5 Simple Time Management Techniques for Freelance Designers

While there are, of course, probably thousands of time-management tips and techniques, starting with the basics has a greater chance of actually changing one’s habits. Follow these 5 to get started.

1. Create a To-Do List in the Morning

To Do listChecking emails, statistics, and other essential items you missed while sleeping is usually top priority, but after that, many freelance designers (especially new ones still transitioning into the lifestyle) don’t have a plan to go from there. To actually get some productive work done, a to-do list can be incredibly helpful.

If there is a list in your head of stressful items on the agenda, it may be tempting to just start grinding away at work. However, many times designers do this and and by the end of the day, they realize they forgot to accomplish other important tasks.

To finally stop yourself from forgetting things or not getting enough work done, create a to-do list with goals and be specific as possible. For example, instead of “Work on current client project”, have a more specific goal in mind: “Finish the PSD to XHTML for client project and validate it.”

It may be helpful to keep a planner, or in the least, one of those 10 cent notebooks from Wal-mart by your desk. I find having a hard copy next to you, where you can visually cross off or easily alter the goals can be more productive.

2. Analyze and Fix your Current Daily Schedule

Analyze your Schedule What do you waste the most time on? Do you find yourself checking your email every ten minutes? Or fixing minor things on your portfolio instead of working on client work? Do you get caught up on Digg or Twitter?

Find where you waste the most time, and what you use to procrastinate work that actually needs to get done. Then, fix it. Set aside a time for checking email, marketing, client work, and whatever else needs to get done. It may be helpful to actually write down the daily schedule, and post it somewhere to remind yourself to keep on task.

Of course, organizing a daily schedule is the easy part. Sticking to it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Always remember that in order to be successful, one must keep their goals in mind, and the methods they need to go about com complete them.

3. Use Time-Management Tools

Use tools that are easy to use, and that you will check often. I use Google’s tools a lot because I know I check Google daily, which reminds me to check my calendar too. Below is an example of a daily schedule. I realize you can’t actually see the content, but you can see it’s a basic 9-5 schedule with a 1-hour lunch break. Each section is broken down into various tasks, and limits the freelancer to only a certain times for checking email, doing social media and marketing, client work, etc.

Google Calendar

The power of Google’s calendar is never-ending. I use it both as a monthly editorial calendar and usually as a daily calendar. However, if it seems more beneficial, one may want to stick to the old-fashioned planner.

Other tools can be used to help you do more in less time. For example, there are many websites that allow you to manage clients, made just for freelancers. These websites include calendars, to-do lists, automatic invoices, and contact books all in one place.

The types of tools one can use are endless, but it’s a good idea to look into various tools and services that can help you cut time in half.

4. Perfect your Workspace

WorkspaceCreating a professional atmosphere, even if in your own home, is essential to staying on task during work time. Make sure you have all the tools you need, are well-organized, and have plenty of comfortable space.

If you don’t have the resources to get a great space yet, then get out and go to the library, Starbucks, or just to the park. (Somewhere with Internet access, of course). I myself often find it helpful to go somewhere else, as it helps me distinct working time from general time at home.

You could even find a way to do both. For example, I know that Darren from Problogger.net spends some of his time at a local place offline to get writing done, and then spends time at his home online getting other various tasks done.

Whatever it is in the end, find your own method that makes you as a freelancer the most productive.

5. Give Yourself a Time to Stop Work

Or in other words, a daily deadline. By giving yourself a time to stop work everyday, you won’t have the excuse “Oh, I can finish that later.” Any experienced freelancer knows that “later” doesn’t come that same day about 90% of the time.

Try to finish your work at a decent time — for example, 5pm — the time the basic 9 to 5 job ends. Of course, depending on individual schedules, this time can change. Make sure it is a time, though, that will give a daily deadline while still allowing you to work undistracted.

Wrapping Up

There are definitely way more time management tips than the general five I’ve listed above. Please share your own time management tips, or struggles with time management you had/have with the freelancing lifestyle.

Written By Kayla

Kayla Knight is a 20 year old college student, part-time web developer, freelancer, and blogger. Webitect is where she spends too much of her freetime, sharing interesting finds and valuable resources. Be sure to check out her portfolio.


  1. iWrite2Know

    July 1st, 2009 at 02:35 am

    Time management is the most powerful tool that can be used to increase the performance of any project. Proper planning adds to the list of the ingredients. Implementation is the most aspect of time management.

  2. Adrian A.

    July 1st, 2009 at 08:25 am

    I must add “Ora Time and Expense” under Time Management Tools. I think this is the best one out there: simple, efficient, with a great UI, multiple options to export timesheets (html, xls), invoice generator and of course it’s free. http://www.johnwu.com/ora

  3. Jash Sayani

    July 1st, 2009 at 03:24 pm

    Great post! Love it. By the way, you posts are always great Kayla :)

  4. Angel

    July 2nd, 2009 at 03:31 am

    “To-Do List” is the easiest and most effective tool for every web developer/designer.

  5. Tim Smith

    July 3rd, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Great Post! Time management is something that few people know how to do. In fact, we’ll never have it down to a science. However, if you plan well, and put into practice these tips, you can have a real productive day. Thanks!

  6. Steven Snell

    August 31st, 2009 at 02:15 pm

    All good points Kayla. Number 5 is especially helpful for me. When I know I will be ending work at a particular time I get more done and I have more focus.

  7. Abdullah Omar

    August 10th, 2010 at 11:28 am

    All are good points but that number five is the most crucial to me, simply because by knowing your time for stop at work, it will help you to concentrate on other aspect.

  8. JJ

    February 22nd, 2012 at 02:00 am

    There are so many ways in order to manage time effectively. Time management tools can also help you manage time it is just depends on what you needed most. Google calendar is a tool that can help you plan and organize tasks, this way you can limit wasted time. Creating a to do list is a great way to stay focus on work. Time tracking is a perfect tool to use along with a to do list which can help you boost productivity. With the help of a time tracking tool you set an estimated amount of time when working on each tasks. It won’t be very effectively without discipline. This can also help you ignore work distractions.

  9. Stacie Walker

    May 7th, 2012 at 07:40 pm

    Hello Kayla,

    I appreciate you sharing valuable tips to help anyone stay on the right track while building their empire. I especially like tip#3 – Using Time Management Tools. Using a Google calendar has been a lifesaver and a time saver for me. I have been using the calendar courtesy of Google since the beginning of my online business career. Thank you for sharing.

    To Your Success,

    Stacie Walker
    Woman in Leadership Founder

  10. Stephie Daniel

    February 24th, 2014 at 07:27 am

    Awesome list of things that help manage the workflow goes smooth in all possible manner. I personally think that a proper time management always help get the things go in alright fashion. And for the very same reason the tool that I have been using for the sake of time tracking is the cloud based Replicon’s time tracking software – http://www.replicon.com/time-tracking-softwares.aspx

  11. Diana

    May 8th, 2014 at 07:48 am

    For time tracking software, I would like to add Proofhub. Simple & easy. You can have a look at http://www.proofhub.com/

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