Time Management Techniques for Freelancers

People choose to work as freelancers because they have more freedom to choose their projects, hours, and location. Freedom makes freelancing enjoyable because freelancers can balance work and life.

Ironically, freedom is also the hardest part of freelancing. Your boss defines your tasks and deadlines in a conventional 9-5 job. You know what to deliver, how long you have, and where to work from. This rigid structure eliminates the burden of planning the workday. It also makes you accountable and ensures you deliver.

When freelancing, you must choose your tasks, set aside the time to complete them, and create a positive work environment. Things can get out of hand if you don’t have the right tools and knowledge. You can lose a whole day without having completed any tasks, and therefore not have earned anything. It is possible to take on more than you can handle, miss deadlines, and upset clients. You can have a distracting workspace.

It all comes down to managing your time. If there’s one skill you have to learn to be successful at your craft, it’s time management. In this article, I’ll discuss seven techniques you can use to manage your time as a freelancer.

Why Should You Track Time as a Freelancer?

It improves workflow.

The advantage of a traditional 9-5 job structure is that it creates boundaries between tasks, work, and personal life.

When you work as a freelancer, those boundaries are more blurry – you might put one task on hold for another, you miss lunch, your work hours might drag on into the night (hopefully not!), and so on.

To be productive, you must create a workflow and define a routine. A routine not only helps you be productive, but it also gives you a sense of how your day will shape up, and this comes in handy when communicating deadlines to clients.

It helps avoid or manage distractions.

Distractions are a major hurdle every freelancer has to deal with. When there’s no one to report to and a reporting tool, and no one overseeing your progress, it’s easy to get distracted, and before you know it, you’ve spent all day watching TV.

But when your routine includes breaks for distractions, you’ll find it easier to focus on work.

Helps you prioritize projects and tasks.

It’s hard to say “no” to a project when you’re a freelancer. Every project is a paycheck, and freelancers tend to accept every alluring job that comes their way. That’s fine. The more you work, the more you earn. It only becomes a problem when you bite off more than you can chew.

Time management helps because you know how much free time you have in the next few weeks so you can make better decisions when projects come your way, and you can prioritize them and work on them one at a time without compromising quality.

You can make better financial decisions.

Knowing how much you'll earn when you track your projects and tasks is easy. This gives you a sense of how your finances will shape up.

Since you are responsible for your earnings, managing finances is an important aspect of freelancing. Once you know how much you will earn, you can better decide whether to take on a new project.

You are, after all, still a professional.

This one is important. It’s easy for freelancers to forget they are still professionals. Freelancing is a client-facing job, so freelancers need to behave more professionally than they would at a corporate job.

Nothing turns off clients more than delayed projects. Your freelancer reputation will help you grow.

Time Tracking  Techniques for Freelancers

  1. Order projects based on priority – Write down all the projects you’ve accepted and list them based on priority. Priority can be based on:

Once you’ve prioritized your projects, schedule them for the week or month. Always take breaks into account and add an extra day or two for each project, so you have some leeway. Use tools like Trello to track your projects. As you continue breaking projects down into tasks and batches, you’ll have a hierarchical structure that is hard to manage on a post-it note, and project management tools are handy.

  1. Break projects down into tasks and create a to-do list. Once you have an overview of your week by prioritizing your projects, you should break everything down into tasks and create a to-do list. This makes the entire week more manageable and gives you a better sense of how your week will progress. Tools like Trello are very useful here:

  1. Batch your tasks and create a routine. The final step is to break or group (depending on size) your tasks into batches and plan when to do them or create a routine.  For example, if you create a task to read through ten articles as part of your research for a whitepaper, breaking this task down into two batches of five articles with a short break in between will be more fruitful.

Once you’ve created batches, give each one a start and tentative end times. Be sure to schedule short breaks in between each batch of work.

4. Avoid distractions and manage your time with a Pomodoro app.  This is my favorite tip. When you use the Pomodoro Technique, you break your workday into 30-minute intervals, and each 30-minute interval is divided into two chunks – 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break. People who have difficulty focusing for long periods will benefit from this technique. You can, of course, modify the intervals as you choose. There are simple Pomodoro apps you can use to follow this technique.

  1. Use apps that take care of repetitive content writing tasks.  You will find many apps and software that take over redundant tasks, which saves you time. Use them!

For example, Grammarly checks grammar and spelling in real-time to ehlp you cut down on proofreading time.

Wordable saves you a lot of time by making it easier to publish blogs from Google Docs to WordPress and Medium. Copying and pasting content from Docs to these platforms and then formatting for them wastes a lot of time; you can save it with Wordable.

6. Learn to say No.  It will be easier for you to handle more projects if you create a detailed routine. Yes, it’s hard to say no to projects as a freelancer, but overloading your routine will only result in poor work quality, ultimately costing you clients. It’s going to be counterproductive.

Don't be afraid to say no to client demands you can't meet. Don't rush any project; if a client expects you to deliver earlier than you can, be firm and refuse. Explain why you need the time. They will trust your judgment of time once you deliver quality work.

  1. Create an environment conducive to work. Finally, for any of this to work, you need to be in an environment conducive to work. If you have distractions around you, no amount of apps or techniques will help you.

Find a spot dedicated to work, and when you’re there, only work. The rest of your house can be used for breaks and distractions. You can work from anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring in discipline.

This has an incredible psychological effect. As you repeat the process, you’ll find sitting at your work desk will automatically help you focus on work.

Wrapping Up

Time management helps you avoid the danger of Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for completion. In other words, if one client gives you two days to deliver a 1000-word blog, you’ll get it done in two days. If another client gives you a month to deliver 1000 words, it will take you an entire month to complete the blog. The work you have will expand to fill the time you have.

Use the time management techniques mentioned here and create a routine that will help you succeed as a freelancer.