You, me, and every freelancer out there chose to do this for a reason.
No more 9 to 5, no more bosses, no more bureaucracy limiting our enjoyment of life.
But then things start to get a bit weird; you don’t have enough time anymore, you get distracted, deadlines pile up, and your clients are your new bosses.
By this point, you’ll be wondering what possessed you to freelance in the first place.
Time management can be very tricky when you work on your own time, especially if you’re freelancing from home.
I’ve been there, and it was chaos. Here’s the five main steps I took to get everything back in order.
Time Management Step #1: Limit your Phone Usage
I’m not talking about calls and texts (yet), I’m talking about Reading Emails, Social Media, and Browsing.
Whether you’re looking at pictures of funny pets (or sexy cars), you’ll end up losing time. If you’re reading this amazing article of some life/business hack, you’ll end up losing time. Limit the time you spend on your phone to twice a day, morning and evening. This way, you’ll end up actually getting to work instead of wasting two hours on 9Gag or Life Hacker.
Schedule important calls or Skype/Zoom meetings to times that are either before noon, or after. That way you have a few hours in the middle of the day to get things done.
For more disciplined and self controlled users, you can check your phone during meals and bathroom breaks (yes, bathroom breaks, I know you do that).
Time Management Step #2: Block off all Distractions
Now I’m talking about texts, phone calls, and those annoying email notifications on your computer screen. Maybe even your pet.
When you have a task need requires your attention, silence your phone (or put it on Do Not Disturb) for a few hours, this way you’ll be less likely to pick it up and lose a few minutes (or hours..) to the Twin Demons of Procrastination.
Email and app notifications on your computer should be muted as well. If you’re using windows 10, you can enable the Quiet Hours feature. You can also google a free app that will shut it up for you.
Lock your pet out of your work space, or give them a toy that will keep them distracted for a bit. Something that really works, turn on a TV in another room, it’ll be less lonely for them that way until you’re done with work. (Just feed the poor thing if it’s hungry)
Notify your family or roommates that you have something very important to get done with, and unless it’s urgent, they probably shouldn’t disturb you. (If their idea of urgent is a funny video, then you need to move out. Jk.)
Time Management Step #3: Don’t work for hours on end
Working for too long will turn it into a tedious task, and you’ll start to crave distractions instead of avoiding them. I typically work 30 to 60 minutes uninterrupted, then I take a 5 to 10 minutes break. I get a cup of coffee, sit by the window, or interact with someone for those few minutes. Then it’s time for work again.
It helps keep my mind on task, gives me much needed rest for my eyes, and I get to get up and move around to avoid having backaches and sore muscles.
Time Management Step #4: Say No.
We all want our clients, friends, and family to be happy, but saying No is for your own benefit.
Have a strict time frame for clients to be able to call, and only when urgent or scheduled. This way, you’ll have time to focus work, have a life, and have some “me time”.
I typically keep a strict 11 am to 5 pm time frame to take client calls/emails/texts/meetings, and if they want to discuss something that will take more than just a few minutes then we schedule it in advance.
For friends and family, they need to understand that just because you’re freelancing doesn’t mean you don’t have obligations and commitments.
Developing the habit of Saying No when needed will help you keep your sanity intact as well as earn the respect of your clients. No one will respect you if they ask you to jump and you respond “How High?”.
Time Management Step #5: You have a job, act like it
‘Freelance Designer’ is an occupation, you have a work space, you’re paid money for your efforts, and you have clients. Treat it as you would a 9 to 5.
Have a set time for work, learn to “get to work fully” when it’s time, and “leave work completely” when it’s time.
Take the weekend off (even if it’s just one day).
Plan your vacations and leave your laptop at home.
Set up a system for yourself, explain it to your new -and current- clients, and stick to it. No exceptions. No favors. You’re FREElancing, that means that you want to be able to be FREE to work and live your life according to your own rules. Rules is the keyword here.
Time is Money, my dear freelancer, if you don’t control how you’re spending it and keep track of where it goes, then you’ll run out of it for sure.
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