Design Advice

Time Management For A Creative Entrepreneur


I’m sure a lot of you can resonate with this: You quit your job to go freelance, thinking, “I’m going to have more time for myself”, or “I’m going to be able to take a break”. Before you know it, you’re back down in the rabbit hole, wondering why you quit your job in the first place, as you seem to be spending more time working and the stress is mounting.

You accept as many jobs as you can in fear that you may not have anything lined up next month, you start work late in your pyjamas thinking you have all the time in the world to service those clients, only to find yourself scrambling through the night to fulfil new deadlines. Suddenly, you realize you need make time to pay bills, file receipts and manage accounts (I hate this part the most!). It’s overwhelming, and you’re wondering, where has all the time gone? I don’t have enough time!

This is quite normal for the early days of a creative entrepreneur’s life, and almost every freelancer or creative boss I spoke too have had similar experiences. Time management is key, and here are some ideas on how you can make it work for you.

Establish Your Own Work Ethics

“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Gustave Flaubert

Hated the 9 to 5? Well, you don’t have to set an 8 hour shift for yourself, but you do need to consciously set aside your work hours. How many hours do you want to work each day, and when is that going to be? Or if it’s a project basis, what is the timeline like, so fit the hours around the week, then be sure to clear all other activities so you can focus on work.

Stop Procrastinating (OK, Manage Procrastination)

Creative types are prone to procrastination, but for good reason (or so I would like to think). We need creative inspiration to come to us to design or create something wonderful. However, if we’re not in the right mood, right mind or right time, the ‘lightbulb’ moment would not come easily, and so we wait, and we procrastinate, waiting, trying to force out this brilliant idea last minute then dash to the finish line. Great if you have one client, not so great if you want to build your business and have multiple clients and a variety of work delivered on time.

If I’m stuck at a task, I try to complete other tasks and ‘put it off’ for a while. Figuring out the best time when you’re most productive and creative is also helpful in time management, as you can focus important tasks around that time, and less important ones in another.

Find Out Your Creative Timezone

Spend some time to figure the time of the day when you are most creative or most productive, if you don’t already know. Personally, I work really well at night, or during the afternoon. I know that I am at my worst when I wake up in the morning. A friend had found 6am works really well for him, when his kids are not up yet, client’s are not at work yet and it’s quiet around the house.

You need to find out when your ‘zone’ is, and make sure you clear off that time for your best work. That way, there is less procrastinating and more doing 🙂

Recognize Time Suckers, And Get Rid Of Them

Hello email, Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Pinterest. Oh wait, and those are work time suckers. What about Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Says, Bored Panda, and 9Gag?

You know what I’m talking about. You go on Facebook to check on a client’s account or do some research on something, and before you know it you’re watching videos of cute animals, auditions of talented and amazing singers and dancers, #fail videos and then pictures of friends, babies, and food. You go on Pinterest and in fifteen minutes you’re lost in 20 tabs and have wandered away from your original image search. All speaking from personal experience, of course.

When you’re working and you’re on a creative bender, DO NOT DISRUPT IT. Do not start checking your email, or social media, or go online: Stay focused!

Singular Focus

Focus on the task at hand, sort out your priorities with a checklist, then get to doing it, one by one. Do not try to tackle too many things at a time, and you will find you get more work done. Multi-tasking is inevitable sometimes, but did you know it is actually counter-productive and damages your brain?

Estimate Accurately

Your creative success would often lie in your ability to deliver the best outcome or product within the deadline for the price you’ve quoted. If you find yourself struggling with meeting deadlines you or your client have set, or producing subpar work because you did not have enough time to really think through the brief, then you may be underestimating the time you needed to complete the project.

Knowing this may come only through some time, but learning to estimate and quote for your projects accurately will help you manage your own time better and have a realistic outlook on your weeks ahead. For some, it may come through experience. I have taken a more crazy approach, I timed myself.

I roughly now know how long it would take for myself to design a logo, to write a blog post, to create a monthly editorial calendar for a blog, or to build a website. When I’m quoting clients, I qualify their needs and expectations so I would get to an accurate amount of time I would be spending on the project. I don’t always get it right, of course. I would then track the actual time I spend against the time I estimated, so for future projects I know what to expect.

It might sound crazy, but you might be surprised to find out how long you actually take to do something if you remove the distractions and strictly time yourself on that one thing. (It’s normally less than you think.)

Perspiration, Discipline and Hard Work

Realize that you now have control of your own time, which is the most wonderful thing, but also the most challenging. No one is going to push you to work but yourself. If you want to be successful, and have time to do the things you love, you have to change your mindset, right now. Welcome to creative entrepreneurship, you are now the CEO and you are managing: Yourself.

Accept that you will have to change some things about the way you work, because you’re not in Kansas anymore. Working for another business means the rules are normally set for you. You have your job description, you need to be in the office at a certain time, leave around a certain time, and have a certain amount of time allocated to projects and deadlines.

Now it is time for you to set these work guidelines for yourself, but the great thing is you can set your own time, and decide your own job description. It will require some slogging, but learning how to manage your own time and projects is essential in keeping your sanity and profits intact.


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