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
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
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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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
Some More Tips to Help You Manage Your Time Better
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do administration and clerical tasks in-between other tasks.
Concentrate your efforts on growing your business.
a tidy desk and a well-organized file system. You might make a mess
sometimes, but don't let paper piles ruin your productivity.
- Set up templates for the documents you write most often so you'll
only need to make minor changes to send personalized letters.
- 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.
- 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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