Time Management Secrets for Busy Freelancers

5 Time Management Secrets for Freelancers Who Want to Master it

Working as a freelancer, one of the biggest challenges you will face is how to manage your time properly. This isn’t like working a 9-5 job when you only have one boss to worry about. As a freelancer, you  often have to juggle 4-5 clients at the same time and every one of them can be demanding, trust me. Well, unless you want to spend hours upon hours working and always feeling like you don’t have enough time to complete every project you have, it’s high time to learn a few things about time management.

Here are five important time management secrets that every freelancer needs to know in order to rule his or her time.

Stop Wasting Time with Clients that Will Get You Nowhere

Learn to say “no” from time to time when a new client knocks on your door. If the client seems too demanding, or the project could take a long time to complete and requires you to go through all kinds of hoops and obstacles, if the pay isn’t good enough, or if you already have enough clients at the moment, it’s better to refuse a contract than accept it and later figure out it’s just getting you nowhere.

The same, of course, goes for current clients, not just new ones. For example, if you have a client that is paying you considerable less than your other clients, get rid of them. Free your time for a client that can pay you more. Yes, a bit of loyalty to your old clients is okay, but only to a certain point. Treating your time as a valuable commodity doesn’t just mean setting a high per hour rate, but much more.

It’s very important to understand what the project is really about to know how long it will take you to complete it. As freelancers, we are all sometimes eager and excited to get new projects and clients, but don’t get overeager. Take a moment to talk with a potential client about the project he has in mind and understand what they exactly need and how you can make that happen. If the client is not able or unsure to tell you this, expect this project to take a lot of your time, without you knowing where it really went.

Plan Your Next Day

Plan for tomorrow

I firmly believe in planning your next day the evening before. This is why every night before I go to bed, I take a notebook and a pen and jot down what I plan to do the following day. Then, when I wake up, I already know what I need to do that day and it’s much easier for me to avoid getting distracted.

Your plan doesn’t have to be too strict. In fact, allow it to be flexible by all means. It’s just there to serve as a general guide for your day and help keep you on track. For example, I usually plan in blocks and it looks something like this:

  • Early morning: Check and answer email, schedule Skype calls
  • Late morning: Work on most urgent/important project
  • Early afternoon: Work on less urgent/important projects
  • Late afternoon: Finish any projects if there are any left, exercise, go for a walk…
  • Early evening: Check email again, read, watch a game or a movie…
  • Late evening: Wrap up this day and plan the next one.

Of course, expect that something will always come up and kind a shake your day, so don’t try to perfectly plan your day. You never know what might happen tomorrow, but this is as good as you can go.

Work When You are Most Productive

I like to start working around 8-9 in the morning as I feel I am most productive and can create the best content for clients around that time. You might pick a different time of day. Some people like to start their day very, very early. This can be a great idea if you’re living with someone or have kids. By being an early rises, you can sit down in quiet and focus on an important project, without being interrupted all the time.

Not everyone is an early riser. For instance, I can’t see myself out of bed at 5:00 am (I think my 7:30 am is quite enough). If you don’t belong in this group, that’s okay. You might be more productive around 12 or even later in the afternoon. Heck, you might be a regular night owl and are at your most productive at midnight.

The bottom line is that, while being a freelancer allows you to choose when you will work, it’s not about choosing when you “feel like working” that day, but picking the time of the day when your brain works the best.

Stop Multitasking

Stop multitasking

Stop multitasking. Whoever told you that it is a good idea clearly knows nothing about time management. In fact, multitasking is the opposite of what productive people are doing. Our brains are just not used to multitasking and dividing time between two things at the same time. The end result is usually full of mistakes. Not to mention that it also runs your creative process completely.

When you try to shift from one task to another, it doesn’t go as smoothly as you might think it will. For instance, if you’re working on an article and stop to check your email or make a phone call, by the time you return to writing that article, your brain has already lost its train of thought and will now need extra time and energy to get back on track. So, stop multitasking, this is not an effective time management technique, far from it.

If you don’t believe me, ask someone who knows a bit more about how the human brain works. Here’s what Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT Earl Miller has to say about multitasking and why it’s not a good idea:

Our brains, however, delude us into thinking we can do more. To understand how this happens, it helps to think about how we physically see the world. Barring visual impairments, we perceive our surroundings via a video camera-like, wide-angle lens. Or at least that’s how it seems. In reality, our eyes are constantly darting around, 3-4 times per second, taking in our surroundings in snippets. The end looks like one image, but that’s just because our brains paper these individual pieces together to create a complete picture.

Get Help for Your Time Management

You don’t have to deal with time management all by yourself. In fact, there are a lot of tools that can help you with this. From a simple alarm clock to wake you up every morning, to a timer for your Pomodoro sessions, to apps like Toggl to track how much time you’ve worked on an article, to Trello for productivity, there are a lot of tools you can use to master your own time and use it better. If it can help you save just 5 more minutes of wondering around, trust me, it’s worth it.

Know of any other time management secrets that you’d like to share with fellow freelancers? Let us know in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to share this with anyone who says they “don’t have time” and if you like my blog, feel free to subscribe to it for more posts about freelancing.

