Managing time as a Freelancer

Cristian Joe · 25 Mar 2010


Before proceeding to bore you with my schpiel I’d like to inform you that this is my first blog post EVER! therefore expect a trivial writing style and a couple of grammatical errors here and there.

Sleepless Clients

It can be easy to merge “work” time and “free” time once you become your own boss. However I cannot stress the importance of having clear and distinct lines separating the two, both for yourself and your future clients. If most of your clients are in the same geographic area this won’t be much of a problem as most people abide by accepted business hours (9-5pm), however every now and then expect a client who HAS to call or email you about feature X at 11pm. Its wise to set guidelines or acceptable hours of contact early in the conversation. This is extremely useful if your working remotely with clients in different timezones. If your anything like me your extremely attentive to your new clients needs and desires and you genuinely care about his/her project however every relationship should have boundaries. Also note that most clients are simply excited about their project/website/campaign and want to share their new thoughts/idea with you as soon as possible.

Managing Email

Ok this is difficult one. When your starting, email is usually the most common form of communication between you and potential paying projects. I started by literally applying to every “gig” I felt capable of handling on Craigslist. If have to take this approach the speed of your reply from an interested party is extremely important, mostly because prospective clients usually work with the freelancer that seemed capable and replied first ( they also tend to choose the person who provided the lowest quote). As your skills develop and clients begin to spread your name or you attract clients through social media; you’ll start to receive inbound inquires for your respective service. This is good and bad; good because you might not have to go out and hunt for clients bad due to the fact the most inquiries will be a waste of your time ( Remember your working for yourself, your time= your money). Email is the worst time sucker in existence (2nd only to Twitter); you have to tame your email box(es) as soon as possible.

Some quick ways of handling excessive emails is to set up a separate email account for your social media sites, and auto-responding to any inquiries you might receive from your website. I highly encourage the creation of a separate email account for business related notifications and a properly worded auto responder is a great way to inform the potential client that you only check your email twice a day, WHaT did you say? Yes sir twice a day. I check my email accounts ( I have 5) at 930am and 3pm, usually for 20 minutes and reply to whom I HAVE to. This practice comes from Tim Ferris’ book The 4 hour work week ( everyone should read it ). It takes some getting used to , but the effect on your productivity is immense and once you begin you’ll never go back. With that being said this tactic is for those in fields where replies are not time sensitive, but I’m sure it can be applied to 90% of the people reading this without a drastic effect on the people trying to contact you.

There are alternative options such as the Gist service which orders your emails in order of importance based on their own algorithm. I’ve tried to use it however it didn’t make much sense for me at the time.

You are your secretary

I have the memory capacity of a goldfish, I would not be able to function without my my Palm Pre and the suite of Google applications. I sync my Facebook and Google calendars to my phone to remind me of every little thing going on. I recommend oogle however there are many options available, its important to have a simple user interface, the ability to create multiple calendars, and syncing ability with a device you carry all the time ie a PDA (lol) or phone. I’m not a big fan of to-do lists however there are a many web apps capable of fulfilling your needs, two examples are Vitalist or Todoist. I have also used the “note” widgets that come with both Windows 7 and Mac OS X to jot down important notes.

There are a multitude of software options that can help with time management, however they are beyond the scope of this post. Web based software such as Basecamp are great for team based projects, but not as useful for the guy/gal working by himself out of his apt.

So disable all the time suckers and get to doing what you do best.