As a full-time freelancer myself, I know how difficult it can be to manage my own time. Between onboarding new clients, managing existing projects, and meeting deadlines, freelancer time management sometimes happen no matter what I do.
This guest post today covers the 7 most common freelancer time management mistakes and what to do about them. Learning how to manage your time effectively as a freelancer, no matter your niche or experience level, is the best way to grow your income and keep your sanity!
As a freelancer, you know that the more work you get done, the more money you’ll make. Time really is money in your line of work. However, you are probably making some freelancer time management mistakes that are costing you time (and sanity) every day.
Here are the 7 mistakes you’re likely making right now. More importantly, we’ll talk about what you can do about them to make sure you’re a stronger freelancer in the future, whether you’re a freelance writer, graphic designer, or developer.
1. You Don’t Know When You Work Best
You’ve heard people say that they work best when they get up early. That makes sense, as they have extra time to sort out their calendar, plan out their day, and get started. It sounds great, but when you try it you feel groggy and disorganized.
It could be you’re just not at your best during the mornings. Instead, work out when you feel the most productive and ready to work. You may work best in the afternoons during lunch, or you actually get plenty done during the night hours when others are asleep. Use these hours to get your best work done. A great way to check in with your current time management is to use a time tracker like Toggl to see how you’re currently spending your time.
Sam’s edit: I used to think I had to wake up early to be productive, but that’s totally not true! I now know that I do my best, most focused work between 10 am and 2 pm, so I make the most of this time.
2. Distractions Get the Better of You
As you’re freelancing, you’re very likely working at home. The problem with this is there are just so many distractions. You’re working on your sofa when you just see something that needs tidying up, or your family comes in and distracts you. You just won’t get anything done this way.
Project manager Annalise Peterson, from State Of Writing and Boom Essays, recommends getting your own workspace. “It doesn’t need to be a large fancy office in your home,” she says. ‘”A small corner of the bedroom or kitchen will do. When you sit down to work, you can then put yourself in work mode and won’t get distracted.” The most important key is to stay consistent with your workspace.
3. You Try to Multitask
For a while, the common wisdom was that multitasking was the way to go. The problem is it just doesn’t work. If you’re trying to get multiple things done at once, you’re just not getting anything done with any of them. In fact, you’re going to end up spending longer on each task. This is one of the biggest freelancer time management mistakes, and it’s really common.
Instead, sit with one task and work on it until it’s complete. Once you’ve done that, get the next task and start working on that. You’ll soon see that you’ll actually get more done this way, as you’re devoting your full attention to each task.
If working on one thing gets too frustrating, put that task away for a while and work on something else. The trouble comes when you try to “juggle” too many tasks at once. You end up doing a whole lot of nothing!
4. You Agree to Too Much Work
As a freelancer, you’re always worried about not having enough work coming in. Because of this, you agree to every job that comes your way. It’s a good idea in theory, as the more you work, the more you’ll earn. When you take on more work though, you’ll find you’re working late into the evening and on weekends, just to get everything finished.
Business writer Liam Faden from Paper Fellows and Lia Help says that you need to be pickier about the work you take on. “It’s frightening at first because you don’t want to turn anything down. You’ve got to think about the quality of your work, though. If you’re taking on too much, your work will be rushed and that client may not want to hire you again,” she explains.
In reality, you need to set clear boundaries as a freelancer. If you’re always working, you’re just going to burn out. Remember, you started freelancing in the first place for the freedom of setting your own schedule. Don’t give up all of your time in the process!
5. You Don’t Plan Properly
Do you find you’re rushing from task to task, trying to stay on top of everything? If you feel as though you’re never on top of your work, you’ll want to stop and make time for proper planning. Planning can easily become a freelancer time management mistake if you’re not careful.
This sounds counterproductive, but if you set aside a few minutes to plan your day, you’ll find you’ll get much more done. Pull each task apart and create steps that you need to take. If you plan out what you’ll do each day, it’s easier to stay on top of deadlines.
Sam’s edit: Each morning, I take 5-10 minutes to review my tasks for the day and “brain dump” anything not on my to-do list already. I check this list again at the end of the day, and I make sure I list things for the following day. This helps me disengage from work knowing that everything is planned for the week.
6. You Don’t Prioritize
Next, it’s easy to look at your to-do list and see that there’s lots of work and panic. There’s so much here and not enough time in the day. How will you get everything done? The key is in seeing which tasks are urgent, and which ones can wait.
When you sort through your tasks and pick out the most urgent ones first, you’ll find you aren’t struggling to meet deadlines as much. The most important jobs are taken care of first, so this should ease any stress you’re dealing with.
Better yet, create your schedule far in advance so you can prioritize must-do tasks on a long-term basis. Though this might take a bit of adjusting, you’ll never worry about missing an important deadline.
7. You’re Not Flexible
The last freelancer time management mistake is about flexibility. You’ve planned out your day, and you’re right on schedule. Then, unexpectedly, a problem crops up and your plans are all thrown out of the window. When this happens, it’s easy to get behind and start struggling to handle all the jobs you have.
That’s why you need to be flexible in case something else does crop up. Some people like to leave an hour free in their day, as this gives them time to handle anything that should happen. If you have that space, emergencies shouldn’t occur. Scheduling this “flexible” time into your existing schedule means you never scramble to find those extra hours in the day, and you don’t have to work late into the evening.
Improve Your Freelancer Skills
These are mistakes that most freelancers make that are costing them time. Now you know about them, you can start taking steps to correct this and get ahead.
Freelancing is never a one-and-done process. It’s about always learning, doing better, and making improvements to your process. There are so many advantages to working as a freelancer, but you also have to tackle these unique challenges above.
About the author
Elizabeth Hines is a digital marketer and content writer, working with UK Writings and Academized review. She’s an expert on marketing trends and tech updates, as well as innovations in business. She creates content and blogs for online magazines and blogs, such as Assignment writing.