How to manage your time as a beginner freelancer

When you become a freelancer, it can be difficult to manage work time and free time. Here's how you can manage your time more effectively as a freelance worker.
How to manage your time as a beginner freelancer

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Statistics show that the number one reason people choose to freelance is to gain flexibility in their schedules.

However, with a flexible schedule also comes a few pitfalls. Flexibility can bring you enhanced work-life balance and fulfillment—but it can also be a recipe for procrastination, disorganization, and lowered productivity.

We know how hard it can be to take control of your time and how you spend your days. This is why we have compiled a list of the top freelance tips for managing your time like an absolute boss.

Ready to rock freelance time management? Stay with us as we show you how to crack the code.

1. Set boundaries

One of the first and most vital freelance tips is to create boundaries, both for protecting your work time and your workload.

You may find that people struggle to respect your time now that you're working for yourself.

This could look like well-meaning invitations to social events on weekdays, or people just dropping by. It could also look like blatant land grabs for your time, like being asked to babysit or help out, because "you know, you're not really working, you're just freelancing."

It's critical that you nip these requests in the bud and create the necessary boundaries around your working time. Flexing your time should be on your terms, because you want to, not because people are assuming you have unending amounts of free time.

You must also set a boundary around how much work you take on. Saying yes to everything is a recipe for burnout.

Keeping track of your ongoing projects will give you an objective look at how much more work you could feasibly handle.

2. Customize your routine

Leverage your natural rhythm so your best times of day for working are put towards your most difficult tasks. If you are a morning person, maybe schedule your day so you do most of your deep work between 7 am and 10 am. Or, if you're a night owl, leverage that time to make the most of your focus when it's at its peak.

Don’t forget to make time to move your body. Research shows that physical activity can boost brainpower and mental health. At the same time, it energizes your body and stimulates the release of "feel-good" chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin. In the long run, it can make you more productive.

3. Eliminate as many distractions as possible

According to survey results, 86% of freelancers work from home during the week.

From putting the washing in, to cleaning out the garage, you can find unlimited ways to distract yourself from sitting down to work. Next thing you know you might find you're watching Netflix at 10 am or going down a 3-hour Tiktok rabbit hole.

Analyze your working environment and try to make it as distraction-free as possible. For instance, you can:

  • Turn your phone on silent
  • Install a social media site blocker
  • Ask those around you not to disturb you

Regardless of where you choose to work, an environment that puts your mind at ease will allow you to reach peak levels of productivity, which directly translates into making more money.

4. Create rituals

Another powerful hack for freelance time management is creating rituals. Our brains and body recognize patterns, and having certain "getting to work" rituals can help you bust through procrastination.

If you have a specific ritual you carry out before starting work each day, this will send signals to your mind and body that it's time to settle down and focus. This could look like making a cup of coffee, consulting your calendar, checking your diary, or playing music to help with concentration.

Besides these small rituals, having an established morning routine can also help keep you on track. Once you have created habits and routines, they are easier to carry out because you don't have to think about them. Instead, you just automatically fall into your routine, and next thing you know you're sitting at your desk and tackling the workday.

5. Try out some tested time management techniques

With so many time management techniques available, you can pick and choose what works for you. Here are a few to consider:

Work in sprints

Like its running counterpart, this is a window of time where you focus entirely on your task at hand.

This means that you don’t check your phone, get up from your desk, etc. until that duration of time has concluded. After the sprint is over, take a break. As a general rule of thumb, your break should be approximately 20% of your sprint.

Focus on the week, not the day

By focusing too much on your performance on a specific day, you can easily begin to feel overwhelmed or work well into the evening in order to complete necessary tasks.

By taking a step back and looking at the entire week as a whole, you can use the remainder of it to make up for a lapse in performance on a specific date.

Tackle difficult projects first

When you complete the easiest tasks first, you may get a false sense of progress. On top of that, you're more likely to end up postponing the hardest tasks and miss the deadline.

The experts at Northwestern University recommend tackling the most challenging tasks first. This strategy can make you more productive and reduce stress in the long run. Plus, your other tasks will seem a lot easier after you complete the most difficult ones.

Complete tasks in order of priority

Depending on your personal preference, you might wish to start with a minor task early during your workday and then tackle a larger one once you have mentally warmed up.

Others prefer to get the heavy stuff out of the way at the beginning so they can coast the rest of the day. Regardless of which option you choose, prioritizing certain tasks will help you get more done in less time.

Others popular methods include:

6. Track your time

If you want to master time management, it's essential that you track your time. Not only does this help you accurately bill clients, but it also gives you insight into how you spend your hours.

For instance, it might feel like you're working all the time as a freelancer and have literally zero downtime. However, if you start tracking your time accurately, you might find that there are wasted hours in the day. By putting these to work, you can earn more, meet deadlines quicker, and win back more dedicated free time you can enjoy properly.

The secret to effective time tracking is to have the right tool. That is why Hectic includes a seamless, simple, and efficient time tracking feature that is tightly synced with your invoices and project deliverables.

7. Use a project management tool

One of the ultimate freelance time management tips is to use a project management tool.

Whether you have 2 clients or 20, a good project management tool can save you endless amounts of time. It will also keep your deliverables organized, help you stay on top of deadlines, and create a professional experience for your clients.

Our project management feature is built specifically for freelancers. It allows you to collaborate with both clients and other freelancers, see the status of all your projects at a glance, and visualize your deliverables.

8. Enjoy the good stuff

Freelancers work an average of 43 hours per week. This is very similar to a regular 9-5 job, except that your work hours aren't necessarily confined to weekdays.

Instead of doing full workdays and taking full off-days, you might find yourself working each and every single day. If you’re finding that is burning you out, structure your week so you can enjoy full days off to completely disconnect from work.

When you're busy working and moving from one project to another, it's easy to lose track of your success. It's important to take time to keep track of your accomplishments.

Let your successes be your motivation to keep moving forward and pursuing your dreams. Taking the time to reflect on what you've done helps you understand what you're good at and what you want to do in the future.

Streamline time management with Hectic

Having the right tips and productivity hacks up your sleeve can go a long way to helping you master freelance time management.

Hectic was built by freelancers for freelancers and includes everything you need to level up your freelancing business. From managing clients to time tracking, generating invoices, proposal and contract creation, and accounting, Hectic takes the drudgery out of being your own boss and puts you firmly in the driver's seat.

Get started for free today!

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Our team of career freelancers writes about best invoice practices, what makes a great client, and repeats the mantra, "never work without a contract." We're opinionated about the future of work and will always be on the side of freelancers.
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