Being a freelancer is challenging for everyone. Not only do you have a lot of responsibility in a variety of areas, you're also having to coordinate everything. For many, this part can be hard to deal with and may lead to deadlines not being held.
In this article, I would like to share some tips that can help you plan for a more successful day as a freelance designer.
Image source: Jan Willem Gertsma
Why Should You Plan Your Days?
The minute you're getting a handful of projects and clients, it can be hard to keep track of every small thing that needs to be done. You'll be surprised by how quickly it's possible to lose track of this, which is one of the reasons why you should try to plan your days as well as possible.
Plan your days to:
- avoid breaking deadlines,
- keep set work hours,
- avoid stress,
- be more efficient,
- be more professional,
- have time for unexpected things.
As you see, there are many reasons to why you should do your best to plan your days properly. I did a little calling round to some of the most successful people that I know of and almost every single one of them admitted to have some sort of planning routine.
There will always be exceptions that confirm the rule, but my advice is to start planning from day one to get the proper routines set.
Different Ways of Keeping Track of Your Schedule:
Get a Planning App
One great way of making a working schedule is to get a planning app. This could be for your iPhone, Mac, Netbook or PC. There are many good free ones out there, and also many that cost a little bit. Try out a couple of different ones before you decide.
Use a Whiteboard
By having a whiteboard/cork-board on the wall above your desk, you'll be able to see what needs to be done that day or week.
Image source: Gerard79
No matter which computer you're on or if you're having a crash, the whiteboard will still be there.
Getting a book, a Filofax can help you plan for a long time ahead. It can be easy to bring it along wherever you go and if someone call you, the schedules can easily be checked without turning on a computer or having to be at your desk.
My general tip on this would be to use a combination of these. The minutes you'll have to spend extra by noting it more than one place will easily be repaid by how efficient it can be.
Some Tips for the Planning Process:
Plan for a Few Days at a Time
Planning for only one day at a time can be a time-waster to a certain degree. If you're working with deadlines and projects that can take weeks or even months, you'll need to keep a longer perspective when you make your plans. Usually, making a detailed hour to hour plan for a week can be a good way to start.
Break Down Your Long Term Plans
Ideally you'll have an overview of things that need to be done next month or at least for the next number of weeks. To get a better overview and keep everything in place, a good way is to break your plans down into weeks and then finally days.
Image source: Artem Chernyshevych
This way you can know what is to be done next week and make sure to get the progress needed to make the deadlines that are to come. At the same time your current weekly/daily schedule will make sure to keep you on track right now.
Keep Your Focus on Today
You've planned the next days, you know what needs to be done in near future. Then it's time to keep focused on here and now. It's very important to be able to plan in a way that leaves you busy with this day without thinking too much about the other days to come.
Add Room for the Unexpected
It's really important to understand that there will be unexpected things that need to be taken care of. If you're stuffing your schedule too full of tasks, you will quickly run into trouble if something new comes up.
Image source: Svilen Milev
This is why you should always leave some room in your schedule to deal with everything unplanned. Myself I tend to schedule a set number of hours at the end of the week, and I always use almost every single hours.
Keep a Steady Pace
In general you'd want to plan your different projects so that they have a steady pace during the days or weeks you spend with them. You want to avoid working 24/7 with a project the last week before deadline if you've know about it for three months.
This is bad of several reasons; good ideas and good designs need some time to breathe and it feels better to be on track. You want to avoid unhealthy stress as it can hurt creativity and personal life.
Mixing Projects a Bit
By this I mean that it can be healthy to plan your day to involve more than just one client or project. It's easy to be "blinded" while spending too many hours on one single task without getting any other input. By working a bit on several projects in-between each other you can draw inspiration between them and feel a bit revived by using other parts of your brain when you get tired.
Image source: Jonathan Natiuk
Those were some of my best tips on how to plan your days successfully. I hope you've been able to take away a good tip or two from this.
Start Planning Now!
Planning your own days can be challenging, we all know that. On the other hand it can also be very rewarding when you succeed. You're quite lucky to be in that situation so handle it with care. By planning the right way you can get more spare time, less stress, happier clients and be more efficient.
What's your tips in planning your own work day? Please share it with us in the comments below.