Freelancers - how do you manage your time?

OK, how do you do it?  How do you manage your time and still have a life?  Designing, developing, researching, meetings, posting on the forums, drumming up new business, making screenrs and demos, creating an online portfolio, tweeting, blogging . . .  Does your family ever see you?  Do you ever take vacations?  How do you handle multiple clients at once?  Do you set office hours?  I would love to hear how members of this community make it happen with the same 24 hours a day that we all have.

62 Replies
Atmika Edward

There is more software available for freelancers than ever before. It is hard to find the best application, different people have different needs and everyone has to find their perfect solution.

Personally, I use Freeagent for accounting purpose and Replicon time recording software for time management needs. When I read about this applications, I wasn’t quite sure about its capabilities. But, I found it to be of great help when I started using it.

I\'m using this application for almost a year now and have benefitted a lot by it. I’ve also recommended it to some of my friends who needed a good software for the management of office routine efficiently. Here's the link ( ) to know more about this application!

Bruce Graham

1.5 years in from last posting.....

2 threads to this it seems - MANAGING your time, and ACCOUNTING for your time (to clients).

For managing my time I use Gmail calendar - nice and simple. I plan out the days in advance, and try very hard to stick to things.

I start an invoice as soon as I start a job, and create the work log at the bottom. I use Excel and account for 15-minute periods where I have a rolling/open contract.

Nick n/a

That's useful advice Bruce.

I'm going to try Gmail Calendar (Although I also have a large daily diary I fill in for all tasks and appointments. The same as Gmail but in calendar form..)

I don't understand the 15 minute period record when you have a rolling/open contract.

Every 15 minutes of work spent on the current project/work for the contract or including times talking to client, or travelling to their office etc.

But a rolling/open contract for you would be over...several weeks/months or years then?


Bruce Graham

I have one contract where I charge by the hour, (no set minimum or maximum hours), so I keep a log of every 15-minutes I work for them. I submit a timesheet aggregated by project and time at the end of the month, but can always explain how the numbers were generated.

For me - time is time. I seldom differentiate. Someone is usually paying.

Kevin Thorn

I work similar to Bruce. While I'm more "fluid" with my time. Essentially, I'm always *on* with a typical day starting about 9:00 AM and just go until around 5:00-6:00 in the evening. Break for supper, and usually head back to the studio at night until I stop thinking - which is on average about midnight. 

There have been times that I wouldn't even start working until 2:00 PM in the afternoon yet still put in more time that day than most do on a normal work day. Since I started the independent path, family comes first. My wife and I may take a few hours and go out to lunch and do a bit of shopping. Or I may take a day off to spend with kid's activities. I work weekends too only if the family plans don't have anything lined up - meaning, if it's a typical lazy weekend for the household I still use the time to be productive at some level.

I do try to keep client work corralled to the weekdays but sometimes those projects bleed into the evenings and weekends. If not, I use that time to keep up with the back end of the business, stay connected, self-development, or a laundry list of other creative projects I want to work on.

As for software, I'm currently using Harvest. It's integrated with other apps. It manages my time based on projects I set up, click a button and the time starts. I can set up a project based on hourly or flat rate, tasks that are billable or non-billable, and forget it. At the end of the project I can spit out reports and blast of invoices based on that timesheet. All contained within the website/app. Others I know use Freshbooks which has many of the same features.

I'm often asked about how do I keep up with other things around the house like chores and such. Well...I see it as time is time like Bruce. If it takes me 2-4 hours to do yard work, then what can I do by hiring that chore out and use that time productively. I have an extremely smart and wise CFO (wife) who has figured out how to show me a projects profit/loss - if I'm on a project for a few weeks where the yard needs mowed and I hire that service out, then I can see that as an 'expense' (non tax free of course) that it *cost* me to waive the chore for the sake of the project. Don't get me wrong....I love yard work on occasion but sometimes the project takes priority.

Jill McNair

Hi Nicholas,

I am still working a lot of hours...sometimes more than I want to.  One of my biggest challenges is the creative process (e.g. coming up with a creative design or page layouts).  I find that I cannot force this process (believe me, I've tried!)  My clients like the creative results, so I want to keep it up, but I find that this can result in more hours.  My secret for not getting too far behind if to work on more mundane tasks (adding text, closed captioning, quiz questions, etc.) while my creativity is doing its thing.  

Clients rarely schedule time for the development of the template, but I ask for it whenever possible.

Anyone have any secrets for speeding up the elusive, magical creative process?