5 Tips to Properly Manage Your Time as a Freelancer

Time management is absolutely key to having a sustainable, successful career as a freelancer, so here are some tips to better manage your time and prioritize what's really important.

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By Ross Jenkins

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that technology has been a great contributor to keeping many businesses alive. Thousands of small companies went bankrupt, which caused millions of people to lose their jobs worldwide. However, some business owners learned and adapted to the "new normal" by translating part of their core operations to the digital world. And because of that, millions of workers had to start working from home.

As a result, the pandemic created new opportunities for the so-called freelancers. Many of these independent professionals are experienced and very successful people who already know how to make their way. They know how to get a new job after completing the last one, how to build connections with long-term clients, and most importantly, they know how to manage their time.

Time management is one of the most critical factors for building a successful career. After all, time is a limited resource. So if you really want your freelance career to succeed, here are some tips for you to better manage your time as a freelancer:

1. Visualize your goals

Some people underestimate the power of visualization and its impact on the development of a business. Successful entrepreneurs know this: Visualization is the first step that comes after the conception of a business idea. It answers the questions of how you see yourself in the future, what your goals are and how you're going to achieve them. Visualization puts your brain to work and puts it on "focus" mode. Your subsequent actions will be focused on a single purpose: to become your vision's reality.

So if you want to start managing your time properly, you should visualize your goals and put your brain to work upon those objectives. For instance, let's say your main goal is getting 10 new clients by the end of next month. You could help your brain visualize that goal by placing goal reminders in your workplace, like putting a dashboard or a sticky note where it remains visible so you can see it every day. Reading the same message with your main goal every morning will make your time management oriented towards achieving it.

Related: 4 Visualization Techniques That Can Propel Your Success

2. Prioritize your activities

Freelancing means you have complete freedom over your working hours. It can be great, but it also can lead to confusion. Being free to choose your working hours doesn't mean you can overlap your activities during that time. To manage your time correctly, you should prioritize your activities by completing the most important ones first and the next ones afterward.

If prioritizing is difficult for you, try to list all your recurring and pending activities by importance order. For example, if you have simultaneous jobs, decide which job is more valuable to you. It can be the job with the highest payment, or the one that needs immediate attention and not completing it can hurt your career. Then list the pending tasks for each and start working on the most critical ones. Activities that aren't important or urgent can be deleted or archived indefinitely until all others have been completed.

3. Build a schedule

Once you have prioritized your freelancing tasks and activities, it's time to write them all on paper (or on your computer). Save your pending activities on the calendar and explain what needs to be done and the deadlines for each. For example, if you need to meet a new client during the morning, write down the details: the place and time of the meeting, how much time you'll spend on that meeting and what it's about. Then, write the status for each task: the pending ones, the ones that have been completed, and the ones that haven't started yet. Once you start applying this, your freelancing time will get easier to manage. Keeping a log of your tasks will help you measure your productivity.

Also, if you find it hard to build a schedule and need more help organizing your tasks than simply writing them down, there are some fantastic online tools out there that will keep your jobs organized, with some of them being free.

Related: The Secret to Effective Time Management? Smaller Time Blocks

4. Get rid of distractions

There isn't anything worse than working in an environment with distractions. Even the smallest ones will subconsciously divert you. You should try to detect those distractions and get rid of them. For example, it's well known that social media is one of the top distractions among freelancers, mostly because they spend most of the time in front of a screen. They are constantly checking their social notifications during working hours, which can severely damage their productivity. Either you can try to avoid those distractions, or develop some strategies to ignore them when you're at work.

For example, it's a good practice to choose a workplace exclusively for your freelance activities so that it is impossible for you to try to do something different. If you're a freelance writer and you paint during your spare time, you can move your painting tools to a separate room or place so they can't distract you. If checking your Facebook notifications is very tempting for you, there are tools that can help you block your social media during your working hours.

Related: 7 Terrific Tips to Improve Time Management

5. Don't overwork yourself

It's essential to keep yourself mentally healthy by only taking the jobs you can handle. Otherwise, it might lead to bad results, which can damage the relationships with your clients in the long term. I've seen many cases of freelancers abandoning their quests because they were burned out and didn't deliver their work on time.

Freelancers, especially in the beginning, tend to take as many jobs as possible, thinking that there won't be second chances when their primary goal should be to find something stable that they can hold in the long run.

A necessary skill to succeed in freelancing is the ability to reject jobs when you know you don't have the time to do them. Learn to say "no" when you don't have the time for the job. Remember, there needs to be a work-life balance, but now you are the one in charge and the one who sets up your own schedule.

I hope these tips will help you achieve your freelance goals faster and also keep a balanced life. Remember, mental health is one of the key aspects that lead to a successful career. That's why it's important to maintain a good work-life balance through proper time management.

Ross Jenkins

Founder & CEO of DigitalME

Ross Jenkins is the founder and CEO of DigitalME, a data-driven digital agency focused on growth.

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