10 Time Management Tips for Freelancers

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Working from home is awesome. But sometimes it can be difficult to keep yourself focused throughout the day (or night.) You need to be self-motivated and self-starting to be successful as a remote freelancer. Luckily, there are tons of tools available to you that will help you stay on schedule and committed to your work. Because let’s be honest, even the most self-starting, self-motivated individuals in the world can use a boost now and then. Here are 10 time management tips for freelancers that can help you work smarter instead of harder.

10 time management tips for freelancers working from home, from Mondays in PJs

Time Management Tips for Freelancers to Help You Work Smarter!

Managing your time doesn’t mean missing out on things that you enjoy…like sleep. In fact, if you like to sleep, you’re going to love this list, since we on Mondays in PJs are big advocates of getting enough of it (and then some.) Check out some easy ways you can be more productive while you work from home!

1. Shut Down Distractions

It’s very easy to lose yourself in social media, streaming, or some other mindless task when you’re working from home. Without a boss looking over your shoulder, it’s up to you to stay focused on your job. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done. But these days, there are plenty of social blocker apps that exist to help you steer clear of soul-sucking sites like Facebook when you should be getting your work done instead.

2. Start a Routine

Just because you’re not in an office doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the structure as a freelancer. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it as best as possible. It doesn’t need to be anything too rigid. Just shooting for starting work, eating lunch, and ending work at the same time each day is a great way to keep yourself on track.

The more you get into a routine as far as the time frame during which you work every day, the easier it will be to stay on task. Try to start working close to the same hour each day and convince yourself to stop working around the same time each evening. It can be hard to pull yourself away from a project, but it’s important to handle other stuff in your life as well… like your general health and well-being.

3. Make a Standing Appointment With The Sandman

When you work remotely, you don’t have a morning commute, and you don’t have to show up at the office at…well, ever, hopefully. This means that you can throw your alarm clock out the window for good. Going to bed at the same time every day helps regulate your sleep latency and can help you focus more during the daytime and fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply every night.

Having trouble sleeping? Check out our article on how to get the best night’s sleep of your life. Not getting enough sleep, or not being able to sleep well, can really kill your productivity in your waking hours.

4. Wake up Fully

Just as important as getting enough sleep every night is the way in which you wake up in the mornings. If you roll out of bed when your alarm goes off, grab a cup of coffee (if that), and jump right into working, you’re not going to feel like your most productive self. Give yourself plenty of time to wake up, at least an hour. The more refreshed you feel, the more energy you’ll have to put into your work.

After you’ve hit the snooze button a couple of times (yeah, let’s not pretend we don’t do that here,) take a few minutes to stretch in bed before your feet hit the floor. Setting your coffee maker up at night makes everything run a lot more smoothly in the mornings. That way, you can just press “start” and go about getting ready for the day.

While the coffee is brewing, run a washcloth under hot water, squeeze it out, and hold it gently over your face for about a minute. Then, when you head back to the kitchen for your coffee, run an ice cube under your eyes for a few seconds before pouring your cup. This will help you feel more refreshed and awake before you even take that first sip.

5. Track Your Time

You want to make sure that you’re getting paid what you’re worth as a freelancer. Creating your prices for the services that you offer can be a task in itself, but if you’re just starting out, shooting for a fair (to both you and the client) hourly price is a good jumping-off point. Even if you’re working from home, when you spend several hours per day on a project, you should get paid for every minute of that time (unless of course you and your client have agreed on a per-project rate.)

Using a free time tracker app like clockify.me will let you know exactly how much time you spent working. Aside from being a wonderful aid in productivity, the app lets you set your rates and track all of your billable hours. Then, you can send the reports via PDF or an Excel spreadsheet along with invoices to your clients, so they can see just how much time you put into each project.

6. Take a Power Nap

Yes, you’ve read this right and it definitely says take a nap. And before you say, “Well, that’s just not a possibility,” you may want to reconsider. A power nap can be accomplished in just 15-30 minutes, and you don’t need to lay in bed to do it (although you also don’t have to not lay in bed.) If you’ve got that slump in the afternoon where your eyelids start to droop and you find it hard to concentrate on work, that’s a good time to try out the power nap. Just make sure to set an alarm, and try not to sleep for too long, which may actually end up making you feel sleepier upon waking.

7. Take Breaks

Give yourself plenty of breaks throughout the day to clear your mind and pick up some extra energy. Get up and walk around the neighborhood, do the dishes or laundry, or maybe just make yourself a cup of coffee (or tea.) Whatever you’re doing, try to lose yourself in it for however long you’re on your break. That way, you go back in to work with a clear head. Going for a short walk, or even doing an exercise video in between work sessions is a great way to boost both your energy and your mood. Leslie Sansone’s indoor happy walk on YouTube is an excellent place to start.

time management tips for freelancers, journaling
Photo by Cathryn Lavery

8. Set Goals

When you’re working from home as a freelancer, you don’t have anyone laying out daily tasks for you as you may in a typical job. But that kind of structure can help you figure out how to best move through your day and get stuff done. Set goals for yourself, either each night or on the weekends for the week, whichever works best for you. Figure out what it is you need to achieve each day of the week, and then break it down into smaller chunks of time so you can get there. Using a calendar app like Google Calendar, or an actual, paper desk calendar, can help keep you on schedule.

9. Eat Lunch

While it may seem like working from home equals eating a large, gourmet meal for lunch every day just because we can, that’s not exactly how it works out. In fact, more often than not we find ourselves living on coffee until 1 or 2 pm when we realize we’re so hungry we’re starting to get a little hangry…and maybe a little dizzy.

Scheduling a lunch break for yourself and making something substantial to eat will give your brain the boost you need to power through the rest of your day. Even better, get out of the house and take yourself out to lunch. Whichever you do, give yourself an hour just like you’d get if you worked in an office.

10. Turn it Off

Last on our list of time management tips for freelancers, but equally as important as the first 9: know when to stop (and actually stop.) It can be tempting to keep falling back into a project throughout the night when you’re working from home. But it’s important that we’re able to switch it off, to keep us sane and to take care of other obligations. Set a time for yourself that you’ll switch off all of the screens every night (except maybe the TV.) No more reading emails or working on papers, just relaxing and preparing for bed.

You Can Do It!

It may seem like a lot to handle to keep yourself focused throughout the day when you’re working from home. This is especially true when you’re first starting out as a freelancer, but people do it every single day and you’re not going to be the exception! As long as you’re motivated to work for yourself, that’s all you need to drive you to get your business done every day. And, some coffee, plus following some (or all) of the above time management tips for freelancers won’t hurt, either.

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Erika Sellmer is a digital content specialist with a passion for remote work and empathic design.