9 tips for improving your time management

It's no good dazzling clients with design skills if you can't meet a deadline. Whether you're a designer, illustrator or general creative – and whether you work in a studio, in-house or freelance – here are nine top tips for managing your time more efficiently...

01. Have a system

Being able to prioritise is key to staying sane as a freelancer. Assign certain periods to tasks in a calendar and have a daily to-do list that you can tick off. Websites like Lifehacker and 43folders are full of great tips.

02. Explain your schedule

One of the best ways to manage your time (and keep clients happy) is to be up-front about what you're working on, when you'll have time to begin working on a brief, and how much time you'll be able to dedicate to the project. Be clear, realistic and honest with your clients right from the beginning of a project.

03. Stick to your strengths

When it comes to tight budgets and timescales, call on the skills and solutions that you know you can do well. Keep it simple and avoid laborious processes. One of the most time-consuming things you can do is try to find pioneering new styles and solutions – save that for the well-paid projects.

04. Stop clients sucking up your time

Clients can be demanding. But if you find yourself spending more time responding to a constant barrage of requests than you are working on the project, then you need to let the client know – politely – that their emails or phone calls are becoming unproductive. Consider implementing a schedule for responding to clients and make this clear from the outset.

05. Make a plan

Everyone works differently, but if you want to maximise your efficiency try drawing up both short-term (day) and longer-term (week and month) plans. Setting yourself goals and deadlines will help you stay focused – but don't be too rigid: things will invariably pan out differently, so you'll need to adopt a flexible attitude.

06. Mix it up

Vary the work you do so you're able to jump between projects when you're fed up. If you work on the same thing all day, every day, it gets tiresome and productivity can drop. The more styles and techniques you have under your belt, the better. It keeps you excited about what you're doing.

07. Wear your other hats

Set aside a dedicated chunk of time each month to keeping on top of the other sides of freelance life: business, finance, networking and self-promo. These don't bring in money directly, but they are all essential aspects of being a successful freelancer and must be factored in.

08. Automate your accounts

As a freelancer, it's fairly likely that you 'll spend a lot of time chasing clients for payment. It might help to set up an automated invoicing and payment system – such as that offered by Zoho Online Invoicing – that will email regular reminders to clients and include automated payment links.

09. Don't live in a bubble

Separating work life from home life can be challenging as a freelancer. Always schedule in time for a social life – even when your workload is heavy. Factor in regular breaks, know when you 're going to start and stop for the day and stick to your schedule.

Words: Anna Richardson Taylor
Illustration: Toby Triumph

Read the full digital article inside Computer Arts 236: the freelance issue – found inside the Computer Arts app. It's packed with advice for supercharging your freelance career, and comes with a free 115-page supplement, The Freelance Handbook.

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