This post was most recently updated on August 30th, 2023
[A collaboration post – all thoughts are my own.]
Working as a freelancer may seem like a glamorous way of life, but, the truth is, it’s not like that.
Managing time as a freelancer is crucial and perhaps the biggest obstacle that most freelancers face in their everyday lives. In addition to expanding your business, you’re also looking for new clients, managing them, providing your services, dealing with invoices, building your brand, updating your social media networks, etc.
Being a freelance translator isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are days when things don’t feel so great – your work might not be clicking, projects hit roadblocks, and the joy takes a backseat. But here’s the deal: this phase in your freelancing journey demands discipline, kicking bad habits to the curb, and building up that mental resilience. These are the things that really matter, the ones that set the course straight when things go awry and keep you pushing forward.
Not just as a freelancer, any profession requires you to manage your time and have a production schedule to get more work done in less time. How can you manage your day and become more productive as a freelancer? Here are a few tips for managing time as a freelancer.
Managing Time As A Freelancer
While you’re figuring out your day as a freelancer, it’s quite usual that you lose track of time, as you are your boss. There is no secret formula that will make you productive with a snap of a finger, it is all up to you. To tell you the truth, I need to make the most out of a 24 hours day to boost my productivity and income.
Learning how to manage time as a freelancer will allow you to enjoy the advantages of a freelance career as much as I do. The following tips have been proven to be highly effective for many freelancers (including myself) and can help them improve their time management:
Find your optimal work time
One of the best things about freelancing is being your own boss. I don’t have to stick to a set work schedule, and that’s awesome. Personally, I’m all about the mornings – that’s when I’m most active and on fire. It’s all about knowing whether you’re a morning person or a night owl. If you’re in my camp, you’ve probably figured out that you’re laser-focused when the sun’s up and shining.
Being a freelancer means you have to be creative because, in this field of work, your survival depends on your creativity. So, instead of forcing yourself to become a morning or night person, listen to your body to determine your optimal work time, and prioritize your most important work for that period. If you’re a night owl, your ‘work time’ may start at 3 PM which is totally fine. Don’t do your creative writing or other brain-intensive tasks the moment you wake up – wait until your brain is fully awake and ready!
Organize, plan, and prioritize your tasks
Getting organized is the first and most important step to improving your time management as a freelancer. My morning routine includes organizing my workspace as well. If your desktop, folders, or physical desk looks like a big pile of stuff, it’s going to take you a long time to locate the things you need, especially if you’re in an emergency.
Organize your files, documents, and bookmarks by type, project, or some other measure. Use sub-folders if necessary. Even keeping your stationery supplies in a dedicated holder or drawer will help.
Planning and prioritizing
For someone who has two jobs, a simple to-do list is the first step toward establishing a routine. When working on a translation project, I should always scope out exactly how long it’s going to take me to complete a certain amount of words. Take a look at your previous time logs to determine how much is a reasonable amount of time and add more time than you think you need.
Life has a knack for throwing curveballs, so it’s smart to keep your schedule flexible and ready for surprises. My strategy? I tend to play it safe by giving myself more time than I think I’ll need. It’s way better to finish up early and be pleasantly surprised than to underestimate and end up scrambling.
I’ve got this Sunday evening ritual where I sit down and lay out the game plan for the week ahead. It’s all about spotting any clashes or hiccups in advance. Having a solid grip on what’s in store for the week seriously helps me keep my time in check. And here’s the key: whether it’s hours, days, weeks, or even months, take a moment to draft a clear to-do list for all your tasks. Stick the real crucial stuff right at the top – that’s how you guarantee they won’t slip through the cracks.
Stick to your routine
Sure it’s hard to stick to your routine. I feel you so much. To be honest, I still work on my routine to find the best way to love my job and live a balanced life. At the end of every month, I take time to plan out my morning, afternoon, and evening routine. I also have a daily, weekly, and monthly blogging routine!
If you’re constantly working after your work hours are done, you are in ‘work mode’ all day, all week. Even when you’re taking a break, it won’t be as relaxing as it should be. Therefore, it’s important to set an ideal routine for yourself.
Track your time
Let’s face it – we’re not always the best at tracking where our time vanishes. Even if you’re convinced you’re nailing productive stuff all day, the reality might be a tad different – your top priorities could be getting shortchanged. That’s why having a solid to-do list is a must. And hey, we’re lucky to be living in this digital era with a bunch of tech tools that can totally save the day.
Some people prefer to write by hand and other people like to use digital tools. Jotting down everything you do doesn’t just keep your ducks in a row – it also gives you a chance to look back and see what you actually pulled off in a day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like I barely scratched the surface, only to check my list and find out I totally rocked it. It’s a real game-changer for shifting that perspective and giving yourself credit for the awesome stuff you’re getting done.
There are a ton of tools and apps on the web that I use but not all of them are worth using except for a few. Tools like “Google Calendar”, “Todoist”, and “Notion”, are the tools that most freelancers must have. I use these tools for organizing my translation service and how many words I can translate in a day. These tools help to organize your projects and you can also set deadlines because it is really important to know how much time you have to spend on a specific task, right?
Some people like to use the time-blocking method to track their time. Especially reoccurring tasks like checking email, content creation, social media posts, or writing newsletters. Maybe you spend some of your time working for a client, other time working on content, and the rest of your time learning a new skill.
Focus on one task at a time
One technique that I like to use to grow my blog is to ask myself a simple question, “What is the task that I can do today, and by doing it, everything else will be easier for me?“
When my translation work isn’t on the agenda, my morning routine as a blogger kicks off with tackling the biggie: content creation. Since English isn’t my first language, cranking out a 1,000-word piece takes me around 3 to 4 hours. After that, I dive into the grammar check (cheers to Grammarly), fine-tuning the structure, and all that jazz. This one’s a full-on focus gig, so I usually kick off the writing gig in the morning and aim to wrap it up before lunchtime hits.
Usually, when we’re working on something, we suddenly remember something else that needs our attention. This is why I recommend you always have a piece of paper and a pen next to you so that you can write down everything that comes to your mind. Finish what you are doing and as soon as you’re done with it, start working on the next one.
Learn to say NO
At the beginning of your freelance career, you will invest a lot of time in finding clients. For example, I like to visit translation platforms and find manual translations that match my terms. But at some point, I have to decide whether to accept a project or not when they reply to me with, “Your rate is too high for us. Our budget is $$$ per word for this project.” Sometimes, even if you don’t want to, you will have to say “no”.
There are moments when I’ve got to be picky about the projects I take on. Since I treat blogging as my main gig, I sometimes have to decline translation offers to give my full attention to my blogging clients. Gotta keep those priorities in check!
Same as bloggers, our job involves time, and sometimes, taking on a new project or assignment can impact the quality of the work you already have. So I recommend acquiring the habit of saying no if you don’t want to be an underrated freelancer.
Take breaks often
As a self-employed worker, you probably work alone from home and forget to unwind. But this is no excuse! You need to take time off. Your brain needs breaks to work better. Go for a 10-minute walk, play with your pet, or read a book. Whatever you choose, make sure you take those breaks.
In the end, I would like to say that freelancing is meant to be the work that you enjoy not like offices where the boss knows exactly how to pull your strings. Although it’s not that easy to be a freelancer with effort and passion you can achieve almost everything.
How do you manage time as a freelancer? I’d love to know in the comments below!