A lot of people imagine freelancing as being the dream profession – Freelancers aren’t subjected to fixed working hours, having to commute and have a ton of free time to do whatever they want right? Well, not exactly, if you’ve just switched to freelancing from the structured routine of a regular 9-5 then it can be hard to strike a happy balance between working and, well, not working so we’ve put together 10 useful time management tips for freelancers to help you out
Now, don’t get me wrong – being a freelancer is great BUT the idea that freelancers have all this spare time isn’t always true. We have the potential to have all this spare time in theory but in reality (and from my experience at least) a lot of freelancers like to keep busy. If you’re doing a job you love then working doesn’t really feel like work and you actually end up spending more time working than the average person would in their day job with commuting on top – in short, freelancers have a tendency to be workaholics and can struggle to find time to fit in ‘leisure’ time and to switch off.
10 Time Management Tips for Freelancers
Knowing how to manage your time as a freelancer is really important and something I am trying to really work on myself at the moment so here are some top time management tips for freelancers
Stay away from or limit distractions
Not having a boss/supervisor looking over your shoulder all the time might be a big perk for some people but for others, it can also be a pitful. If you have a tendency to get easily distracted then it’s important to find a way to limit these distractions.
- Try installing an app that helps you to focus by blocking access to websites that distract you there are plenty available and some even come with timers to help you have a focused work session
- Juliet from Effective At Home has some great ideas on how to limit distractions when working from home
- Make sure you’re comfortable – sitting in an uncomfortable chair and getting aches and pains can be a massive distraction (take it from someone who regularly has to get up and wander around to ease a numb bum!). Lakeland Furniture has some beautifully designed office chairs at great prices, you can view the office chair range here
Get started with a routine
One of the big benefits of being a freelancer is the chance to have flexible work hours. However a perk as good as this also comes with the risk of exploitation – your mindset can quickly go from ‘I can choose my own hours/work whenever I want’ to ‘I’ll start work in a bit…I’ll just do this other thing first…I’ll take today off’
Having a routine is a bit like having a budget, people like to think of them as bad words but in the same way as a budget can be freeing for your money a routine can be freeing for your time. You don’t have to have a solid set schedule as such and get up at 6:30am every day, force yourself to do yoga and only take a 10min coffee break at 10:20am on the dot but it does help to know how you expect the flow of your daily routine to go.
Maybe you get up and like to check your emails with a cup of coffee and then have a shower, perhaps you have to get the kids off to school before you can even think about starting work – whatever it is try to have a semi-regular pattern to what you do so that you can manage your workload accordingly.
- Ana over at Faded Spring has some great tips on being productive whilst working from home, a tip I particularly like is working out when your peak productivity periods are, we all have natural peaks and troughs in our energy and motivation each day so if you can identify when they are you can plan certain tasks around them.
- Make sure to take a lunch break, even if you’re having a really busy day, it’s important to stop and take some time away to have something to eat/drink, maybe get some fresh air or stretch. If it’s just 15 minutes to grab a drink and eat a banana, make sure to build a midday (or midway depending on when you are working) break into your routine.
Fall asleep on time
Being liberated from the obligation of reporting to the office at 9am each day allows you more time to stay up late at night – but is that really what you should be doing?
The time you sleep determines the time you’d wake up and the state you’ll wake up in – In other words, going to sleep late and waking up early won’t necessarily meet your minimum sleep requirement. Consequently, you’re more likely to wake up feeling groggy/less than refreshed in the morning which in turn can make you much less productive.
- If you like to look at your phone before bed did you know you can limit the blue light it emits to try and stop it disturbing your sleep so much?
- Eva from Elevate Calm gives some great tips on how meditating before bed can really help to calm a busy mind and prepare you for a restful sleep.
Wake up properly
Give yourself time to wake up, no-one can leap out of bed and dive straight into work. Being a freelancer means you don’t have to commute, you don’t have to get dressed (although maybe you should), so just chill and utilize that time to get fresh.
Perhaps that means sipping a coffee whilst walking around the garden, doing some light stretches or yoga, taking the dogs for a walk – whatever it is that helps you to start your day right – build it into your routine and make it a non-negotiable part of your day.
- Mornings are the ideal time to practise things like meditation, yoga, stretching, pilates – my favourite resource for lessons on all of those is The Anti-burnout Club. They offer an all-rounded approach to promote better mental health and well-being with videos courses and lessons from some fantastic teachers from as little as 21p per day.
Keep track of your time
The saying ‘Time is Money’ is never truer than when you are a freelancer. The majority of the time, freelance work is billed by the hour so it’s important to keep track of how much time you are spending on each job or task especially if you do ad-hoc tasks throughout the day, 20minutes here and there soon adds up.
If you prefer having a paper-based system, why no get a planner/diary and make a note of time you spend on certain tasks. If you prefer a digital-based system then a tool such as Asana is a great way to schedule in chunks of time for set jobs each day.
Take power naps
This isn’t something everyone likes to do but, if you’re like me and have varying levels of energy (be that due to illness, hormones or just life in general), if the opportunity presents itself to you, you gotta take it!
Power naps are conventionally 15-30 minutes long and can help to give you another burst of energy after or are ideal to have a bit of time to tune out and soothe a busy brain. We’ve all had it when we’ve been at work and you are just so tired that you can’t concentrate/aren’t productive but with a boss watching over you, power naps are just out of the question. However, if you are a freelancer, it’s a whole new possibility and an opportunity you must not pass up if you need it. Maybe you find that you work better with a 20 min nap each day, if so, why not build it into your routine!
Set your goals
Sensible goal setting is such a useful tool – It’s great to have lofty goals of hitting x amount of social media followers by the end of the year or landing £x amount of work for the month but day to day you want to be setting yourself clear and attainable goals. Even if it’s something you know you can easily get done, it’s good to have it jotted down on a To Do list so that you have the satisfaction of crossing it off your list.
- Chloe from NyxiesNook has some great tips on how to set SMART Goals
It can be easy to spend hours on a task if you get really zoned in but it’s important to take regular breaks. Breaks are necessary as they are the mind’s opportunity to relax, so get up from your desk, go and have a drink and stretch/hug the dog/catch up on Instagram and then come back to work feeling a bit more refreshed and with a fresh perspective.
Ok, I know we’ve already mentioned lunch but we’re mentioning it again because it is important. It’s another opportunity to have a bit of a break from your screen and a chance for you to refuel your body, you might feel like you want to power on and work through lunch just to get that project finished but you’re going to need to eat at some point and delaying lunch can throw the rest of your day out.
Last but not least, remember to switch off at the end of each day, as Freelancers we don’t have work hours set by anyone else but that doesn’t mean you can’t impose your own working hours.
Maybe you can implement a no phones/computer/electronics past 8pm rule or you decided that you won’t work weekends – whatever it is having these rules for yourself will help you switch off and have a bit of separation between work and life. All work and no play causes burnout so you need to make sure you include some relaxation or time for hobbies into your life – it doesn’t have to be every day but it’s good to have a few times a week where you just focus on something for you.
Freelancing can be the best thing in the world but it can also be hard to navigate if you’re used to the 9-5 life.
Hopefully, these time management tips for freelancers will help you to strike a great work life balance. Feel free to share any tips you have in the comments section.