Freelance life is all about freedom — you can work when and where you want, choose your own clients, and take on projects you are passionate about.
But it also means there’s no one else to rely on. Fall down a YouTube rabbit hole while researching for a client? You’ll have to make that time up later. If you aren’t careful, work can take over every aspect of your life, leaving you with little time to do the things you enjoy.
Freelancing should allow you to take control of your time — not the other way around.
If you struggle to get work done on time or feel like all you do is work, it might be time to implement a time management strategy.
What is Time Management?
Time management is the act of planning and tracking the time you spend on specific work tasks to improve efficiency. Time management is particularly important for freelancers struggling to meet deadlines or who want to increase their income.
Benefits of Time Management for Freelancers
Time is money — especially for freelancers. Learning how to effectively manage your time is one of the best ways to ensure you make the most of every day. Here’s how a time management plan can help.
1. Take Control of Your Workday
How often do you turn in late assignments, forget about a deadline until the last minute, or get sucked down an internet rabbit hole? Implementing a time management system ensures you know exactly what you need to get done each day so you can take back control of your workday.
2. Bill Clients Accurately
How long does it take you to write a blog post, design a logo, or fix a bit of coding? It might take more (or less!) time than you think. Time management improves billing accuracy by tracking exactly where your time goes, rather than relying on your memory to track time.
Even freelancers who charge per project (rather than per hour) can benefit from time management. Understanding how long it takes you to complete tasks makes it easier to provide accurate quotes to clients.
3. Improve Work Efficiency
A survey by VoucherCloud found the average office worker is only productive for 2 hours and 23 minutes out of an eight-hour workday. That means the average worker is wasting five and a half hours a day.
While you might not be wasting that much time, there’s a good chance you spend more time on tasks like email than you realize. Tracking and managing your time helps reduce wasted time, so you can spend more time on income-generating tasks.
4. Reduce Stress
Poor time management can make it hard to get work done as you struggle to figure out where to focus your time. A good time management plan can help you stay on track and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Stress can also decrease productivity, so lowering stress doesn’t just make you happier — it can make you even more productive.
3 Steps to Incorporate Time Management Into Your Freelance Work
Time management isn’t necessarily about tracking every single second of your workday— though that might work for you. Instead, it’s about setting up a system that helps you stay on top of your tasks and make the most of your working hours.
Follow the steps below, but remember the goal is to build a time management strategy that works for you.
1. List & Prioritize Tasks
When there are 100 tasks on your plate, it can be hard to focus on what really matters. The first step in building a time management plan is to list out what needs to be done, how long it will take, and give each task a priority.
Start by sitting down and listing out everything you need to get done. Use an online to-do list like Todoist or write them in a notebook if that feels better. Then give each task a priority assignment of low, medium, or high. (If you want to get fancy, you can color code each task with red, orange, and yellow highlights to indicate priority.)
Each time you get a new project or agree to a new task, add it to your list. You’ll never forget a task and always know exactly what to do next.
2. Track Your Time
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Spend at least a few days tracking every minute of your time. How long do you spend on email, social media, research, writing, networking? Is all that time well spent? Do you spend more or less time on client work than you expected? You might find you are undercharging clients.
Use a time management tool, like Clarrow, to see where you spend your time. You can track precisely where your time goes and then add time directly to invoices with the click of a button.
3. Limit Distractions
The internet gives us access to more information than ever, but it’s also a massive distraction. YouTube videos, social media, even work email can suck your attention away from work tasks.
There’s no easy fix for limiting distractions. Some people like to use tools like StayFocused, which limits the time you spend on time-wasting websites. I like to use the TomatoTimer, a Pomodoro timer that helps me stay focused for short sprints.
A few other tips for limiting distractions:
- Check email as set times every day, rather than leaving it open to distract you all day.
- Turn off chat programs for at least a few hours a day.
- Limit or block social media channels.
- Use noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions at home or the office.
Remember, what works for someone else might not work for you. Try a few strategies and track what makes the most impact.
How Clarrow Can Help Freelancers With Time Management
Managing your time doesn’t have to be a hassle. With Clarrow, you can see where your time goes, track your billable hours, and add time to your invoices with a click.