Top 10 Tips for Freelance Time Management

The only resolution I took this year is to keep a tight track of my time. I use free spreadsheet software to help me track my time. It's been over a month, and after analyzing my time records, I got stunned.

I used to think I worked 12 hours a day. However, my records clarified my thoughts by revealing that out of those 12 hours, I was either using my phone or doing other unproductive activities for at least 4 hours. That's almost 1/3rd of the total work time.

Now I know where my time is going, I could do something about it and track my progress!

One great thing about freelancing is there is no one to dictate what I should do. But the bad thing is, I do not know what to do!

Freelancers have no boss, which makes it easy for them to get bogged down in unproductive tasks. On the other side, freelancers also find themselves working all day long, compromising the work-life balance.

As a freelancer, you are your boss, and being a boss only, you are the one who is responsible for managing your time. These tips will help you to get the most out of your time and succeed as a freelancer.

Freelance Time Management

Time management tips

  1. Track your time - measure to improve
  2. Stick to a routine
  3. Create a realistic To-do list
  4. Divide and conquer
  5. Automate tasks
  6. Follow the Japanese 5S methodology
  7. Take frequent short breaks
  8. Multitasking is a myth
  9. Practice saying NO!
  10. Use freelance management software

1. Track your time

Those who don't keep track of their monetary spending are spendthrifts, and those who don't know where their time is going are often 'unproductive.'

If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.

Keeping track of your time is the first step to better time management. When you know where your time is going, only then you could do something about it.

You can develop clear insights about your time by tracking the time. For instance, by analyzing your time log, you may be less productive during afternoon hours, especially in summer. Consider adding a 30-minute nap to your work schedule during summer afternoons.

2. Stick to a routine

Freedom and flexibility make most people choose to freelance over regular jobs. However, these plus points often also complicate our work schedule.

Employees have a fixed work schedule. They explicitly know their work window. However, most freelancers find it hard to stick to a routine which often leads to unproductivity.

Setting up a schedule that fits you is crucial. To make such a schedule, you should be aware of these two little things about your work style:

  1. You should know the most productive time of day.
  2. What is the maximum time-duration window you consistently work without getting distracted?

Based on your answers, set up a perfect work schedule that works for you.

It may be possible that you are unclear about these little things about yourself. If so, track your time for at least two weeks, analyze the time log, determine the answers, and set up your work schedule based on them. It would be best if you found yourself more organized and productive.

3. Create a realistic To-do list

We all make a to-do list, but how many of us mark it all done at the end of the day? Very few!

An incomplete to-do list doesn't always mean we are unproductive. Rather many times, it only implies unrealistic expectations that we abide by.

To convert our to-do list into a complete one, we must ensure it is realistic. Considering these things while making a to-do list makes it practical and achievable:

1. Set priority for each task

Assigning a clear priority to each task in the list should be necessary. Priority levels could be high, medium, or low.

2. Set estimated time 

Each task in your list must have an estimated completion time. Before you add a job to the list, think about how much time you expect it to be completed. Deadlines help you in staying focused.

3. Set a due date 

If you are preparing a weekly or even bigger to-do or goal list, assigning each task a due date becomes essential. It helps you to be more productive and respect your time even more. 

4. Divide and conquer

Generally, we consider completing a task to mean completing a whole work. However, they both are two different things.

A work might be developing a whole project. Let's say a To-do application to manage your to-dos. Concerning this project, one task could be as simple as creating a component to add jobs to a to-do list; another could be a component to display a to-do list; another could be a list of complete tasks in your application.

Breaking down work into little tasks makes work feel less pressurizing and more likely to be completed. Furthermore, completing little pieces of work gives us a sense of achievement that, in turn, makes us more productive and feel confident about our work.

5. Automate tasks 

General AI and the automation it has brought can help us save a significant amount of time from doing repetitive tasks. There is a good number of tools that can help a freelancer to automate repetitive tasks (that are often boring):

1. Automate social media posts 

Often, what we publish on one social website, we also post on another. Buffer can help you automate this.

2. Email templates

Writing good emails is time-consuming. However, email templates can save us time.

3. Power Automate

Provided by Microsoft, Power Automate is free software that can help automate your personal and professional tasks.

Depending upon the nature of your work, you can find various automation tools related to your work on the internet.

