The ultimate guide to time management for a freelancer
Freelancing is a popular and approachable calling both for professionals and unemployed graduates. However, most people fall into the trap of assuming that freelancing features flexible working hours and very lenient project deadlines.
The truth couldn’t be farther from it as most freelancers often lose sleep only to submit their work on time. In order to avoid this, freelancers should manage their time more efficiently to stay active even during their off hours. Studies have shown that people who work from home are 13% more productive than their office counterparts.
Similarly, reports show that nearly 50% of millennials in the US are already full-time freelancers. This raises concern for personal time management and work-life balance of an alarming number of people. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what it means to be a freelancer and how you can manage your time more effectively in doing so.
Benefits of freelancing
- Flexible work hours
One of the major selling points of freelancing as a career choice is the aforementioned flexibility of work hours. Freelancers are free (no pun intended) to set their own hours and work whenever they feel productive.
However, their projects often require quick turnaround times so the choice falls down to whether to work in the morning or in the afternoon. Whatever the specific case may be, flexible work hours are still very much present in freelancing and present a huge step forward for many 9-to-5 workers.
- Lenient choice of work
Freelancers only work with people whom they want to work with. However, beginner freelancers don’t have a choice of who to work with if they want to build a portfolio online.
Once that happens, only the sky is the limit when it comes to the choice of clients and their respective projects. You can take up one, two or five projects at a time or take a break altogether if you don’t feel like working at the moment.
- Life-long learning
The benefit of working as a freelancer is that you get to learn – a lot. Freelancers are often required to learn on the go to accommodate specific needs of their projects.
This leads to a lot of new skills, experience and networking opportunities down the line. The process of constant learning never ends since there are always new niches to explore and new features to familiarize with.
Time management guidelines for freelancers
- Be well rested
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, each adult requires 7-8 hours of quality sleep in order to function adequately. Failing to sleep in a constant cycle can lead to serious health issues, anxiety and depression.
These are all very serious and entirely plausible scenarios for freelancers without adequate time management. Make sure to set strict hours for sleeping and occasional naps if you can afford them. Cut down on caffeine and only drink coffee in emergency situations – not every day is “an emergency”. This will make you more energetic, positive and proactive during your actual work hours as a freelancer.
- Set a personal limit of projects
It’s easy to see the appeal of juggling multiple projects at once for a freelancer. After all, the more work you get done, the more you will be paid at the end of the day. However, there is only so much one person can do in a day. Don’t accept work you can’t complete only because it “looks easy” on paper – it almost certainly isn’t.
Set a strict limit of projects that you are comfortable with handling and don’t cross that number for anything in the world. If a really good offer comes your way, you can outsource some of your work for the time being.
As it happens, The Word Point can assign a professional content manager to your project and alleviate much of the hard work you have lined up. This will also ensure that you always have some spare time for resting, cooking, taking a walk or something else relaxing.
- Learn to say “no” to certain offers
Whether it’s the fault of the client or the freelancer is never really clear. Sometimes a project will come your way and look like the best thing in the world – until you read between the lines.
Don’t accept work which someone else already started and gave up on. In the same vein, you should never accept work with incomplete briefings, unsecure payment or suspicious clients who are in a rush.
Nothing is worth your personal health, wellbeing and the precious free time you have on your hands. Stick to professional contracts with forthcoming clients, clear goals and deadlines as well as secure payments at the end of the day.
- Prioritize your projects (based on deadlines)
When it comes to day-to-day work, you should always start with the most urgent projects. Learn to ignore clients whose work is “always urgent” because it most likely isn’t – all they want is early results. Instead, create a spreadsheet or a notebook table which you will use to prioritize your work for the day.
Pay some attention to each project but make sure that the ones with the closest dates get most attention. Once the most urgent work is done, go to the number two on your list and repeat the process. Don’t skip important work only to do something which might seem easier on paper. Segment your work into digestible chunks with frequent breaks in order to maintain your focus and energy during work hours.
- Set working hours
Even though you have flexible work hours, you should still set strict timelines for your projects. Don’t work ad hoc and plan your time in advance if you want to get things done more quickly and efficiently. Studies show that half of world’s freelancers work 30-50 hours a week.
