Time Management for Freelancers: the importance, benefits, and 15 tips to stay on track!

Written by Domantas Vanagas

January 2, 2022

The public has been sold the dream of becoming a freelancer. They are told that they can be their own boss and never have to answer to anyone else again. In certain respects, that is true, but it masks the very real truth that time management for freelancers may be an even bigger challenge than it is for someone who works a traditional job. A delicate balance must be struck between getting everything done and also enjoying the freelance lifestyle. 

The freedom to be your own boss has a lot of upsides to it, but there are also plenty of responsibilities that go along with this. You are the one who is accountable for making your money and your schedule, and it is not always easy to shoulder that much responsibility by yourself. This is why we want to look at some time management techniques for freelancers.


Why Is Time Management Important For Freelancers? 

You become the master of your own schedule when you become a freelancer, and that is ideal for a lot of people, but it also means you are the only one accountable to yourself. Freelancers are frequently called upon to do a large variety of different tasks in a given day, and it is quite common for them to be pulled in multiple directions in a single day. If you are not comfortable with the idea of having to adapt to new circumstances on the fly, then freelancing might not be for you. 


computer on a desk showing time


Freelancers tend to be paid for the actual time that they put into their craft. Other jobs pay their employees by the hour, but freelancers are generally paid based on the products they create.

In other words, if the freelancer is not actively sitting down to work on what they are being paid for, then they just don’t earn their money for that day. They could be spending a lot of unpaid time doing research or other work, but they are only going to be compensated for the time put into the work directly. This means that freelancers truly understand the effects of good time management. They have to make sure they remain focused in their daily life and that they don’t allow themselves to be pulled away by side tasks and other distractions.

Managing one’s time and learning to say “no” to certain tasks or job offers is an essential skill for any freelancer who wants to make actual money doing what they do best. 

Benefits Of Time Management For Freelancers

There are countless benefits to managing one’s time properly as a freelancer, not the least of which is the fact that a properly balanced schedule is the only way to guarantee that you can take on as much work as possible.

You see, when you have your time managed properly, you are in a better position to accept additional work down the line as it becomes available. You will already have balanced out the other work that you have agreed to, and this will open up your availability to accept even more tasks that will help get you paid.

This means that managing one’s time is a great way to grow one’s business going forward. If you fail to manage your time, then you will fall behind on the tasks that you have already claimed. That will cause you to really be in a world of difficult choices as you try to figure out which vendors you will work for and which you will turn down.

The benefits of maintaining good time management for freelancers manifest in the following ways:

  • Less Stress – When you know you have taken the time to get everything done, you will feel less stressed about the tasks that you still need to accomplish. Many people say that they are better able to enjoy the non-work parts of their life once they know that the work side of things has been managed

  • Better Able To Accept Additional Work – If you have time and a place for everything, then you won’t be so concerned about accepting new work. You will gladly embrace it, and you will be able to accept that additional work because you will have the flexibility built into your schedule to get that done. People often don’t factor this into account nearly enough when they look at why time management is so important. 

  • Get To Do More Of What You Love – If you are constantly juggling a variety of tasks in your work life, then you are not getting to do the things that really matter to you. There is a strong likelihood that you are not enjoying life to the fullest as a result. Instead of putting yourself in that position, why not consider getting a time management routine in hand, and start to get work tasks done early so that you can enjoy the remainder of your time doing what you want to do?

15 Tips For Time Management For Freelancers

We want to provide you with some commonsense tips for time management for freelancers that you might find useful. When applying these tips, experiment with them to see which works best for you, and always try to tweak your system as necessary to get it to the place where you want it to be. 

1. Create Set Working Hours

Just because you have the flexibility to work throughout the night or in the middle of the day if you want to does not mean that you should flip-flop your schedule around all that much. The flexibility of freelance work just means that you are able to change your schedule when necessary if there are emergencies or something of that nature.

clock besides a work computer

However, you should try to stick to a routine schedule as much as possible in order to develop the best habits going forward. You see, people’s brains work on schedules, and you don’t want to get out of sync with those schedules if you can avoid it. One of the better techniques of getting started is Eat The Frog technique. The main idea of this technique is that you have to take care of your ugliest, most annoying task as quickly as possible

2. Prioritize Your Tasks

Ask yourself, which things are most important for you to accomplish today? Put those tasks at the top of your queue, and work your way back from there. You need to put a priority on certain tasks getting done so you don’t let yourself get too far behind.

It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day and not realize that so much time has gotten away from you dealing with some of your smaller projects. It is also easy to get overwhelmed by many responsibilities. Make sure you keep a list of what truly needs to get done at the ready so you can refer to it as needed when getting things done. Also, keep in mind that time management and multitasking don’t work together.

3. Hire Others To Help You 

Maybe there are some things around the house that need to be done as well as your work. If you don’t want to take time away from your work to handle those tasks, perhaps you should consider hiring people to help with the other tasks in your house that you know need to get done. This can be a great way to take some of the load off of your plate and allow you to do what needs to be done work-wise. 

