Tracking Your Time as a Freelance Writer
I would say one of the hardest things to do when I started freelancing was time management.
When you work as someone else’s employee, your time is structured around their schedule.
You have a set shift with a start and end time, you have specific tasks that you have to do within that shift, and your pay is set based on those hours.
When you’re a freelancer, your time is entirely your own. You decide when you will work and for how long.
Sure, you still have things to do for your clients, but you have control over when those things get done, which can be both exciting and scary.
I’ve learned that as nice a luxury as setting your own hours is, I have to stick to regular hours if I really want to get anything done.
I have to know what I’m doing during those hours so I don’t cram everything. to one crazy dash at the end of the term (freelance =/= high school English work).
So I thought I’d share my time management tips for fellow freelancers your time is money, so maximizing your time will maximize your money.
One of the first things I learned to do was set up an organizational system for my work week.
This is basically the same thing your manager does in a more standard job, except you are the manager and your employee is you.
Keeping a calendar (yes, more) of your activities and planning ahead to ensure you have the time you need to complete your projects to the best of your ability is essential to organizing your work life.
As each of these projects arrive, I jot down important dates in my digital calendar what day I want the first draft ready, when the invoices are due, and what the project deadlines are.
Then, on the first day of the month, I create my physical whiteboard calendar with all those important dates.
As well as any holidays, appointments or special events; I’ll use this as a reference when scheduling appointments so that nothing conflicts.
Finally, I set aside time on Monday or Sunday evening to write out a daily schedule for the work week (Monday – Friday) in my daily planner, ticking boxes for each recurring client and to-do list items for my one-off projects. .
I also make sure to schedule administrative tasks like email and social media in my to-do list so I can keep up with all aspects of my productivity.
It’s nice to have at least a few things that I know I can easily check off to motivate me to do the rest, and believe me, there is a certain motivational satisfaction in physically checking things off.
So I know I need at least four blocks of time dedicated to just this project.
These times will vary; I might spend an hour on research and design, two hours on design (which often involves more detailed research), 15 minutes on submission and billing, and an hour on repairs.
That means this project will take 4.25 hours of my time – which is a good chunk of my workday if I do it all at once.
If I split it up over two or three days it gives me plenty of time to work on things anyway.
I might edit another client’s work between sketch and draft, or plan my blog content between submission and revisions.
I’m still making progress, but I’m making progress on multiple things at once, which is especially important when you have a lot of deadlines to juggle.
Breaking your work into manageable chunks makes it easier to meet deadlines, and mixing and matching those chunks with your available work time means you maximize your productivity while minimizing distractions and avoiding the burnout that comes with working on one project for extended periods of time.
Another challenge freelance writers can face is losing track of time. You know that feeling when you think you’ve been writing for hours, but it was only 20 minutes?
Then there’s also that phenomenon where you want to write a short email and get stuck in your inbox for half an hour.
Now, you can accept all these difficulties and call it the inevitable burden of freelance writing, or you can do something about it. If you choose the second option, the solution lies in keeping track of time.