Speed is of the essence when you’re a freelancer. The more billable hours you can fit into a day, the more you’ll earn. Good time management is therefore an important skill to develop if you want to succeed in your freelancing career.
Unfortunately, many freelancers continue to make the same time management mistakes which leave them working hard long into the evenings and weekends. Freelancing then becomes a burden and not that ideal career path they had envisioned before starting.
So what are some of these time management mistakes and how can they be rectified? Below are the most common. Each one is also relatively easy to solve, with just a few simple modifications to your scheduling, toolbox, and mindset.
When working on multiple different projects it’s vital to have a good planning strategy in place. Even the complexities of a single client project can be overwhelming without a clear plan of action. A freelancer can soon find themselves in utter chaos if there’s been no proper planning and organization.
Prior to each new project, make sure you know the different stages that need to be completed and when. Ensure your other project timelines allow for you to add the new project into your schedule without you then being swamped with work. Kanban boards are an excellent way to plan projects ahead of time.
Failing to prioritize
Not all work is equal. If you fail to distinguish between work that is urgent and work that can wait, then you’re likely to find yourself in a mad dash to get work completed before sudden deadlines. Failing to prioritize different types of client work is a sure way to meet with added stress and poor project results.
Learn to decipher what really is urgent and what isn’t. A Kanban board overview of all the tasks you need to complete, organized into color coded categories, will allow you to quickly assess what really needs your attention.
Lack of automation
When you think of automation you might be tempted to imagine factory assembly lines or banking systems. Yet automation can also be an excellent way for freelance professionals to free up more of their time, which can then be converted into more billable hours.
It’s a shame to get bogged down in tasks which specialist software can do for you in a fraction of the time. As a freelancer you can automate tasks such as invoicing, accepting payments, time tracking, sending late payment reminder emails, updating social media, scheduling tasks, and so much more.
No progress reporting
“Are we there yet?” is a well-known question kids ask on a car journey. It’s also the type of question a poorly organized freelancer might ask when faced with a project that seems to be going on forever. Lack of progress reporting, in the form of time tracking, project planning, and ticking off completed tasks, means you will be left blind as to the progress you’re making.
Invest in time tracking and project management software which will allow you to keep track of every minute of your work day. Doing so will ensure you know exactly what you still need to do and can accurately inform clients of your progress.
Misjudging task time
You have a new project and you’re trying to judge how much time certain tasks will take. The trouble is, you don’t really know. You’ve done similar tasks before but you can’t remember how long they took, and so you end up guessing. Unfortunately, guessing can potentially ruin a project schedule.
The alternative, like mentioned previously, is to track your work time, from start to finish. This will allow you to see how long certain tasks and projects took. You can then look back through your records when a similar task/project comes up and accurately gauge a completion time.
Too many distractions
Most freelancers work from home. At home there are so many distractions to be had. There’s TV, social media, a nice comfy bed, a kitchen full of tempting foods, and sometimes noisy family members. Before you know it, what was meant to be a quick 5-minute break turns into an hour on the sofa or in the sunny garden.
Good time management as a freelancer depends on strict adherence to pre-defined schedules. For example, when you take a lunch break, this should be timed, just like with client work. A little bell can be set to ring when it’s time to return to work. Doing so will help you to avoid distractions.
Multitasking has a similar damaging affect to random distractions, when it comes to time management. Multitasking however, gives the impression you’re busy and doing a lot of work. However, the reality you may find is that trying to work on different tasks at the same time means very little of any one task is actually completed. You lose focus and this diminishes productivity.
Multitasking can be avoided by simply scheduling a particular task to be completed at a set time. During that time, you work on nothing else until that task is finished. Then you move on to the next single task, and so on.
Poor professional mindset
For new freelancers there might be a temptation to image the freelance life as one where you relax at home and work on fun projects for a few hours before enjoying leisure time. Unfortunately, the reality is usually different, at least in the first few years of your career.
A poor professional mindset can leave you scrambling to finish work on time. When you fail to track your work time, whether it’s self-marketing or client work, you will also fail to accurately measure how much your time is worth when it comes to setting your rates.
Go into freelancing with a professional attitude and begin enacting good project and time management procedures from day one. Plus, healthy habits.
Taking on too much
All work is good work. Except it’s not. When you don’t measure your work time or keep track of project schedules, it’s very easy to misjudge how much work you can handle. You soon find yourself working late into the evenings and through entire weekends, just to keep afloat. This then destroys your marketing time, which in turn leads to those dreaded famine moments, where you have no work at all.
Use Kanban boards to keep track of every task and project you have. This will allow you to see whether you have the time or not to accept new work.
Weak tool selections
It doesn’t matter how talented a metalworker, a sculptor, or an artist is, if they don’t have the right tools, then their work will show that. The same applies to freelance professionals. When you use inappropriate tools – or no tools at all – then you’re not doing your freelance career chances a whole lot of good.
Invest in good quality apps and software that will allow you to speed up your work processes and better track your time. Such tools will allow you to streamline your career and enable you to enjoy more time away from work while still increasing your earnings.
Boost your time management with Invoice Ninja tools
At Invoice Ninja we have most of the tools you need to improve your time management. From quick quote-to-invoice conversions and automatic late payment reminder emails to dedicated time-tracking software and project management Kanban boards, you’ll have everything you need to work faster and get paid faster.
All of which will improve your workflow as well as your cash flow.