the blog

Tips to save time – for creative freelancers

Aug 16, 2021

Time is precious especially for freelancers, which is why I wanted to share these free and simple tips to save time in your freelance business. But first I just wanted to say it’s your time so use it how you want to. 

I like to work slow on project work not because the client is paying for that time but because it’s why I set up my business.  Some admin tasks relax me so I like doing them myself and enjoying my time doing them.  Others irritate me so I would rather they were done quickly or even automatically.  

There are loads of tools and software systems that offer different methods to help with productivity and at different prices but it can be overwhelming deciding on the one that suits you.  Which is exactly what happened to me a few months ago.

It all came to a head when I lost a document – I had no idea where I had saved it, what I had called it or even when I had worked on it.  So, I ended up having to do it again.

This is when I realised that I had to something about my set up

As I am detailed and through I did my research, I asked around and I signed up to some free trials.  I even made a spreadsheet comparison!

And then as sure as night followed day I was completely overwhelmed and couldn’t decide, so I didn’t.

So, with a view to putting my self-sabotaging and procrastination antics to some use I thought I’d let you know how I got myself out of the hole, that not only had I dug for myself but thrown myself head first into.

First I chose my top three areas of concern:

  • Managing my tasks
  • Keeping track of where I am with my clients
  • Organising my files (last but obviously for me, no means least)

Next I found a simple but ‘definitely not perfect’ way of dealing with each issue.

1. Tips to save time – Managing my tasks

I started using the free version of “Todoist” – by the way I have no affiliation or connection with them so this is not a paid promotion.  The reason I am telling you about it is because it is simple, intuitive and visually easy to work with. 

I still have my urgent to-do list of the day written on a notepad.  But the other stuff, the things I know I need to do and am planning for I add to my todoist.

The free version doesn’t let you set reminders but it lets you schedule a date for each task and reminds you the day before it is due and then again when it’s overdue.  Another reason why I would recommend it is that it is an entry level into using productivity tools – if you’ve been recommended something like “clickUp” but it looks too complicated then try “todoist” first and you’ll get into the right mindset and habits of using such a tool. Then go for a more complex tool when it stops reaching your requirements.

Finally, there’s a free app for your phone so you can even keep track of how far you are behind when you are on the go 😉

2. Tips to save time– Keeping track of where I am with my clients

This is what caused me the most anxiety so I started by writing a list on a word document of all the next ‘general’ steps I needed to take with each client.  Obviously, it need tweaking as each project progressed but the main tasks were all included. 

I used two different colours – one for me and one for the client, even if I was just waiting for client approval of a task that was added to the list.

Each time one of us completed our task I changed the font to strikethrough

This process worked for me because

It was visual so I could see at a glance where I was at but also there was another purpose.  It meant I was creating a “real life” workflow for each of the services I offer.  By this I mean what actually happens, not what should or ideally happen.  Then when I was ready to get going with tool which was a bit more substantial than me colour-coding and striking through a list on a word document I had all the information I needed to set up my automated workflows.   

3. Tips to save time – Organising my files

After losing a document and having to re-do my work this was rather urgent for me!  And honestly it took me about 10 mins.  Using the ultra-modern and technical approach of pen and paper – I sketched out a tree. Grouping my current documents into different categories.

For example, each client now has their own folder containing 5 subfolders: onboarding, research, branding, website copy and miscellaneous.  I also did something similar for shared folders on google Drive. 

Finally, I also set up a file naming system:

YYMMDD-client-description

There is nothing new in this approach – it just takes a tiny bit of thinking about your categories and then some self-discipline.  The genius bit for me is the miscellaneous folder. Particularly for my business documents as that area is more complex than the client area.  If I don’t know where to save something it goes in the miscellaneous folder.  And when, on the rare occasion, I’m looking for a file and it’s not where I thought it might be. It’s always in the miscellaneous folder.

If you’ve got any queries or have any issues you’d like to discuss then just get in touch.

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