Computer Arts

40 tips for managing your time and money

As a freelancer, time and money are two of your most valuable resources. Here, top creatives from across the globe share their advice on how to make best use of them

To forge a successful freelance career you need more than just creativity. After all, it's no good wowing clients with your dazzling design skills if your accounting system amounts to stuffing receipts down the back of the sofa to be dealt with later, or you only think about time when it's followed by the words "at the bar, please".

So we've asked freelance creatives from across Europe, Australia, America and Canada for their top tips on how to maximise your two most important resources: time and money. They may not agree on everything, but some things are certainly clear - not least the importance of planning ahead wherever possible.

But succeeding at being your own boss isn't just about tax returns and endless to-do lists. From tea and yoga to rewarding yourself for a job well done, our experts also stress the importance of looking after your health and morale, spending time outside your studio, and making sure the slippers stay firmly in the bedroom. Turn over for our expert guide on how to exploit your most valuable assets.

Time management tips
Time is money: use this advice to get the most from every job you do

01 Keep things varied
Richt
Artist and illustrator
Bristol, UK
www.richt-what.co.uk
"Vary the sorts of work you do so you're able to jump between them 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."

02 Put time limits on tasks
Sophie Henson
Illustrator
London, UK
www.sophiehenson.com
"It's so tempting to surf the net for hours on end, then try to legitimise it by passing it off as 'research'. It's more productive to stick within allocated timeframes. Allocate 20 minutes or an hour to specific facets of a project, and it will help you to structure your day."

03 Write things down
Joo Santos
Industrial designer and 3D artist
Oporto, Portugal
www.joaosantos.net
"Make to-do lists - the more complete the better. They will help you to organise your ideas. For example, you can separate your tasks by client and define deadlines for each one. That way, you'll be able to establish a working plan and you'll be much less stressed."

04 Automate your accounts
Leon Quinn
Web and digital designer
Leitrim, Ireland
www.reverbstudios.ie
"Freelancers can spend a lot of time chasing clients for payment, so I would suggest doing as I do: set up an automated invoicing and payment system that will email reminders to clients and include automated payment links. I use Zoho Online Invoicing for this."

05 Prioritise your workload
Rik Oostenbroek
Digital artist and illustrator
Hilversum, The Netherlands
www.secretshowcase.com
"Always start the job with the closest deadline first. If you're working on two jobs that have the same deadline, try to give the job with the highest budget first priority and start the second job in the time that you then spend waiting for the first client's feedback."

06 Turn off online chat
Lim Si Ping
Art director
Singapore
www.pixel-pastry.com
"It can get quite lonely working alone, but don't be tempted to use online chat programs like MSN Messenger when you're trying to work. Online chat is a time killer and a great form of distraction. So if you use Gmail or Facebook, make sure the chat functions are switched off."

07 Take time to relax
Gummisig
Web designer
Iceland
www.gummisig.com
"I try to do yoga and meditate for 30 minutes every morning. I find that by having this daily routine I am so much more focused, fitter, happier and more productive. Everything flows better, I complete the tasks I have and I don't have to ponder them."

08 Tell clients your schedule
Tom Lane
Designer and illustrator
Bristol, UK
www.gingermonkeydesign.com
"Be clear, realistic and honest with your clients right from the beginning. I find that the best way to manage my time and keep my clients happy is to be upfront about what I'm working on, when I have space in the schedule, and what else is going on in the studio."

09 Get out of your studio
Bee Strong
Illustrator
Melbourne, Australia
www.littlebeehive.com.au
"Even if you have a really heavy workload, it's important to break up your day with a little bit of time away from your workstation. I find that fresh air works wonders. Take a short walk or sit in the sunshine for ten minutes with a cuppa and you'll return to your desk refreshed."

10 Minimise interruptions
Andre Weier
Designer
Neuenrade, Germany
www.nalindesign.com
"Turn your phone off, shut down your browser, email and feed-reader clients, and close your doors and windows. Put on some music and use headphones, especially if there are people around you, and always keep some food and water nearby."

11 Don't mix work and home
Sophie Henson
Illustrator
London, UK
www.sophiehenson.com
"If you're working from home, approach your day in 'work mode'. I leave the house in the morning for a run, yoga, or just walk around the block to buy milk, then I return and it's like I'm arriving at my office. I make sure I'm dressed properly too - no slippers allowed."

12 Don't always say yes
Richt
Artist and illustrator
Bristol, UK
www.richt-what.co.uk
"The more people you let down, the more people there are who won't ask you again, so don't say yes to jobs if you don't have time to do everything on your plate. Sometimes, it's better to say you're too busy than to say yes and try to cram everything in."

