Time management for freelancers is one of the biggest headaches, especially for those who are just starting out. To make a success of your freelance business, it’s important to strike a balance between having too much time on your hands and being overburdened or on the edge of burnout. Hence time management for freelancers is a very important aspect of their business.
I’ve been a freelancer for seven years now, and during this time I have developed some tactics of time management for freelancers to help with successful task management.
1. Make a List
At the heart of my personal productivity process is a list. Over the years, I’ve experimented with lots of ways of making my task list, from writing it down on paper and crossing things off, to using different to-do list apps available on the market.
All of these options work, and I would advise using a tool, depending on how loaded you are with clients and ongoing projects. If you just need to complete a single task per client or to focus on only one project at a time, I suppose it’s better to go for a simpler option like Google Tasks or even sticky notes.
But if you need to coordinate several tasks, projects or clients, it makes sense to go for more advanced task management tools.
2. Set Priorities and Plan for the Future
The best task management tools allow you to prioritize tasks. When a deadline is looming, finishing a particular piece of work is more important than turning up for your manicure appointment. Setting priorities so you complete the must-do tasks helps keep you on track.
This also helps with long-range task planning. In my experience, the combination of Google Calendar and Google Tasks works best if you need to manage just a couple of clients at a time.
And when you find yourself needing to correlate multiple projects and set priorities in accordance with a more complicated work scheme, task management tools with advanced functionality are a better option to choose.
3. Track Deadlines
Tracking deadlines is a key part of effective task management. Here’s how I do it:
When I get a freelance writing job, I put two dates into the calendar. The first is the due date of the job (or the day when I plan to deliver, which may sometimes be earlier). The second is the day when I have to start work on it.
You can either use a simple calendar or a task management tool integrated with your calendar, so you can see how your task list fits in with any off-site meetings planned. If necessary, I also set calendar reminders that arrive by e-mail, so there’s no excuse for missing a deadline.
4. Monitor Your Time
Lists, priorities, and tracking deadlines are important, but how do you negotiate appropriate deadlines with clients in the first place? For that, it’s essential to know how long tasks actually take.
The easy way to find this out is to use time-tracking software, such as Rescue Time or Freedom, which unobtrusively tracks and categorizes everything you do on your computer.
You might be surprised how much time you spend on social media when you’re supposed to be doing research. I know I was! Within a week, you will be able to estimate how long particular tasks take, so you can plan your tasks and deadlines efficiently.
Plan to take breaks, too; it’s good for your health.
5. Boost Creativity and Avoid Distractions
Want to be really productive? Then create when you’re most creative. For me, that’s first thing in the morning, so that’s when I do most of my writing. Editing tasks, marketing, and other freelancing essentials come later in the day.
Everyone’s creative rhythm is different, so experiment until you find yours, and then make that a routine. I get a couple more articles written each day if I write early in the day.
Putting it All Together
Of course, there are many other tasks freelancers have to manage, such as communicating with clients, organizing files, invoicing, and more. And these days, many of us need to work on the move. So it’s also worth considering an integrated task manager that allows access from your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. That means everything you need for your freelancing business is at your fingertips all the time. Now that’s the way to be really efficient!
How do you manage your tasks? Do you use any of the techniques I mentioned, or have you developed some personal productivity hacks?