a particular time, you can plan around it by blocking off that time in your calendar and then reminding yourself that you need to be offline during that period. This will stop you from getting sucked into work when you should be on a break.
Set Yourself Small, Reachable Goals
Setting small, reachable daily goals is the best way to maintain your focus while freelancing. You might love the idea of tackling massive projects and taking on the ambitious task of writing a new ebook or landing 10 new clients – but if you’re feeling exceptionally exhausted, these big goals could end up being incredibly unhelpful.
Instead, you need to set achievable milestones that will help you stay on top of your game in a manageable way. For example, if you want to increase your monthly income, you could set yourself the goal of reaching out to one new potential client each day. This small, consistent action will help you work towards your goal in a manageable way.
Track Your Time Diligently
If you’re a freelancer who works from home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of working all day long. While this can be great if you’re cranking out a lot of work and getting ahead in your project schedule, it can also be incredibly damaging if you don’t know when to call a halt for the day and give your brain and body a break.
To help you stay on top of your time management, it’s a good idea to use a digital timer. This will help keep you focused on the task at hand without the risk of feeling too pressured to work at a manic pace. You can also use digital timers to break your workday into smaller chunks. That can be particularly helpful if you work from home with young children or a partner that’s home during the day.
By using a timer, you can break up your work day into manageable chunks without the threat of getting sucked into work all day long.
Make a to-do List and Stick to it
If you’ve tried to keep a to-do list and found it unhelpful, you might want to try again – especially if you’re managing a busy freelance schedule. It’s not enough to just jot down a few tasks on a whim each day; you need to keep track of what you’re actually getting done.
This can help you see where your time is being spent and highlight what you could do with less or more. Making sure you tick off items on your to-do list daily is essential for staying on top of your work. If you tend to leave tasks for tomorrow that could be completed today, a to-do list can help you stay on track. Rather than leaving jobs unfulfilled, you can just add them to your to-do list and then tick them off when they’re done.
Establish a Routine
Freelancers often work from home and can create a more flexible routine than those who work in an office. That said, you should still try to establish a consistent routine to help you stay on top of your work and keep your energy levels up throughout the day. If you’re struggling to do this when you work from home, you might want to make some changes to your environment to help facilitate this – such as wearing noise-canceling headphones or even moving to a different room in the house where you can concentrate better.
While you don’t have to create the same schedule as a nine-to-five desk job, you need to create a routine that works for you and your lifestyle. If you’re a parent, working from 7am to 3pm might not be realistic. Instead, try to create a routine that works for you and your family members – such as making your most productive hours during the day, setting specific times for breaks, and aiming to finish work by a specific time each day.
There’s no harm in having shortened work hours each day as long as you are productive during those hours you set and meet your client’s deadlines. This is one of the true benefits of working remotely, so take advantage of it. Just make sure you take the time to inform your clients about when you will be working so they don’t wonder why you are not replying to their emails late at night on Saturday. Communication is the key here.
Use Your Most Productive Hours to Your Advantage
It’s common for people to be most productive in the morning or late at night, so find out when you’re in “the zone” and use it to your advantage. During your most productive hours, handle your most demanding or most time-consuming tasks rather than emails or client meetings.
Mix Up Your Surroundings
Working more efficiently can be as simple as changing up your workplace setting. You may want to head to a cafe or even get a membership to a local coworking space to have a little bit of social interaction.
If your home or apartment allows for it, move your desk monthly to create a new environment. It will definitely help boost your productivity!
Don’t Forget to Eat Properly
It is crucial to remember to take a snack break or lunch when you are working as a freelancer. Avoid eating at your desk as much as possible, and make an effort to have a well-balanced diet.
Bad diets can seriously affect your health and greatly impact your productivity. You may hold yourself accountable by taking a distraction-free lunch break by setting up a lunch call with a close friend daily. This helps bring back the social life that is often missing from freelance life as well!
Don’t forget to take breaks while you’re a freelancer! This is one of the most neglected time management tips. If you were in an office setting, you would have seized advantage of your breaks at the workplace to stop and speak with your coworkers for 10 minutes or go for a quick lunch.
Taking a quick power nap or a walk around your neighborhood are some of the best ways to spend your breaks. To really remind yourself to take breaks, you can use the Pomodoro Technique.
Utilize the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method that involves splitting your day into 25-minute chunks focused on one task. It’s a great way to help you stay focused on the task at hand, as well as keep track of your time and progress.
You can use this productivity method by setting a timer for 25 minutes and rewarding yourself with 5 minutes of rest and entertainment. After every four Pomodoros, you can take a break for 30 minutes. This will help you stay focused while also keeping you energized.
Take a Day Off
You may love your work more and be more productive if you take a day off. Even if it means giving yourself a long weekend, do it! It’s important to remember to take a day off and communicate in advance with your clients, so they know you won’t be available to talk if something comes up.
Don’t Rely on One Source of Income
Being a freelancer is a great way to be your own boss and earn a living without the long hours of an office job. However, it’s important to remember that not all your income will come from freelancing. Even if your primary source of income is working from home, it’s a good idea to have a small side hustle to have a backup plan if times get tough.
For example, if you rely solely on freelance writing assignments to pay your bills and they suddenly dry up, it will be incredibly difficult to find another source of income quickly. Instead, it’s a good idea to have a small side hustle – such as teaching online, selling handmade items, or participating in online surveys.
Having a backup source of income will help keep you afloat if your main source of income suddenly dries up and will make you feel less stressed if you have something else to fall back on.
Don’t Bite Off More Than you Can Chew
Every freelancer has experienced this at least once. You have more clients than you initially thought you could handle, which is tough to keep up with. Your social life, sleep, and even your general fondness for being a freelancer may be affected.
Quality of work can also take a downturn, affecting future projects. If you can only handle 3 projects at a time, don’t take any more. It’s OK to turn down potential clients.
Technology is Your Friend
Many people use digital tools such as ClickUp or Asana to keep track of their projects. These digital planners function like traditional planners by allowing you to set subgoals and deadlines and collect all of your thoughts in one location.
Project management platforms can also assist you in assigning work if you are collaborating with others.
Consider Hiring Other Freelancers
Having trouble keeping up with all your deadlines? It may be time to hire a few freelancers of your own to assist you. You may find remote employees on sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
If you hire someone to help you meet your deadlines and better manage your time, you will have to raise your own rates to compensate the workers under you. You may also have to consider the time it will take to delegate responsibilities and onboard new workers.
Working as a freelancer has many benefits. With no boss to report to, you can work the hours you want and fit work around your life. However, this also means you are solely responsible for managing your time and getting the most out of it. If you tend to procrastinate or get easily distracted, it’s essential to stay on top of your time and work efficiently to avoid wasting too much of it.
There are plenty of ways to manage your time as a freelancer, from planning your work schedule in advance to creating a more structured routine. Whether you have a lot of work to do or not enough hours in the day for everything, these tips will help you stay focused and productive.