4. Reduce Distractions 

If you can reduce or eliminate distractions, you can get a lot more done than you even realize.

NFL Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a quote about distractions in which he says:

“You face distractions, you face adversity in life and you have to be able to handle it, you have to be able to fight through it and become a better man and become a better player because of it.”

He is referring to football there of course, but it can be applied to any facet of life. 

5. Eat Meals For 30 to 60 Minutes Like In An Office

Don’t take away one of the best parts of working in an office job (the meal break). Give your mind and body a chance to relax and recoup from the work you have been doing.

It will feel recharged and ready to go once you do that. You should try to pack foods that will give you a boost of energy while also providing your body with the nutrients that it needs to power through a long workday.

There is nothing wrong with having a little coffee-like you might in the office, but you should also try to have meals that give you true long-term energy. Additionally, you might find that it is a bit easier to do all of this when you are a freelancer working from home and the kitchen is always easily accessible.

6. Create Blocks Of Time In Your Schedule 

You should try to block out certain periods of time throughout the day when you get certain tasks done. Perhaps you need to knock out the tasks that are most weighing on your mind first. Put them into blocks of time right at the beginning of your day. After that, maybe you block in some time to take a break or to get a headstart on another project. Whatever the case may be, you will want to block out time to get each task completed. 

Related: Importance of scheduling in time management

7. Seek Out And Use Your Most Productive Hours 

We always talk about night owls and early birds, and that is because they exist. Some people get their best work done at night, and other people prefer to wake up bright and early. Either option is fine, but you need to figure out which one is for you and then use those hours to get your most important work done.

man working on a computer at night while holding a cup of coffee

Productivity comes in spurs, and it is best when people know when their productive hours are so they can use them to get the most essential of tasks out of the way. 

8. Don’t Take On Too Many Obligations

If you take on too many obligations, you won’t be able to complete them all, and you will always feel overwhelmed. This may lead to poor work quality, and you definitely don’t want to let your work suffer because you were not able to maintain a balanced schedule like you know you should have. 

9. Change Your Workspace Scenery 

Sometimes, you just need to change up the scenery around you to once again get inspired and get things done. If that sounds like where you are in your freelance journey, then it may be time to change up your workspace. Are you putting in the hours in a place that is drab and uninspiring?

If so, then you are not getting everything done as efficiently as you could be. Luckily, the answer to this is to simply change up the space and provide yourself with some new scenery to supercharge your enthusiasm to work. 

10. Take Breaks When You Need To

We are not robots meant to work all the time. It is a good idea to give yourself a break once in a while to catch your breath and notice the world around you. When you do this, you will start to sense that there is more out there than you even realized. It is entirely possible that you are overlooking some of the most important moments of your life right now.

Eddie Cantor had this to say about it:

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going by fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” 

11. Reach Out To Friends

Freelancing can be isolating. Don’t forget to take time to reach out to your friends and loved ones from time to time to check in on how they are doing. It may also be a good idea to take a regularly scheduled meal break to recharge and get yourself back in the right mental space to get your work done. If you challenge yourself to also remember to take regular breaks, then you will likely be more productive in the long run even if it doesn’t seem to be the case at this moment. 

12. Use Time Management Apps

You have probably seen some of the time management apps that are currently available. You should try to use some of them from time to time in order to more accurately record how much time you spend on certain tasks and to see where your time can best be allocated. 

13. Use A Project Management System

There are project management systems available to those who want to scan through the work that needs to be done and figure out where they stand at this time. Do you have the time to take on more work or are you overwhelmed as it is?

The only way to really know is to use a project management system to see where you stand and how it stacks up against where you should be. People sometimes forget to look at this as closely as they should, and they may fall behind unnecessarily.

14. Say No To Certain Projects

There is no shame in declining work if you are already overloaded. People often think that they must accept every scrap of work that comes their way in order to show gratitude for the opportunity, but that is just not the case.

If they accept more than they can reasonably handle, then things will fall through the cracks, clients will be disappointed, and the freelancer will start to blame themselves for the mistakes that they have made. It is a vicious cycle that is hard to break out of. This is absolutely crucial if you are a freelancing artist. Creativity comes in waves, and it may take some time to finish certain projects.

15. Think Of Your Freelance Work As A Business

You will waste far less time if you think of your freelance work as a business and thus protect your time. You should only spend time working on things that further your goals in freelancing, and that means eliminating time-wasting tasks.

When you think of yourself as a small business owner, you will treat every communication that you make with clients in a professional manner, and you will earn a reputation as the kind of person who is worth trusting with the type of work that you do. You will manage your finances more carefully as well, and you will avoid making costly mistakes that could prove damaging if you are more casual with your approach to this work. 

If you take these tips into account and focus mightily on protecting your time as a freelancer, then you should be on the road to more successful outcomes going forward.

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