3 Time Management Tips for Budding Freelancers

by Maurie Backman | Published on Nov. 6, 2021

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A father working at a table and watching his kids do homework on the floor of the living room.

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Thinking of going freelance? Here's how to ensure you're making enough time in your schedule to earn a living.


Key points

  • The key to a successful freelance career is making sure you schedule enough time to do your work.
  • Eliminating distractions and having a backup plan can help you stay on schedule.

There are plenty of benefits to going from a salaried worker to a freelance worker. Being freelance means getting to set your own hours and, in some cases, demand a higher hourly rate than you'd get as a salaried employee. The result? A more robust bank account balance.

But when you work for yourself, it's really important to do a good job of managing your time. Take it from me -- I've been a full-time freelancer for many years. The key to earning a decent income is carving out enough time to do your work and using those hours productively. Here are a few tips that might help you get started if you're new to the world of freelancing.

1. Set a work schedule at the start of each week

Your schedule one week might look very different than your schedule another week. I have children, for example, and some weeks, I have obligations like after-school events that I need to work into my schedule. Rather than set a rigid schedule to follow, I tweak mine at the start of each week.

Either way, I always make a point to allow for a minimum number of work hours each week. Now, the number of hours you'll need to put in will depend on how quickly you work and what your income goals are. But in some cases, to meet my minimum hours, I have to allocate time early in the morning or later at night, while my children are in bed.

It's not always ideal to have to work during off hours, but sometimes it's necessary. Either way, knowing what hours I'm supposed to be working helps me stay on track.

2. Eliminate distractions while you're working

A key component of managing your time well is avoiding distractions. To this end, I make a point to turn off my phone when I'm at my desk. That way, I'm not sidetracked by incoming text messages or other dings and interruptions. Avoiding distractions is especially important for those weeks when I have fewer hours available to allocate to work.

3. Have a backup plan for the unexpected

You might intend to work a certain number of hours one week, only to have that plan thwarted. Just this week, I was getting ready to get my children out the door when we got a notice that school was shuttered for the day due to a water main break. Suddenly, the six hours of work I was planning to do that day got whittled down to four and a half, because while my kids can self-entertain, I did need to take some time out to set them up with activities and make them food.

My backup plan generally involves getting up early on weekends to make up for lost hours. Your backup plan might look different.

To be clear, if your workload isn't that heavy, you may not need a backup plan. But the key to being successful as a freelancer is being reliable and sticking to your clients' deadlines. So if you're coming into a week where you know you need 40 hours at your desk to meet client-specific timelines, you'll need to figure out when you might squeeze in extra hours as needed should things go awry.

Being a freelancer has its challenges, though it can of course be quite rewarding. If you're new to freelancing, remember that it's okay to play around with different schedules and work hours. It may take a little time to get into a routine that works well for you.

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