4. AI-based language models 

Leveraging the power of AI tools is essential these days.

"AI will not replace you. A person using AI will."

AI-based language models can help you with many tasks. e.g., writing an email template, getting information while doing content research, researching titles for blogs, et cetera.

6. Follow the Japanese 5S methodology

Sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain are the essence of the 5S methodology

How you organize your workspace profoundly impacts your productivity at work. The surroundings of your workspace can make or break your time-management rules.

The Japanese terminology 5S comes from five Japanese words Seiri; Seiton; Seiso; Seiketsu; Shitsuke.

Freelancers do not have a defined office and workspace. They work from any convenient place. I have heard freelancers even working from Yachts. Whatever the area, please keep it in order.

5S - Japanese Methodology

For instance, if you continually keep your phone on your working desk, you are more likely to be distracted while working. It's better to keep your phone under your desk while working, so it's not exposed to your directly.

Keep distracting things away from your workspace, and only keep things that help you while working and motivate you to work.

The less, the better!

7. Take frequent short breaks

Some may find it hard to believe that 'taking frequent breaks' is being mentioned as a time-management tip, but it is!

Studies and surveys have found that an average person is highly productive in a 45-minute work window. Post this window, productivity is more likely to be dropped.

Frequent breaks relax us, brings a fresh perspective, and avoid eye strain.

Therefore, taking a break after every 45 minutes (at least) should be a must. Short breaks do not ruin time; they let us be refreshed and more productive.

As a freelancer, you can break as and when you desire. No one watches you every minute, as in an official office environment.

In China, taking a nap for around 45 minutes after lunch in workplaces is widely accepted. It is considered suitable for health practice. It rejuvenates your mind and makes the rest of the day highly productive.

8. Multitasking is a myth

Multitasking could be a compulsion sometimes, but most of the time, it's a choice we happily make. Avoiding multitasking helps with time management.

Contrary to the popular belief that multitasking makes you more productive and saves time, research conducted by American Psychological Association concludes,

"Multitasking may seem efficient on the surface but may take more time in the end and involve more error." - American Psychological Association

Freelancers have a habit of accepting multiple contracts in parallel. That is not a problem unless you can segment a solid amount of time for each project between switching over to the other.

So next time, if multitasking comes to you as a choice rather than a compulsion, don't hesitate to say no!

9. Practice saying NO!

Time management is not merely about managing your time at work but also your time for personal things.

Getting more projects and working all day may sound lucrative. It will take its toll on you. Do not work more than you want to please people.

Freelancers have a habit of accepting any jobs that come their way. This will collapse productivity. Swimming in an unknown territory will make it difficult to understand the obstacles. Estimates will become poor; time management will become difficult, eventually leading to failure.

However, knowing when to say NO is an essential skill. You should cultivate good communication skills as a freelancer and say no without making a negative impact. You have a life apart from work, which also needs your time.

10. Use freelance management software

Many free and paid software solutions are available online to manage time and work for professionals. However, not many of them are specially designed for freelancers.

Depending on good software to organize yourself is vital to managing your time. Freelancers work solo but will have a lot of administrative tasks to perform. Most of them are repetitive, template-based work. 

Cazny helps you manage your freelance projects, tasks, your clients, automate sending invoices, timesheets, and much more, and that is too free! Sign up now!

Bonus Tip - Take freelancing as a job

Freelancing gives us freedom and has its opposing sides, too.

Taking it as a job gives us the responsibility that, in turn, can help us organize our time better.

Sticking to a regular schedule and creating sensible to-dos can make us more responsible for our time as a freelancer.


Managing time is a skill that takes time. The first step to it is knowing where your time is going. Once you know where your time is spent, you can redirect it how you want. Knowing what you want to do with your time is the second step. To determine this, create a sensible to-do list mentioning the task, priority, expected time, and due date. Don't forget to break larger tasks into smaller ones. Step three is to create a strict schedule that works great for you and stick to it.

Furthermore, properly organizing your workspace, automating repetitive tasks, taking frequent breaks, avoiding multitasking, saying no when required, and using the right software also add up. 

About Vincy


Vincy is the co-founder of She loves web application development and is a full-time freelancer. She is an expert PHP developer and author of Follow her on LinkedIn.

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