13 Don't flit between tasks
Rik Oostenbroek
Digital artist and illustrator
Hilversum, The Netherlands
www.secretshowcase.com
"If you spread things out so that you try to work on a different job every hour, that's going to lower the quality of your work. It's better to focus on one job for as long as possible. Focusing is important and it will disturb your creative flow if you switch too often."

14 Don't keep checking email
Joo Santos
Industrial designer and 3D artist
Oporto, Portugal
www.joaosantos.net
"Checking your email every 10 minutes will lose you too much time and break your concentration. Set a fixed schedule for checking your email. Morning is a good time, before you start your work. Inform your clients so they're not always calling to ask if you received their last email."

15 Don't fritter your time away
Leon Quinn
Web and digital designer
Leitrim, Ireland
www.reverbstudios.ie
"Don't do anything during your working day that doesn't add value to your business. For example, if you're going to be on Facebook and Twitter, make sure you don't get involved in the background noise. Focus instead on promotion, networking and information gathering."

16 Don't work long hours
GummiSig
Web designer
Iceland
www.gummisig.com
"I try to have a six-hour work day on average. This gives me time to have a good lunch and time for my family. That way, when crunch time comes and I have to work more than this, I have fuel enough for those 'put your head down and just finish it' days."

17 Don't let clients time-suck
Tom Lane
Designer and illustrator
Bristol, UK
www.gingermonkeydesign.com
"Try not to have your time wasted by your clients. Stick to your guns: without being rude, tell them when you think that their requests are becoming unproductive, or if you feel that too much talking or emailing is getting in the way of actually getting the work finished."

18 Don't get lonely
Bee Strong
Illustrator
Melbourne, Australia
www.littlebeehive.com.au
"If you don't share a workspace, freelancing can be lonely at times. Don't live in a bubble. Instead set aside time to keep up your social life, even when your work schedule is heavy. Quality time spent with friends or family can be a fabulous way to de-stress."

19 Don't just list your tasks
Andre Weier
Designer
Neuenrade, Germany
www.nalindesign.com
"When you create a to-do list before starting your day - whether you're simply using a sheet of paper, or doing it with apps or browser plug-ins - organise it by project, whether it's online or offline, the category and importance. Set goals and plan in some breaks."

20 Don't ignore late inspiration
Lim Si Ping
Art director
Singapore
www.pixel-pastry.com
"Sometimes, the best ideas come when you have a sense of urgency, because your mind has to think fast and act fast. This is something I've found when working with tight deadlines. There should always be room for last-minute ideas, because these are often the most creative."

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Money management tips
Stay on top of your finances with these essential words of wisdom

21 Save as you go
Anna Wray
Illustrator
Cambridge, UK
www.woollycritter.com
"To make sure I'm living within my means from month to month, I put a third of everything I earn into a separate account for tax, which is easy to do using online banking. It usually comes to less than a third, so I have a bit left over, which is always good."

22 Get started early
Rob Ward
Animator
London, UK
www.rob-ward.com
"Creative people are not usually accustomed to the world of accountancy and, as a result, things like income tax, National Insurance and other financial matters can end up being left to the last minute. So, make life easier for yourself and organise your finances early on."

23 Account as you go
Kev Adams
Web designer and illustrator
Conwy, North Wales
www.kevadamson.com
"I generally find it's best to account as I go along, so that my finances and related paperwork are in order for when I hand them over to my accountant. Doing this will help to keep any accountancy fees down, because your accountant will have less to chase up."

24 Invest in your career
Asako Masunouchi
Illustrator
Athens, Greece
www.asako-masunouchi.com
"It's worth spending a lot on a computer and related devices, because that is such a basic need for the job. A good A3 scanner is especially worth the investment. It's also worth spending money on decent art materials, and on books and trips to get new inspiration and ideas."

25 Budget realistically
Nicholas O'Brian Wilson
Graphic designer
Portland, Oregon, USA
www.owenstork.com
"Before setting your rates, figure out what your bills are going to be for the year. Add in some extra for 'going out' and undoubtedly some 'well, that was stupid' money. That way, you will have a clear idea of the amount that you'll need to make."

26 Spend on self-promo
Aaron Miller
Illustrator
Cheltenham, UK
www.aaronmillerillustration.com
"Making the effort with self-promotional work pays off in the long run. Say you aim to get commissions from two per cent of the people you contact. You send work to 350 agencies, publishing houses and magazines. If seven of those clients commission you, the money will easily cover it."

