Want to increase your freelance income? There are many ways to approach this, but the most important one is often overlooked: time management.
The saying time is money may be cliche, but it is definitely true for freelancers. Running your own business isn’t easy and every moment you spend on a non-billable task matters.
In this post, I’ll give you my top time management tips for freelancers.
How do freelancers manage their time?
First, let’s talk about how freelancers manage their time and how their methods are different from other professionals. Juggling multiple clients is one thing, but there are many other things we have to do as freelancers. We have to market our business, manage our inbox, do administrative work, the list is endless.
To get everything done, we have to experiment with different ideas and tools for time management to find what helps us be as productive as possible. It’s critical to keep a very close eye on what’s working and what’s not.
9 tips for effective time management
1. Create a schedule
Part of the appeal of going freelance is ditching your traditional job and getting your time back. The trouble is if you don’t take control of your schedule, running a freelance business can quickly become overwhelming. Create a schedule for yourself, block out time on your calendar for work and stick to it. Add specific times for client work, administrative tasks, marketing and breaks.
If you need or want to make adjustments to your schedule in the future, that’s okay. You may try many different scheduling methods before you find one that works for you. The key is to plan your days in advance so that you stay on track. What that looks like is ultimately up to you
2. Track your time
Ever feel like you’re extremely busy, yet you make it to the end of the day without getting stuff done? To solve this problem, you need to understand how you’re spending your time. You can go old school and track what you’re doing on pen and paper or use a time tracking tool.
Track your time for at least one week, then review. You may find areas where time is slipping away or instances where tasks are taking longer than you thought they would. You can use this information to improve your planning.
3. Stop multi-tasking
Many of us think that we are great multitaskers but studies show that this isn’t true. In fact, only 2% of people can successfully multitask. Most of us are better off focusing on one thing at a time. Keep this in mind as you work through your day. You’ll be able to power through more things on your to-do list if you dedicate your time and energy to the task at hand.
4. Manage your meetings
Personally, meetings are my least favorite part of freelancing. There are two reasons for this. First, they always seem to take up more time than you plan for. Second, scheduling them is usually a challenge. Trading emails back and forth with clients to try to find a time that works for everyone is time-consuming.
The good news is that there’s a way to manage your meetings and get more time back. You can use an appointment scheduling software like MeetingBird to set your availability and let clients choose a date and time that fits into your schedule.
5. Make templates
Don’t start from scratch every time. You can find templates online or create your own templates that apply to your business. This concept works for any way you interact with clients as a freelancer. Proposals, contracts, invoices, pitches, and more.
Find a template you love and make it your own. Then you can save it on your computer or in your favorite software. This will help you spend less time on administrative work and give you more time to do what you love.
Freelancers wear a LOT of hats. The good news is that you can automate some of these tasks by connecting some of the apps you use with a tool like Zapier.
For example, one “Zap” that I have set up automatically sends on connect information from each pitch I send to a spreadsheet so that I can easily keep track of pitches.
Want to know more about automation for freelancers? Leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter and to let me know.
7. Download business apps on multiple devices.
Many apps that freelancers use for research, creating content and administrative work are available on multiple devices. If you want to save time, you may want to consider adding your work apps to multiple devices. That way, if something comes up that can be done from one of these tools, you don’t have to wait until you’re back at your desk. You can answer that email, share that file or send that invoice and move on with your day.
Be careful with this tip. The idea isn’t to put work apps on your phone so that you end up working 24/7. If you find that having these apps available on all your devices contributes to burnout, stick to one device, and use the other strategies in this list.
8. Set your own deadlines
Sometimes, clients will have deadlines that you need to adhere to. However, when projects are a bit more flexible, you should take the opportunity to set your own deadlines. As you discuss deliverables with your clients, look at the rest of your calendar and suggest dates that fit in with your schedule.
9. Take breaks
There’s a time for hustling and working long hours, especially when you’re running your own business. However, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of breaks. One study shows that the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it.
Working non-stop isn’t good for anyone and it doesn’t make you more productive. It leads to stress. Time management isn’t just about working faster or harder. Freelancers with good time management skills focus on making the most of the time they have and that includes taking much-needed breaks.
Implementing time management tips for freelancers
Using these tips and tools for time management will put you on the path to taking control of your time maximizing your productivity. You’ll see patterns that can inform your planning and find tools that can help you get more done. Try different strategies until you find the ones that work best for you.
Have any other time management tips that boost productivity? Leave them in the comments below.