Useful time management tip: Just 5 More Minutes Please…

Vladimir Covic
  • Mojca
    Posted at 10:04h, 13 July Reply

    Very good tips! Multitasking is my biggest problem, but as you said it is not as good as it looks 🙂

  • Shavonne Kennard
    Posted at 08:33h, 13 July Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I learned about Pomorodo a few years ago. I always have to remind myself that if I want to earn, I better focus on what needs to be done that will produce results. If not, I will definitely get off track which results in a lack in productivity.

  • Jessica Hugo
    Posted at 08:00h, 13 July Reply

    Work when you’re most productive!!!! Great tip. Thanks for sharing.

  • Dinesh
    Posted at 06:01h, 13 July Reply

    Time management is tricky at times.. You don’t know when to stop

  • Reginald
    Posted at 17:27h, 12 July Reply

    This five important time management secrets that every freelancer needs to know in order to rule his or her time, that you have mentioned are very important. But how do one get this jobs online because so many people wants this kind opportunities but they are not seeing it at all.

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 17:29h, 12 July Reply

      Hi Reginald. Thanks for the comment. To answer your question, there are a lot of freelance sites out there like Upwork, Freelancer, Guru, Fiverr, etc. That a new freelancer can try. Take a look at my blog, I wrote a list of 20 best websites for freelancers and I also have some posts on how to land your first gig and write a proposal on Upwork.

  • Michelle
    Posted at 15:56h, 12 July Reply

    I work from home and work over 12 hours a day. I make a list the night before of everything that I want to get done the next day.

  • heidi williams
    Posted at 16:07h, 11 July Reply

    So on point, doing what we do and especially working from home you definitely have to mange your time. I am an Introvert so it does kind of come naturally to me. Great advice I’m sharing this

  • Jenni Petrey
    Posted at 14:42h, 11 July Reply

    These are great tips, I use some of them at work already.

  • Pooja Sharma
    Posted at 13:35h, 11 July Reply

    Nice tips especially the one about multi tasking. It sure is a killer of both productivity and time mangement

  • Abdulmalik
    Posted at 10:58h, 11 July Reply

    Time is everything, when the time is well managed the result will be extremely positive

  • Phaytea's Pulse
    Posted at 10:13h, 11 July Reply

    This is so timely…A lot of us make the mistake of trying to multitask and end up being less productive….I also like the point of not accepting all the jobs you get….some clients really are time wasters….imagine those who make detailed enquires, raise your hope and up not using your service…there should be a separate article on how to spot those kind

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 10:26h, 11 July Reply

      Good idea, thanks Phaytea. I might write one about such clients.

  • Jackie
    Posted at 10:12h, 11 July Reply

    Great advice. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Kathy
    Posted at 19:08h, 10 July Reply

    Great tips! I am stuck on the “work when you are most productive” because I’m most productive in the morning but the rest of my family isn’t and I can’t get them out of the house early enough:-)

  • John
    Posted at 17:35h, 10 July Reply

    Very helpful trips especially to upcoming freelancers

  • Michelle
    Posted at 17:29h, 10 July Reply

    I work from home and I wake up early everyday and have a list everyday of things I need to get done.

  • Jade
    Posted at 14:17h, 10 July Reply

    I’m a terrible multi tasker, but I obviously always try! very helpful tips. Really need to study them!

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 14:43h, 10 July Reply

      Everyone’s a terrible multitasker. That’s why I say stop multitasking. It’s completely pointless as far as your productivity go.

  • Sarah
    Posted at 12:43h, 10 July Reply

    Great tips! I also think these are very relevant for those working in an office environment as well!

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 12:49h, 10 July Reply

      By all means! I didn’t mean these tips to be exclusive for just freelancers. Office workers, small business owners… anybody can make use of good time management.

  • Abdulmalik
    Posted at 11:51h, 10 July Reply

    The important of time management can not be over emphasis, time is everything and as such should be managed well. The provided tools are just OK, hope to work with it

  • Elsie
    Posted at 09:41h, 10 July Reply

    Gosh. I have 4 articles in my backlog and I’m struggling. Really needed this

  • vinod verma
    Posted at 09:35h, 10 July Reply

    OMG ! your every post is very useful to me. I am adopting tips given by you. Thanks for all tips. Keep writing.

  • Emmanuel
    Posted at 09:19h, 10 July Reply

    Very helpful… Time management is important…. Thanks for sharing.

  • Greta Lamfel
    Posted at 08:41h, 10 July Reply

    Thanks for this post. I really like the part where you say that not all clients should be accepted. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way. Some clients become more of a liability than an asset. By the way, I also wrote a similar article about time management/procrastination. Here’s the link to it: http://healthyliving894.com/?s=procrastination

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 08:45h, 10 July Reply

      Thanks, I’ll be sure to check your article as well.

  • Geetanjali Tung
    Posted at 18:45h, 09 July Reply

    Great article ! Very helpful tips ! Thanks !

  • Shivangi Dikshit
    Posted at 14:38h, 09 July Reply

    These tips are really helpful.. And can be used by all.

  • Nwanosike Ezekwesiri
    Posted at 14:33h, 09 July Reply

    This post is indeed useful for everyone, not just freelancers. Thanks a lot, Vladmir!

  • lau
    Posted at 14:29h, 09 July Reply

    very helpful and rgreat tips! Thanks for sharing


  • Kavita Singh
    Posted at 12:55h, 09 July Reply

    It’s an amazing article for me, being a freelance content writer. Especially time management tools. I believe by adopting theses tips I can enhance my time management issues.

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