How to Manage Your Time as a Freelancer

Have you become a freelancer recently? Or are you thinking about going down this road soon? That is great! No matter the industry, freelance work can be an absolute game changer for your professional career. That is assuming you are up to taking on the unique challenges faced by many freelancers.

The most apparent of these challenges can be described simply as time. As a freelancer, you are no longer bound to the rigid schedule of more traditional lines of work. Is that mandatory 9 AM punch-in time? It is non-existent. Or the weekly company meeting that you dozed your way through? A thing of the past. In a vacuum, this might sound like a dream come true. But before you get too caught up in this line of thinking, consider the words of Jas Bagniewski, the CEO of Eve Mattress, who says, “Don’t get distracted. Never tell yourself that you need to be the biggest brand in the whole world. Start by working on what you need at the present moment and then what you need to do tomorrow. So, set yourself manageable targets.”

As a freelancer, you will have many proverbial balls in the air at one time. Like traditional juggling, the act of freelancing takes focus. To help you manage your time as a freelancer, we have laid out a few tangible ideas. We have also taken the liberty of speaking to a few people who have experience of doing just that. So,let’s get to it.

Create a Detailed Schedule

There are no two ways about it; the world of a freelancer is incredibly chaotic. The nature of freelancing is responsible for this. In a traditional, nine-to-five office job, each work day is very similar to the last. In fact, month to month, and even year to year, a singular position at a singular company will not have much change. However, freelance positions could not be more different. Everything from the people you report to, the tasks you perform, and the amount of money you receive vary from freelance job to freelance job. You would be wise to ensure none of these details escape you.

“When you first become a freelancer, it can be a bit overwhelming to keep track of everything,” said Dan Potter, Head of Digital at CRAFTD London. “But once you made a habit of keeping your planner updated, things become much more manageable.”

Just as everyone is different, so too are freelance schedules. This reality leads to unique ways of approaching the creation of your own freelance schedule. Some people need the help of a schedule that details when and where each task takes place, including breaks. Others only require a rudimentary checklist. The point is to create a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

“Freelancing without a schedule you adhere to is more like being an odd-job worker than anything else,” said George Fraguio, Vice President of Bridge Lending at Vaster Capital. “However you go about it, find your own version of organization and time management.”

Use a Virtual Calendar

The modern offerings of technology have changed the way the working world operates. The manner in which technology as a whole supported the infrastructures of the world through the global pandemic is evidence of this. You might be familiar with the remote technology staples such as Slack or other team communication platforms. But are you familiar with a virtual calendar? If so, have you made use of it to the fullest extent possible as a freelancer?

“Something like Google Calendar is a godsend for anyone doing freelance work,” said Melissa Rhodes, CEO of Psychics1on1. “That kind of work inherently pulls you in many directions, and these types of software help you keep your head on straight.”

For the uninformed, a virtual calendar may appear as nothing more than a standard calendar with months, days, and dates. But it’s the connectivity within it that can make you feel like time management as a freelancer is a walk in the park. To be specific, one of the more distinct advantages of using a virtual calendar is the ability to schedule events for yourself and invite the appropriate partiesvia the same event. This way, you and everyone who needs to be on the same page are aligned regarding what is happening and when.

“Anyone who spends their working hours calling around to schedule appointments is living in the past,” said Max Schwartzapfel, CMO of Fighting For You. “I realize how harsh that sounds, but that’s how good virtual calendars are at this point.”

Use Specific Days to Focus on Specific Tasks

That is not to say virtual calendars are the end-all-be-all solution here. In fact, there are a variety of other methods to help manage your time as a freelancer. The practice of donning a specific proverbial work cap each day is one of these. When freelancing, it is common to have multiple projects on your hook at the same time. This can make for a multitude of required tasks, to say the least. Instead of jumping between two or more projects, setting aside a day or more to really hone in on one is advisable.

“Sayyou have three freelance jobs going at once. No matter what you do with your time, this is a lot to manage,” said Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT. “Think of each day of the week as the opportunity to go to a different job so that you don’t get as sidetracked.”

On a practical level, this can be a tricky thing to pull off entirely. Not because of anything that you have done. Rather, as with the example above, there are three entities awaiting your work. Usually, they are no more than a direct message away from reaching you. Even if you have a dedicated dayfor one company, another one may decide they need to speak with you immediately. This is where said trickiness arises.

“Try separating freelance jobs from each other,” said Liza Kirsh, CMO of Dymapak. “But to do it well, you have to be diligent in your work and insistent on your personal schedule when coordinating with others.”

Stay Clear of Over-Scheduling

If it has been said once, it has been said a hundred times freelance work is noticeably more flexible in nature whenever compared to a traditional job. In some cases, freelancers are able topick and choose all their working hours without input from any of their superiors. Furthermore, they also have the ability to take on differing responsibilities or projects from other employers. This is a massive benefit, to be sure. But biting off more than you can chew is a very real threat to this lifestyle.

“The freelancer who has too much on their plate is about as common as pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving,” said Baris Zeren, CEO of BookYourData. “Don’t be this person because, trust me; you won’t like this version of yourself or your work life.”

It is important to note that this is an incredibly difficult balancing act. On the one hand, you certainly do not want to overwhelm yourself with an amount of work that leaves you feeling buried alive. However, the internal voice telling you to pay the bills and save for your future will never shut up. To be successful in a said balancing act, you must first understand your own work limits.

“Not every one of us can be the gig worker who flies through a 55-hour work week with no issues,” said Justin Olson, Chief Marketing Officer of Fast Pace Health. “Freelance at its core is about personal choice, so keep your work life active but don’t drown in it, if you know what I mean.”

Leave Room for the Unexpected

Freelance work has many qualities about it. However, the strongest of these is none other than the unique experiences, tasks, and company interactions that come out of operating as a professional in this space. One day will never be the same as the next. Things of this nature can certainly be a perk. But if you do not manage this aspect well, you will start losing valuable time.

“If there is one certainty you’ll stumble into as a freelancer, it is the random curve balls your clients throw at you,” said Serdar Ozenalp, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Ocoza. “You can’t prepare for whatever it is, but you can leave room in your schedule for it.”

This does not need to be some big extravagant effort. After all, how can you adequately plan for something you have no knowledge about? Many people have found it effective to literally plan out time in their schedule for unexpected problems. Obviously, it is foolish to think an issue will perfectly fit within your busy schedule. However, preparation in some regards is far better than none whatsoever.

“Freelancing may as well be synonymous with the word surprise,” said Breanne Millette, CEO of Bisoulovely. “To counter this reality, I suggest giving each assignment more than enough scheduled time in your calendar just in case something pops up.”

If it is not obvious – you hold all the power to make or break your freelancing experience. From top to bottom, there are numerous aspects for you to consider when it comes to better managing your time as a freelancer. If you choose to avoid these altogether, you will likely find yourself reapplying for standard employment. If this does not sound like the place for you, remember the words of author Will Self who says, “The life of the professional writer—like that of any freelance, whether she be a plumber or a podiatrist – is predicated on willpower.”


Sudarsan Chakraborty is a professional writer. He contributes to many high-quality blogs. He loves to write on various topics.