This is not a naïve number as it sums up a regular work week fairly well. However, the difference here is that freelancers can fill those 30 hours in whichever order they choose. No one will stop you from working in the middle of the night if you feel like it. As long as you deliver quality results, you can manage your time so that you can work in whatever time of day you feel the most productive.
- Implement time-management apps
If notepads and sticky notes don’t work for you, you can always try out some time management apps. Having an application with all of your work in an order can really help you feel more organized. Not only that, but these apps come with a variety of different options and visuals.
Some of the most popular apps out there include Clear, RescueTime, and Evernote to name a few. Make sure that you always have a smartphone or a tablet nearby and try activating some of these apps while you work. They can help you count time, the progress of your projects as well as check off any work you might have finished.
- Create a routine
Once you start getting accustomed to your new career choice, you will start to realize that freelancing isn’t unlike regular work. You still have obligations, deadlines and payments – the only difference is that your work is more lenient in nature. To that end, make sure that you have a daily routine set in stone as soon as possible. Make time for personal hygiene, cleaning, cooking and obligatory resting.
These are some of the daily activities which you cannot skip no matter how you turn it. Stick to your routine and you will gradually notice that more and more spare time is showing up. That spare time can be used for personal obligations, family activities or anything you might need to do apart from your work-work activities.
- Set aside personal time
Besides the obligatory social time with your friends and family, it’s important to set some time apart for yourself. Personal time can be anything from going for a jog or reading your favorite book in the park.
Do whatever you can to shut yourself off from work for an hour or two from time to time and then come back refreshed. You can even let off some steam and go to your local gym for some exercise. Personal time will also allow you to think more clearly and reflect on your work.
- Gauge time and reward – cut your losses
Lastly, even freelancers have moments of self-discovery when they simply have to say “enough is enough.” Some of your projects will be dead in the water with no way of starting back up again. Other may be filled with promises of regular payments “down the line” and “exposure” as compensation for done work.
It’s important to value your personal skills and time and simply cut your losses from time to time. Don’t be afraid to politely and thankfully say “no” to your existing clients if you see that things are going sideways.
As a freelancer, you will always have a rich selection of projects to choose from and some will always be more suited to your style and habits than others. Gauge risk and reward with your work and value your own time above all else.
Freelance platforms to consider
Now that we have a clearer understanding of how you can manage your time as a freelancer, we can take a look at some good places to start. After all, the internet is filled with freelance platforms but not all of them offer the same level of quality work and appropriate compensation. With that in mind, let’s dive into it:
As one of the most prolific and varied freelance platforms on the market, Upwork has a place for everyone. Upwork has categories which range from writing, design and programming all the way to video editing, data analysis and virtual assistance.
All it really takes is to fill your profile with personal information and do several tests to gauge your skills against those of other freelancers. It is a very good choice both for experienced and beginner freelancers.
Similarly, Freelancer is one of the oldest and most well-known platforms on the freelance market. Freelancer is filled to brim with both clients and freelancers willing to help them out.
You can learn a lot from using Freelancer as it allows you to connect with others in your niche and collaborate on certain projects. Freelancer also hosts a number of industries including 3D modeling, architecture, graphic design and copywriting (to name a few).
As the name suggests, 99designs is dedicated to all things design. You can find work on 99 no matter what design niche you belong to, including web design, packaging design and branding just to name a few. The platform serves both as a freelance designer’s heaven and a student’s reference site due to its numerous active projects.
99designs also features a design sales program which collects design solutions from failed projects and allows freelancers to sell them on the open market. This means that even failed projects have a chance of bringing you some form of revenue on 99designs.
Whether you are a beginner in freelancing or an established professional, time management still plays a pivotal role in your everyday productivity. These tips can help you alleviate much of that struggle and potentially increase your output considerably.
Make sure to give them a shot, especially when it comes to your personal health and some much-needed family time. After all, you are working as a freelancer in order to make some money for real-life needs – not to work yourself to exhaustion.
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