Money - Jobs
By: - at July 9, 2013

Time Management Tips for Freelancers


If you’re a freelancer, you're responsible for your own time management. You not only have to figure out how you're going to manage your time to do your work, you also have to figure out how you're going to do a lot of other things that typically are done by other people in corporate offices.

In addition to writing, you have to allot time to market your business, meet with existing and potential clients, do mailings, answer the phone, keep track of your expenses, pay bills, produce invoices, make sure your clients are paying their bills, and do collections when they don't. You have to make decisions about whether you need to invest in new equipment, take out ads, and much more. And if you're working from your home, there's a good chance that you'll be distracted by things that need to be done around the house or if your children are home, by taking care of their needs. Clearly, you’ll have to become an expert at time management.

Here are the time management tips for freelancers:

Discover How You Spend Your Time
Woman writing daily logIncrease your productivity by finding out how you are spending your time. Create a log of your daily activities. Write down how you're spending your time and how much time you're spending on tasks. When you do this, you'll be able to see more clearly the tasks that are taking too much time as well as those that provide the greatest returns for you personally and financially.

Value your time.  Think in terms of how much you can be making per hour when you take on projects or set your schedule. Keep track of the amount of time you're spending on projects and calculate how much you're really making per hour. It's better to take a $500 job that takes you 20 hours to complete than a $1000 job that takes you 100 hours to finish.

This is why it's important to track your time. You can't know how much you're making per hour if you don't keep track of how long it takes you to work on a project.

Look for ways to maximize your time, especially non-billable time. For example, don't wait until your printer runs out of ink to go to the office supply store. There's some obscure law of the universe that decrees that your ink cartridges are most likely to run dry when you are in a rush to print something. Instead of potentially being placed in a crisis situation, keep extra cartridges on hand. When you put your reserve cartridges in the printer, write it down on a list so you can go to the store when you have more than one item on your list.

You can track your time using Excel, QuickBooks, or purchase a time-tracking software. If you're like me, though, you might not like to switch from the program you're using on the computer to another one when you're on a roll. That's why I like to use a simple paper calendar that I lay behind my computer. The one I like is spiral-bound and breaks down a 12-hour day into fifteen-minute increments.

Disciplining Yourself to Manage Time
To avoid frustration, missed deadlines, and late nights spent working, you must be self-disciplined. It helps to remember that you're running a business. You have more freedom to set - and break - your schedule than you do if you work for an employer. This makes it all the more necessary that you set a schedule and keep to it. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Set Regular Hours, Including Break Times, For Your Work Day: Be sure that your family and friends know what your schedule is and that they are not to intrude on your time just as they would not feel free to visit or call you at will if you were working in a corporate office.
  2. Use Aids To Help You Keep To Your Schedule: Some people purchase large calendars to put on the wall, and then block off work time, family time, and “me-time."  Using different colored pens can let people know, at a glance, which activity is your priority at that moment.
  3. Help WantedHire Help: In your business, hire help or exchange help with others. If doing your taxes gives you stress, hire an accountant. Do you need help making cold calls? Run an ad or check your neighborhood or local Small Business Administration office to try to locate someone to make at least some of those calls for you. Another place to look for part-time help is your local college or junior college. Contact the school and ask how you can post a Help Wanted sign. College students can do a wide range of tasks for you, from picking up office supplies to proofreading your work.
  4. Ask Your Family to Help: Even the smallest child can do something to help out at home (perhaps dust the low rungs of your dining-room chairs).

Keeping Your Work and Personal Lives Separate
When your work day is finished, turn on your answering machine, leave your office, and close the door. Leave your office both physically and mentally. Don't succumb to the urge to work while watching TV or to answer your business phone during family time. When you are working, focus on your work and when you're not working, focus on yourself, your family, and your friends.

Set Up a System for Success
Use the principles of good time management to set up your personal system for success. Analyze the key things you need to do in your business and then develop resources that you can use over and over instead of having to start over each time you need to perform certain tasks.

Microsoft Office 2007For example, I use Microsoft Word to write different types of letters to clients and potential clients. As you may know, all documents written using Word are based on a template that sets the size of the page, margins, typefaces, etc. You can develop your own templates if you wish, even ones that include text. When you open a new document based on one of these templates, you don't have to type that text again because it's already in your document. (If you're not familiar with Microsoft Word templates and are using Word, please check your Help files for more information.)

Some More Tips to Help You Manage Your Time Better

  1. Create a schedule. Every morning, make a list of things you need to do and then categorize them according to how they build your business and your personal life. After you've written down the things you need to do, prioritize the tasks on your list. If you have more things on your list than you can accomplish, use different colored markers to identify the tasks that must be done that day, tasks that can be done at another time, and tasks that you can delegate. Make a list of your goals and hang that list up above your desk. When you're trying to decide what tasks you need to do, look at that list, and then ask yourself which tasks on your list will move you toward those goals and which tasks can be eliminated.
  2. Don't try to please everyone. Learn to say no. This one is especially important. You need to learn to say no when you feel that you can't take on any more tasks.
  3. Try to make decisions more quickly. Don't think you have to ponder each thing you do. Some decisions simply don't merit that much effort. For example, deal with paper immediately.
  4. Log all your expenses and income on a regular basis. Whether it's at the end of each day or each week, take a little time to carefully fill in your log book. File the receipts you've entered. This will make it easier on you at tax time.
  5. Do administration and clerical tasks in-between other tasks. Concentrate your efforts on growing your business.
  6. Organized Files in cabinetKeep a tidy desk and a well-organized file system. You might make a mess sometimes, but don't let paper piles ruin your productivity.
  7. Set up templates for the documents you write most often so you'll only need to make minor changes to send personalized letters.
  8. If you can, hire an assistant. You may not have to look farther than your neighborhood to find a good, part-time assistant. Even if you hire someone to come in for an hour or two a day, or a day a week, you'll find that having an assistant can help you a great deal.
  9. Don't let your clients pull you into their dramas. For example, if a client calls and says he or she needs something tomorrow, ask questions to determine the true situation. People often say they need for you to do things now when later would be perfectly acceptable. Reason with the person who makes impossible demands, but don't automatically succumb to their requests. There may be times that you simply have to say, "I'm sorry. I can't help you on this one."





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