Time management strategies for freelancers

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Time Management Strategies for Freelancers (Get it Done and Grow Your Business)

Nearly every freelancer wants to grow their business and get paid more. While it may not seem like the obvious answer, the easiest way to get paid more and “raise your rates” is actually to become more efficient AND manage your time effectively. This means you need effective, proven time management strategies for freelancers.

Time management is hard enough, but as a freelancer, creative, or consultant, you’re up against additional challenges as you’re juggling multiple clients along with keeping your pipeline full and growing your business.

No wonder your days feel like a tornado of activity with sometimes very little to show for it at the end of the day.

The thing is, as a freelancer, you need to stay in the zone and be in control of where you spend your time.

Often, the issue lies with us as the business owner. We get too distracted, and our attention is bouncing off the walls. (Oh look, a squirrel!)

This is the reality of the society we live and work in. We need to become more disciplined, deep workers where we’re able to set aside chunks of time to do actual, meaningful work without distraction.

This is a skill you have to develop. Ridding yourself of distractions means no email, no Slack, no Facebook, no Instagram, no funny cat videos, and no text messages. (Confession: We know it’s not easy — but it’s necessary.)

If you want to learn more about this, the book Deep Work by Cal Newport is an enlightening read.

Now you might be thinking…”But what about my clients?! I always have to be available.”

No, you don’t.

Our three Bs to better time management make it easy to be available to your clients AND manage your time like a CHAMP. Check these out:

Create Boundaries

Have either “office hours” or “no work hours” where you aren’t working. Put up an autoresponder or add your office hours to your email signature. The key here is to stick to your boundaries, so do whatever you need to. It will be hard at first but worth the effort. “Working” 24/7 is NOT a way to get more done.

Batch + Block

Group like tasks together to cut down on context switching. We like to do this in two ways:

  • Batch work by client into a given time block (usually about 90-minute chunks).
  • Batch by internal items like admin work, marketing, lead gen, and follow-up throughout the week.

Add in Buffers

Get. out. of. your. inbox, and off of social media. Dealing with email (and sometimes even social media) is certainly a necessary part of running your freelancing business, but having your inbox, Facebook, and Slack open while also trying to “work” isn’t doing you (or your clients) any favors. Bookend your days with two 30 minute buffer zones. Set a timer and get your emails and social done. Then, when time is up, close down communication, and get to work on one of your time blocks.

By adopting these three actions, you can easily become a time management rockstar. But if you really want to uplevel your game, there are a few extra things you can do to make that happen.

Gamify Your Work

The Pomodoro technique is our favorite way to do this. You set your timer for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break, then rinse and repeat. Do three of these cycles in 90 minutes, and you WILL get a ton done. It’s a great tool to keep you on task and productive, and it makes it a game we like to call “let’s see just how much I can get done in 25 minutes.”

It also keeps you focused and on task as you only have to work for 25 minutes before you get a little break to stand up, walk around, grab some water, and then sit back down for another 25 minutes of focused work.

This technique is extra useful on days when your motivation just isn’t there. We usually find that after the first 25 minute block, we’ve made some traction and are getting things done.

Use a Project Management System

Your inbox is NOT a project management system. If you want to grow your business, you have GOT to move your clients out of your inbox. It ups your level of professionalism, and even if you never put your clients in there, you need to keep your own brain organized and be able to easily see where you are with any given project or client and what needs to be done next, etc. There’s no shortage of options (both free and paid), and it really doesn’t matter what you use as long as it works for your brain — and it’s not your inbox

Three project management systems you can check our are Asana, Trello and our personal favorite, Basecamp.

Do a Time Tracking Exercise for a Week

For one week, in 15-minute intervals, record what you’ve been doing. It can be brutal and feel tedious, but it is ALWAYS eye-opening. We often waste more time than we think, and at the end of this week, you’ll have a list of actionable areas where you can improve your own time management based on your actual behavior.

When it comes to these different techniques, you’re not going to know what has the greatest impact until you try them out. By being open-minded and giving each of them a shot, you may be surprised by how much time you get back in your day and can now devote to growing your biz.

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Maggie Patterson Abou the Author

I’m Maggie Patterson (she/her), and services businesses are my business.

I have 20+ years of experience with client services, am a consultant for agency owners, creatives, and consultants, and vocal advocate for humane business practices rooted in empathy, respect, and trust.

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