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How To Manage Your Time As A Freelancer

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Freelancing is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s prized for being a great way to take control of your own career and professional destiny. You control the work you do, the clients you work with, and the money that you make. Of course, all of those things come with caveats, but it’s easy to see the benefits. On the other hand, freelancing can mean working far too many hours, handling difficult clients, and being responsible for all of the not-so-fun aspects of owning your own business.

Related: How To Brand Yourself As A Freelancer

How can a freelancer manage their time to be effective and successful, all while retaining work-life balance? Here are four steps to take.

Lay a foundation for your business.

It can be tempting to jump right into freelancing by amassing clients, taking on projects, and hoping that things will get done, but it’s really important to lay a foundation on which you can grow successfully. If you wait to do things like creating a work schedule, tracking your time and expenses, properly vetting and assessing freelance job opportunities, and creating a budget for your business, you will quickly be overwhelmed by how much you have to catch up on. Sweat the details early on, and it’ll be easy for you to keep track of them in no time.

Set a work schedule for yourself.

One of the reasons many people start freelancing is to have more control over their work and personal lives. But taking on too many projects or overextending yourself with promises you can’t quite keep are surefire ways to lose any work-life balance you hope to gain. Decide on the number of hours you want to work each week and what days and times during the week you’re able to work. Don’t be vague and say things like, “Oh, I’ll be able to get that done at night, or on the weekends,” because you’ll quickly be working all hours of the day.

Create a base of regular clients.

One of the things freelancers worried most about is encountering feast or famine. With this phenomenon, freelancers are either awash in clients and projects or twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do. But there is a way to create a steady roster of clients while being able to take on random projects as they arise. Steady clients often come from people with whom you’ve worked before, such as an employee at a company who can now hire you as a freelancer, or people in your professional network who can provide projects for you.

Consider what might be out there for you in terms of regular work and take on these projects, even if you know they might not pay as much as more urgent, short-term projects will. You’ll still have time to take those on, but it won’t be as big a deal when those types of big payout projects aren’t available.

Create a budget for yourself.

It’s not uncommon for freelancers to have only a faint idea of how much money they bring in versus how much they are spending. From the beginning of your career, or starting right now, create a budget for yourself. It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or something more in depth like QuickBooks, Fundbox, or another software program. Keep track of payments you have coming in, payments you expect to come in, and the expenses you pay. Along the same lines, have goals for the payments you receive. Some should definitely go into a savings or retirement fund for yourself, while others should be designated to going back into building your business. The more specific and better laid out your goals, the better your money management habits will be.

For freelancers, time really does equal money. So, if you want to better manage your time, you also have to better manage your money. Creating a schedule for yourself; tracking your time, expenses, and income; properly vetting and assessing clients; and creating a budget for your business will all help you make the most of your time as a freelancer, while still having time for work-life balance.

This is a guest post.

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Jennifer Parris Jennifer Parris is a Career Writer for FlexJobs, an award-winning service that helps job-seekers find professional opportunities that offer work flexibility, such as telecommuting, freelance, part-time or alternative schedules. To learn more about Jennifer, visit FlexJobs.com or tweet @flexjobs.