As a freelancer working from home it’s easy for a day to go by and feel like you didn’t get enough work done. With no manager peering over from the other side of the office, it’s up to you to manage your time tracking, invoice templates, quotation templates, and more. There are a whole host of tricks, methods and habits to pick from — run a quick Web search and you’ll turn up dozens of useful ideas.
Here we’ll talk about 5 steps you can take to improve your time management and accomplish much more throughout the day. We'll also take a brief look at three of the most popular techniques which can be used to improve time management for freelancers, explaining how they work and why they might be suitable for you, knowing that some freelancers are even committing on following some of those techniques directly on their contract templates.
There are some well-tested time management techniques available to increase your productivity. Two very popular ones are the Pomodoro technique and the Eisenhower Method.
Credited to entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo — who has since written a best-selling book about it — the Pomodoro technique breaks working time down into strict segments separated by short breaks.
The usual routine is 25 minutes of solid work followed by five minutes of downtime. For every four slots of work, you take a longer break, around 15-30 minutes. The technique also relies strongly on planning (working out the tasks to be completed in advance) and logging your progress (giving you a feeling of accomplishment).
This technique is effective because it forces you to put all your energy into those 25 minutes of work. There is no time for distractions and every minute counts towards accomplishing your next task. You will be surprised with how much you get done each hour.
Cirillo first used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to enforce the Pomodoro technique when he was a student, and the official timer still looks the same today. From our experience, the Pomodoro technique is one of the most effective: it cuts out distractions and aids focus, but it can feel a little too rigid at times. You might often find yourself modifying the timings based on how well you're working and how difficult the current project is.
As you’ve probably guessed, the Eisenhower method is named after US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and splits up all tasks into four quadrants:
Dwight Eisenhower once said: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”.
You may be prioritizing your tasks incorrectly based on what you think is important and urgent, while devaluing the tasks that should have a higher priority.
Anything labelled important is done first and in person: put out the fire in the kitchen, then get on with your work. Urgent but unimportant tasks are delegated or dealt with quickly, while everything in the final quadrant is ignored (or at least minimized as much as possible).
It’s a technique that works best for Presidents, but can also be applied when looking to refine time management for freelancers. However, you may need to adapt it to suit your needs. We’ve found it very useful at times — with so much to deal with as a freelancer besides the actual work itself, it is handy to be able to categorize all of the incoming jobs and get them into some kind of order of priority. For your own use you may need to relabel the boxes or divide them up further, and last but not least, consider time blocking for each to-do.
Dave Allen’s getting things done method often crops up in discussions of time management for freelancers and you’ll find it’s heavily referenced on the Web. Allen suggests focusing on the small day-to-day tasks first, then building up to the bigger picture: create a record of everything that needs to be done, then break this up into small actionable work items that you can focus on. There are six “horizons of focus”, which compare to a plane taking off.
Every bit of GTD that you pick up can prove very helpful, particularly in enabling you to focus on one job at a time rather than worrying about the overall picture every few hours. However, it does require a fair amount of preparation, review and planning to do effectively — you might have to invest in the book to properly start getting things done.
Working hard doesn’t mean much if you’re only using half of your attention. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit can be huge time wasters throughout the day.
It may be tempting to check out the latest news or see what your friends are up to while you are working, but it will hurt your overall productivity. Try using a browser extension like WasteNoTime to block specific websites while you are working.
You can specify daily time quotas for such websites or completely lock down all distracting websites during work hours. You can use the data collected from the extension to see a report of how much time you spend on different websites each day, week, or month.
Another way to eliminate distractions from your mind is to write all of your thoughts and things you need to do onto a piece of paper. Writing by hand is better for learning and memory and is more therapeutic than typing, and it will allow you to clear your mind of any distracting thoughts.
If you don’t like writing by hand and use Gmail as your main email platform then consider using Google Tasks, which is built into the sidebar of Gmail in the latest update. The “Tasks” sidebar allows you to enter tasks you need to do, start dates, end dates, and separate tasks in categories.
This tool is very helpful if you always have your Gmail open and want to add new ‘to-do’ items to a list after receiving an email.
Now that you have all of those distractions out of the way you should work on improving your focus. The most effective way to do so is to practice meditation and mindfulness.
Practicing regular meditation allows you to clear your mind of all thoughts and focus on the one task you are doing, which makes it a great time management technique for freelancers. There are many other benefits of meditation, including improving your memory and creative thinking skills.
Mindfulness is when you stay completely focused on the present moment and what you are doing. You can practice mindfulness at any time, like when you are washing dishes. Focus on the heat of the water, the texture of the dish you are washing, and the sound of the scrubbing. Exercising all of your senses allows you to stay in the present better.
If you stick to daily meditation and mindfulness you should see significant brain changes within 8 weeks.
It can be easy to look at your to-do list and get overwhelmed by all that you need to do. Deciding on which of your tasks should take priority for the day can be difficult at times, but a good approach for better time management for freelancers is to go with three main tasks.
Your three tasks could be ‘write that new blog article’, ‘reach out to 10 local businesses in my area’, and ‘complete 10 more seconds of my motion graphic design’. Choosing just three tasks will help you feel less overwhelmed and more focused throughout the day.
At the beginning of each day, or before the next day, decide which three tasks would make you satisfied if you finished them by the end of the day.
In the case that you finish your there daily tasks before the end of your work day, spend the rest of the day working on growing your business.
As a freelancer it can be hard to find time to grow your business since you are constantly focusing on client needs. Use the free time after completing your three tasks to strategize, create plans, and market your business.
Being disorganized is a big time waster. It’s a headache to be constantly searching for login information, notes, expenses, and files. Use an app or Google Drive to keep track of all your information and notes. Use project management tools for freelancers to keep track of your progress.
Google Drive has many fans since it is free and comes with lots of storage. You can create a folder for timesheets, another folder for client strategies and logins, one for blog posts, and whatever folders you need to stay organized.
As long as you spend a little bit of time organizing things it will save you lots of time and frustration in the future. You don’t want to waste time searching through old emails to find login information or to remember what a client asked you to change on their website last month.
Spreading yourself thin or taking on projects that are too time consuming can hurt your time management as a freelancer. Sometimes a project is outside of your usual scope of work and you aren’t certain about how to complete it. And sometimes a client is asking for too much for too little money.
You need to value your time and expertise and know what you’re worth. Calculate your freelance rate and don’t undervalue yourself.
You’ll manage your time much better with a higher rate because time is money. If you aren’t completing a client’s task properly when charging a high rate then they will probably drop you and find someone else to do it.
You also don’t need to spend as much time from your day on clients when you have a good rate. It allows you to focus more of your time on growing your business since you don’t need to take on as many clients to pay the bills.
It can help to find a niche customer base to focus on as well. If you do website design for example, you may wish to target only chiropractors or real estate agents. This way you know just how to deal with the client and how to build a high-converting website in their industry.
Bringing in new clients is easier if you can show them you’ve done good work for someone working in the same industry as them.
Managing your time with these 5 steps will help you feel less stressed and also get a lot more done throughout the day. For even more spare time, manage your freelance business with Bonsai's all-in-one suite - sign up for your free trial today.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?