As a freelancer, there is a culture of always being “on” and hustling to get that next job lined up. Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to overbooking yourself and running right to creative burnout. Overbooking can also lead to less time spent on the details, which can end up leaving some clients feeling disappointed or overlooked.
But how can you know if you really have time for that next project request? Good time management strategies, coupled with realistic scopes of work, can be the key to your success and sanity.
Begin with Time Management Skills
When you were learning how to code and design, you probably weren’t introduced to time management techniques during your studies. Most of us aren’t really told about good time management skills. Instead, we often end up learning by our own mistakes of overbooking and underperforming.
Now is the perfect time to begin finding time management techniques that allow you to perform your best creatively, as well as ensuring you are getting the nitty-gritty details of your business done too, and all without working 18 hour days. How can you start with good habits? Well, it comes down to individual tastes.
Here are a few questions that can help you realize what you need to be your most productive, as well as what you need to make your business make you money:
- How many days do I want to work per week? How many hours per day?
- What times of day do I feel most creative? What times of day do I feel most detail-oriented?
- Is my current workload ideal, or is it too much?
Once you nail down how many days and hours you want to work per week, as well as when you feel most creative, you can begin to implement techniques that help you maximize your time:
- Batch work so that you answer emails and correspondence for one hour daily or so you know that the last Wednesday of the month is always for accounting duties.
- Use project management software or apps, like Asana, that can prevent tasks from slipping through the cracks.
- Schedule movement breaks each hour to get up and away from your computer.
Track Your Time
Chances are, the amount of time you spend on a specific task has changed over the past few years. You might be quicker at setting up a wireframe than you were when you first started your business, or you might need more time to figure out a new task. In all cases, knowing how long a general task takes can help you schedule your time more effectively.
The best way to understand how long a task generally takes you is to spend a few weeks tracking your time. Some project management apps allow you to do this in real-time, but you can also use an “old-fashioned” pen and paper. Note the task you are doing, your start time, and your finish time. Then, you can compile your data and average out how much time common tasks take you weekly and monthly.
These time estimates come in handy during the scoping process as well as when you are planning your to-do list for the week.
Take Time to Thoroughly Scope
Before you can take on a new project and be confident that you can complete it without burning yourself out or working too many hours per day, you need to understand how long the project will take. Your scoping process is crucial to this decision.
A good scope of work not only keeps you and your client on the same page and gives you the tools you need to make an estimate, it also gives you a realistic idea of how long the individual tasks of the project will take. Use this document to compare to your future calendar to see if you really do have enough free time on your calendar to make the project happen, and to do it well.
Try a Waitlist
If you have a new or returning client with a project that you don’t have time for right away, consider offering a spot on your waitlist. This way, when you are planning your client calendar and begin to have more time available, you can reach out to clients on your waitlist to begin working on their projects. Sure, some clients may not want to wait around on a waitlist, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t mind waiting on you to have some free time to work your magic on their project.
Burning yourself out by overbooking and overcommitting isn’t the way to hustle as a freelance designer. Instead, be smart about your schedule and use your scoping process to create a comfortably full calendar. You’ve got this!