Monday, March 2, 2015

Keeping Freelance Work Untangled

One of my regular freelance clients emailed me this week. Her first sentence was: "I am jealous of how organized you are. Not to mention the time management!" I scoffed, and my husband lifted an eyebrow when I read her note out loud.

Why'd we respond this way? Organization is not my strong suit. This is something I've always been aware of. My college room mates used to gawk at how I managed to pass my classes, as my studying routine usually consisted of cramming before tests and cranking out essays the night before they were due.

I'm happy to report that life has taught me the dangers of this type of procrastination since then. This is especially true in my freelancing career. However, I still don't keep a calendar, spread sheet, or pocket book full of notes. Just as my younger self didn't organize like a traditional student, my working self has a different approach to keeping my jobs and deadlines straight.

I've found the best way to keep my freelancing project's timelines untangled is simply in trusting my mind to keep things in order. I know a few of my readers just gasped or shook their heads. Believe it or not, this works for me! Hear me out; I broke it down below.

Firstly, I like to take life, and work, one week at a time. Doing so focuses my attention on my current workload and offers me an easier breakdown for time management.

Secondly, whenever I take on a new project, especially ones with strict deadlines, I calculate how many hours I expect it to take and add an extra hour. Giving myself this bumper hour covers my butt in case life throws a wrench into my time commitments. Also, if I know that this project will take longer then a week, I break it up so I know how many hours of commitment I need to make for it in each week and for how many weeks. Then I "time stamp" it in my mind.

Thirdly, and most important, is Monday. I actually look forward to Monday. Monday is the day I square away the week. I used communication to not only touch base with my regular clients, but also to update my progress on larger projects. Communication is key for any work people do, but it's especially important for freelancers, as our bosses are often off-site and putting a lot of faith in someone they've never met. This also gives my clients an opportunity to give feedback or make changes to the direction the project is going.

Once I've finished sending out my Monday messages (and getting any responses), I can mentally plan out my week. It's a loose plan consisting of a breakdown of time division per project and my personal deadlines to complete projects so I have editing time before submitting them. If I feel like the word load is especially heavy with research or requires some serious concentration, I contact my go-to babysitter and schedule a couple afternoons nix the kiddos.

Not that kind of mental breakdown!

I also use Monday's mental breakdown to check out my writing community and see if their are any contests or critique round robins I want to participate in. My critique partners and weekly blog posts get mental time slots as well. If my week seems lighter, I consider offering Query Helper critiques at this time. Often, I find myself spending a few minutes weighing in whether I need to sacrifice an hour of sleep here or some T.V. time there to get everything completed.

My way isn't ideal for everyone, but it works for me. I've tried the traditional methods such as a to-do list, calendar with scheduled times, and even phone reminders. They don't work for me because I find myself losing my mind when things deviate from plans. But with my own method, I allow myself the space to be flexible without stressing out over the unexpected.

Go ahead and call me crazy in the comments below, or tell me how you manage your freelancing or writing goal time instead.

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