Freelancers guide to time management
Do you sometimes wonder whether you could earn more money without working evenings or weekends? Want to learn how to increase your freelance income without sacrificing your personal life? As a freelancer, you trade time for money. Unless you offer fixed rates, clients pay you for every hour you work on their project. And at times, this might make you feel that the only way to earn more money is by working longer hours, right?
Luckily, there’s another way: Improving your time management to free up space for more work.
And in just a moment, you’re going to discover four, field-tested, freelance time management strategies that will help you increase your earning potential.
How to Tell Whether Your Time Management Sucks
How you manage your working time isn’t the only factor that affects your income, of course. Charging too little or working with dud clients can cap your earning potential as well. That’s why, before we dive into fixing your time management, we must establish if that’s where your problem is. So, think about the last couple of months in your business. Has any of the following happened to you regularly:
- Working evenings and weekends to deliver projects on time?
- Turning potentially profitable work away due to no more available time in your schedule?
- Researching ways to create a side project to earn more money?
Note, I asked “regularly.”
That’s because there is nothing wrong with doing some work in your spare time on occasion. Similarly, your schedule might be full. You’d have no choice, then, but to turn new projects down. And you may be considering picking up a side project as a hobby. Even if only to help you relax and recharge after long hours at work.
But if any of the above happens regularly, it’s time to worry.
It means that a.) you don’t manage your time well, b.) somehow, the time spent on projects exceeds your estimates, and c.) you seek to escape from the work-life imbalance. In short, your time management sucks. Full stop. And the result of continuing working like this could be beyond catastrophic for your business (and you.) Fatigue, burnout, anxiety, and panic attacks are just some of the negative outcomes of your work and life blending into one.
The good news, you’re about to learn how to turn this around.
Time Management for Freelancers: Four Strategies to Help You Manage Your Day Better and Earn More Money
#1. Create Workflows to Automate Various Project Elements
If your projects include recurring tasks, create a workflow to take your mind off remembering about them. This way, you won’t have to focus on remembering about next steps in the process. You’ll also save time you’d normally spend fixing mistakes or going back to tasks you’ve forgotten to complete. The workflow below, for example, defines all actions in a web design project. Note that, apart from listing all required actions, it also estimates time per task. And in doing so, helps manage time spent on the project better.
But even if you use different processes for each project, you might still need to perform certain actions regularly. Sending intake documents is one example. Creating a project outline for clients to sign off; requesting specific assets for the project or sending drafts and other deliverables are another.
Your project might not move forward without those completing those actions above. Creating a workflow helps ensure that you know exactly when to remember about them, and how much time to dedicate to the task.
#2. Estimate and Block Off Time Per Each Task
Note that I said, “each.” Because this strategy helps not just with big projects but small actions too. You might have a good idea how long a project would take. You know what it takes to complete its various elements, on average.
But I bet that you discount the time you spend completing many insignificant actions.
Take sending emails, for example. Most freelancers I know fill their to-do lists with a list of messages they need to send that day.
But most never consider how much time those messages will take them to write.
And yet, they might be writing a sales email for anything up to an hour. Sending a project update can take 15 minutes. Answering potential clients’ questions, even longer. Calls, project research, browsing the web for inspiration or reading relevant blog posts take up significant time too. Yet, most freelancers never consider them as work. As a result, they rarely budget for them in their schedule. The problem is that all this time adds up. Unless you budget for it, it will affect your working time.
Solution. Estimate the time for every task on your to-do list. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big action like designing client’s logo or processing email inquiries, block off time for it.
You’ll quickly notice many benefits of doing so:
- Time blocks will help you plan your day, week and even month better.
- As a result, you’ll gain an even better perspective on how to allocate your work to maximize your day.
(Example of a daily schedule based on clearly defined time blocks)
#3. Outsource What You Don’t Want to Do
I realize that you might not be able to outsource your work. One reason could be the money. Sending work to someone could reduce your income per project. Another reason is how someone else’s work could affect the quality of your project. Both are valid concerns. And I’m not suggesting that you outsource what you create for clients. But you could get someone to help you with what you don’t want to do.
Bookkeeping, for example. I bet doing books is the last thing on your list. You want to design, write, code or focus on whatever creative work that you do. You don’t want to even think about going through your receipts. Even business development, looking for new clients, mightn’t excite you as much as doing client work does.
But someone else could complete those tasks for you. An accountant could review your receipts and balance your accounts as well. Another freelancer could help you build an outreach list of potential clients to email. They could even connect with those people on your behalf.
Many prospecting and outreach specialists offer their services on Upwork and similar marketplaces for affordable fees. I’m sure there are many accounting firms in your area too. With their help, you could free up enormous amounts of time that you could spend delivering more client projects. And earning more in the process.
#4. Automate Business Processes
Let’s face it: The sheer volume of tasks you do in your business is astonishing, isn’t it?
In an average project, you may need to…
- Engage with prospects and qualify them,
- Meet with clients, be it offline or online,
- Send invoices in various project stages,
- Chase late payments,
- Chase signoffs, and so on.
All of which consumes incredible amounts of your time, right?
Luckily, you can automate many of those steps.
Let’s take invoicing and payment collection, for example. Many invoicing platforms allow setting up automated invoices they then send on your behalf at specific intervals. With many, you can also collect money via credit card or PayPal. Some will even send automated payment reminders, if needed, freeing you to focus on other things.
Another example, your sales process. Automation can help you pre-qualify leads quicker. And in doing so, ensure that you speak only with the people who are the most likely to become clients.
The renowned freelancer and business author, Paul Jarvis, used an automated onboarding system that helped engage potential clients without his involvement. With email automation, he was able to cut down a 12-step process to just 8 actions. But what’s important, he wasn’t needed for any of them! His potential customers were going through it by themselves. They engaged with Paul only after completing all the steps.
Here’s what he wrote a couple of months after launching it:
Out of six people who went through the new process lately, five booked projects with me. The sixth didn’t read the part about me being booked four months out and couldn’t wait that long. For those six people who went through the process, I saved hours and hours by not having to answer questions I’ve answered hundreds of times before or doing the “when are you free” dance.” (source)
If automating the entire process is too much for you, consider improving your lead capture forms. Including additional fields asking for more in-depth information about the lead could help you identify potential tire-kickers early and save hours of your time.
As a freelancer, you trade hours for dollars. Which often makes you feel that the only way to earn more is by working longer. Luckily, there is another way. Improving your time management could free up space for more work. And open up opportunities to increase your revenue. In this post, you discovered four field-tested techniques to help you achieve just that.
Looking for a way to manage your time even better? Check out TimeHero, the first AI-powered time and task management app for freelancers.