Freelance time management

How do you manage your time when you work out of your home?

Usually I am pretty self motivated, If I have a reasonable amount of work I will try and be in my office by 9.00, earlier if I am really busy. If I am quieter I will start a little later. I will generally stop for about 20 minutes for lunch. One of the great things about working from home is that if you are busy you at least haven’t got to worry about travelling times and can fit work around things if necessary.

Do you have a set schedule that you have to stick to, otherwise you won’t get your work done?

I do set myself a “moving” schedule each day/week. I will plan in what I intend to do each day of the week and always so my best to at least get done what I planned for that day. I call it a “moving” schedule as timing does move. Sometimes I get things done quicker than expected, or slower if I have computer problems or an urgent job crops up. At the end of the day I will revise the schedule for the rest of the week accordingly. Its amazing how having a schedule can stop you panicking. If I get given a lot of work at once with tight deadlines I, like most people panic a little, but as soon as I have it down in black and white and see that it is in fact feasible I feel much better.

When is it time to quit for the day? Strict 8 hour workdays, or does it go until the job’s done?

If possible I try to finish at a reasonable time, usually about 6.00pm, if it's quiet sometimes I finish earlier, if I am busy I’ll start at 7.00am and work until I get the job done. As of yet I have never missed a deadline. I do have a really bad habit of keep checking my email in the evening though or sitting with a sketch pad and scribbling ideas for a project while watching TV. One of the bad things about working from home is you never quite escape from your work, luckily I have a specific room/office for work at home which helps.

Are you ever tempted to work 16 hour days to make more money? This is not in terms of productivity, but more like advice to a new freelancer and how s/he might arrange the workday/schedule.

For about 6 months I really overdid it on the work front. I had a lot of work for a particular client and ended up working late and weekends and receiving a lot of calls from them out of hours too. I did very well financially but in the end had to take a step back and decide enough was enough as I was just becoming completely stressed from overwork. If it had been the type of work I could easily have subcontracted out I would have done, but there was too much management involved.

On a couple of occasions when I have been really busy I have tried subcontacting out the work but neither time as been very successful. I subcontracted out a newsletter when I went on holiday but wasn’t happy with the results, type just didn’t line up how I wanted it too. I also tried subcontracting some advert designs to a friend of a friend whose portfolio looked really good, but when the adverts came out they had jut done slight variations of what I had done before rather than fresh new layouts I had asked for. I ended up redoing the adverts myself. I think subcontracting could be a good answer if you are really busy its just finding the right people at a price where you can still make a margin.

I think you have to make sure you get a balance between work and home life. There is no point earning a lot of money but being completely tired and miserable. There will be times you have to put extra hours in (we worked on my accounts this weekend) but there will be quiet times too.


Tara is a freelance graphic designer based in Northamptonshire, read her blog here. 



1st July 2008

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