Without good time management skills, you will fail at freelancing. I know disorganized freelancers, I know bitchy freelancers, the only freelancers I know who couldn’t manage their time are former freelancers. As an independent contractor, a freelancer is his or her own business. That means taking on the responsibility of paying both the employer and employee federal and state taxes, paying for sufficient health insurance, and blocking a certain amount of unpaid hours each week to hustle for more work. Managing your time well means you can bring in the maximum amount of money per working hour, which means you can pay your taxes and your insurance premiums, and still have money left over to pay your bills and eat.
My personal schedule changes all the time. I have a handful of regular, long-term clients, but I take on a lot of short-term projects as well. I get bored easily, working with lots of different clients keeps me interested in freelancing long term. I meet some fascinating people. As a result, I’ll often need to figure out how to plug a lot of different jobs into days that don’t seem as long as they were ten years ago. Right now, I’m working on a long-term SEO writing job, editing a really great book for an author friend, working with a children’s author who wants to do classroom visits aligned with academic standards, and creating a tech manual for a specialty company. Working with the two authors and their work is my favorite, and without self-discipline, I’d work on those all day, every day. The SEO job is simple, but very repetitive and time consuming (also, it pays very well), I’m better at it if I break that job’s related tasks into smaller, frequent chunks. The tech manual requires me to think harder than any of the other jobs, so I try to do it when I’m the most fresh. I also need to include my P-Mag time, for reading the upcoming posts, answering emails, scheduling, checking in with the team and other sundry tasks. With all this info in hand, it makes it simple to plug everything into Google Calendar.
The image below is a snapshot of a few days of work. It’s color-coded by job, and I have each block labeled by client, but I blurred out the names.
The big gray blocks are when I sleep. The big empty slot was me doing nothing but staring at my DVR’d programs while eating pumpkin-flavored foods. Good time management is nothing if you don’t include a little time for yourself.
Google Calendar has a couple of helpful features in addition to color coding. When new events are created, Google automatically adds two alerts, one pop-up and one email, to let you know 10 minutes before your next task is supposed to start. I turned off email alerts, I spend enough time deleting worthless email, but keeping the pop-ups on has been a great motivator for me. When I get the ten minute warning, I wrap up my current task, run to the loo and grab a fresh drink. I did discover that my Android phone goes nuts with the pop-ups, which kills the already tetchy battery twice as fast as normal. An app-killer fixed it without me having to log out of my gmail on my phone.
Before I switched over to using Google Calendar, I was a die-hard list woman. Overall, the calendar is proving to be a better choice for my productivity, and thus my bottom line.
Freelancing Persephoneers, how do you manage your time? Do you cycle through multiple clients per day, or do you focus more on one job at a time?