Time management is an important skill for anyone working independently. Knowing how to manage your time will allow you to take on more projects, meet deadlines, and leave you space for your own hobbies and interests!
With just a few simple tips, you can be an expert!
First and foremost, which projects are you going to take on?
As a new independent, it is tempting to take on every opportunity that presents itself. You are hungry for experience, new connections, and let’s be honest, a pay-check is pretty nice too. However, this excitement can easily overlook the reality of what it means to have multiple projects on the go, which is why it is crucial to figure out which projects are worth accepting.
There are a few questions you can ask yourself when making a decision to accept a project or not:
- Do I have the capacity to do this project? Figure out if your current schedule allows you the time to complete a project before accepting it.
- Does the rate meet my expectations? Decide if the pay justifies the amount of time required to get the project completed. As a new freelancer it can be easy to want to lower your rates just to get some experience but consider your time and effort… it’s valuable!
- Do I want to work for this client? Consider the client’s timeline expectations, communication, and efforts to work with you up until that point. If something doesn’t align with you.. next!
- Does this project excite me? Doing work that you are genuinely interested in and want to do will make it far more enjoyable. Working on a project that you aren’t interested in will more often than not result in dread and procrastination.
Create a schedule
It’s called flexible work for a reason; you get to decide when you work and how you get things done. This is a huge benefit of working independently!
Managing multiple projects on your own can get overwhelming and chaotic without a schedule. A calendar is a great way to organize yourself to ensure you stay on top of things. You can schedule in everything you have to keep track of. Schedule when you will work on certain tasks, client follow ups, breaks, invoicing, meetings, and deadlines. Having it all laid out for you will ensure you won’t miss a beat!
Organize your projects
Aside from planning which projects to take on, you also need to figure out how you are going to tackle each project. It helps to break projects down into smaller tasks, set clear goals and a timeline, prioritize, and track your progress.
There are plenty of amazing resources that can help you stay organized and on track with your projects; utilize them!
Set realistic deadlines
It is easy to overestimate what you can accomplish in a given time, but the consequences of overbooking yourself outweigh the opportunity to have a lot of projects on the go. It can jeopardize the quality of your work, your client’s satisfaction, and in the long run, your reputation and ability to get new clients!
You are human, life happens, and you don’t want to be short for time. The answer for this is to be realistic and give yourself breathing room. Figure out how long it takes you to complete certain tasks, and allot enough time and then some to get it done.
For example, if you think a project is going to take you 1 week, quote the client 2 weeks instead. This takes some pressure off of you, and gives you some room for whenever life gets in the way.
Communicate with your client
As an independent worker, you’re truly never off the clock, but for your own sake, it’s important to resist the temptation to reply to your messages at all hours of the day. To combat this, set boundaries and stick to them!
What do client boundaries look like? 🙅♂️
- What your working hours are (and are not)
- How often you will be communicating with your client
- What form of communication you can be reached at
It’s important to communicate with your client to reassure them that their project is progressing as expected, and the work that they are paying you for is, well… getting worked on. Establishing these clear boundaries will help you maintain strong time management and in the long run, gain client trust, and make your client’s experience working with you more positive.
Take real breaks
The infamous concept of work-life balance: yes, it’s a real thing. Working on your own schedule can make it easy for the hours of the day to meld into one another. You start work in the morning and then you end up working into the night simply because you have the luxury of working from your bedside. If you worked a corporate desk job, these breaks would be scheduled into your workday, so there’s no reason why you can’t do the same!
This doesn’t mean going over project notes on your lunch break, this means completely unplugging from work. It is so important to give your brain time to recharge. This will boost your creativity, productivity and focus!
Need some examples of things you can do? Go for a walk, call a friend, grab a coffee, or literally sit on your couch and do absolutely nothing!
Now remember, these are tips, not rules… this is the beauty of working as an independent and being your own boss! Things in your life are always changing and your work can function around that. What is important is that you find a system that works for you and allows you to carry out your work successfully so you can continue to land new projects, make strong connections, support yourself, and maintain a good work-life balance!
Experienced independent, Alex Fasulo, says it best in her podcast, Freelance Fairytales:
We all have the same 24 hours in the day. You have the same 24 hours that Elon Musk has, which means he’s figured out how to use his 24 hours quite wisely, and there’s no reason why you can’t replicate that in your own freelancing business.
About the author
Julia began her independent journey in July 2021. Whether it’s a blog that needs writing, web-copy that needs editing, or a TikTok that needs making, she’s got your content covered! She looks forward to connecting with you.