27 Open a second account
Oz Dean
Digital art director
Sydney, Australia
www.ozdean.com
"Open and use a second bank account if you can, because the account will act as a buffer so you'll be more prepared financially for any drought periods and quiet periods that may come your way. I have a second account and I forget it's there - I will leave the card at home most of the month."

28 Pay for a good accountant
Radim Malinic
Illustrator/graphic designer
London, UK
www.brandnu.co.uk
"In the UK, the Inland Revenue sometimes checks into your accounts, and can issue a fine and backdated payments if all is not well. Find a chartered accountant - they may cost more than someone your mum knows who can do your accounts in the evening, but it's money well spent."

29 Reward yourself
Matt Soriano
Interactive/web designer
Toronto, Canada
www.emesstyle.com
"If you're freelancing, then you're often your own boss, and that should mean a good bonus package. Be sure to reward yourself for a job well done when you complete a big project, or hit significant profit milestones. Your money will be reinvested in motivation and increased productivity."

30 Be prudent
Jeffrey Bowman
Illustrator/designer
Huddersfield, UK
www.studiobowlegs.co.uk
"Value your money. It's a good idea to practise sensible spending even if the big bucks are rolling in, so you should hunt around for the best bargains when it comes to buying software and hardware, and the same applies when spending money on travelling to and from meetings."

31 Don't undersell yourself
Nicholas O'Brian Wilson
Graphic designer
Portland, Oregon, USA
www.owenstork.com
"Underselling yourself undermines what you do and is a disservice to the rest of the industry. Likewise, working for free is always a red flag. Start the relationship by explaining your process - you'll need time to do proper research and ask them the appropriate follow-up questions."

32 Don't be careless with important paperwork
Anna Wray
Illustrator
Cambridge, UK
www.woollycritter.com
"It's really important that you make sure you don't lose any of your bank statements. I always file them away carefully and methodically as soon as they come through the post. When it comes to sorting out my tax, I find it's so much easier that way."

33 Don't be a doormat
Rob Ward
Animator
London, UK
www.rob-ward.com
"When you're starting out as a freelancer, working with new companies can be quite scary and the pressure is on to make a good impression. But don't be afraid to talk about money early on and, if a company isn't paying an invoice, simply chase them up in a clear and direct way."

34 Don't dismiss insurance
Oz Dean
Digital art director
Sydney, Australia
www.ozdean.com
"Insurance is boring, official and may be seen as a waste of your cash, but when you injure yourself and have no income, you'll regret not having covered yourself. I avoided insurance for many years and now I have it, and have seen how cheap it can actually be, I realise how vulnerable I was."

35 Don't be vague with clients
Kev Adams
Web designer/illustrator
Conwy, North Wales
www.kevadamson.com
"Ensure your quotes and proposals are appropriately itemised and that your payment terms are clear and concise, so you're covered if a client questions what they're receiving, or tries not to pay. Always get written confirmation that the client is happy to proceed based on your quote or proposal."

36 Don't pay your tax bill late
Radim Malinic
Illustrator/graphic designer
London, UK
www.brandnu.co.uk
"We all know late payments from clients are annoying. If they pay, we're happy to have the money and tend to forget any interest fees. It is not the same with the taxman. You can get a £100 fine for filing your paperwork late in the UK, and get interest applied on the amount you owe."

37 Don't get left without a safety net
Aaron Miller
Illustrator
Cheltenham, UK
www.aaronmillerillustration.com
"It isn't possible to save all the time, because bills have to be paid and new equipment has to be bought, but it's good to have something put aside for that very reason. If you damage your keyboard or tablet, you can't create new work without it."

38 Don't try to be a jack of all trades
Matt Soriano
Interactive/web designer
Toronto, Canada
www.emesstyle.com
"It may seem tempting to take on every aspect of a project in order to gain 100 per cent of the client's budget. However, if you're more suited as a specialist, this could hurt your productivity, passion and profits in the long run. Learn when to subcontract."

39 Don't dip into your tax fund
Jeffrey Bowman
Illustrator/designer
Huddersfield, UK
www.studiobowlegs.co.uk
"Don't be tempted to spend any of the money that you're going to need for your tax bill. If you're religious about putting money aside for it, then it shouldn't be a problem to pay up when the tax man comes knocking at the end of the year."

40 Don't just think about money
Asako Masunouchi
Illustrator
Athens, Greece
www.asako-masunouchi.com
"I care about whether a commission interests me. Don't choose jobs just by the amount of money that's available. Some work won't make you rich, but a smaller payment shouldn't stop you from working on an interesting job."

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