As a Project Manager turned Freelance Copywriter, I know a thing or two about time management (and its difficulties). When I left my laboring job at a reputable ad agency to be a stay at home mom, freelance copywriter and yoga instructor; I thought, “Oh man, life is going to be so effortless.” I get to sit on my porch and write as the sun comes up, make delectable dinners for my family and portray the beauty of a stepford housewife. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s a miracle if I relieve myself of yoga pants, meet my many deadlines and keep my active toddler occupied. Cue my project management skills.
Many full-time employed Designers, Art Directors and Copywriters have Project Managers as it is completely necessary for them to stay on track and deliver in a timely fashion. Without PMs, many projects would become a hot mess. When working for yourself, you must become your own PM, your own Boss, your own Accountant and the list flourishes from there. I’ve broken out a few key elements that have aided my work along the way, I’m positive they will relieve you of redundant stress.
Create An Office Space
Working from home is great, but doing so at your kitchen table, in front of TV or in your bed may not be encouraging. Creating an office space in a quiet corner of your house will promote hard work and diligence. It’s a place for you and your career, nothing else. It allows you to organize your belongings, spread out and store office supplies; I’d say this is vital for running a successful Freelance operation. Sure, heading to the library or coffee shop to work is superb, but for those moments when you’re working from home, this is important.
Every project deserves a timeline. The moment you’re given a project, breakout the calendar. Create tasks within each project and give yourself the appropriate amount of days needed to accomplish each task. This includes research, rounds of work and reviews from the client. Share your timeline with your clients so they have a better understanding of how you work, and don’t agree to deadlines until the timeline has been shared. I like to create timelines in the “Calendar” template of Word, it’s much easier for you and your clients to understand and visualize the project this way.
Keep a Calendar
This falls in line with creating timelines, but calendars are all-encompassing. Give each project a different color and when creating your timelines, take into account your additional projects. Giving one day four different tasks isn’t advisable, this is a beautiful way to delegate without spreading yourself too thin. Include social events on this calendar as they are just as important as deadlines. If you have a busy weekend, don’t schedule any deadlines for the following Monday. If your spouse wants to spend the day rock climbing, clear that day of any tasks, delegations or deadlines. Here’s the order for scheduling your monthly calendar:
1) Social Obligations
3) Tasks within those deadlines.
If there’s one thing I learned from being over-worked, it’s this, social obligations are truly the most important task on your calendar. Keeping yourself lively and cheerful will counteract disgruntlement when working.
Online Project Management Software
There are gobs of trustworthy Project Management Software’s out there and some are free. These software programs act as filing systems, time managers and organization devices. I used many of them when I was a full-time PM and it was the only way I got through my days. You can manage multiple projects without burdening yourself with physical filing systems and hundreds of emails. In fact, many programs allow you to attach pertinent emails to the actual project, talk about persistence. Below are a few of my favorites.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Last but not least, staying true to your word. If you say you will deliver something, deliver it without any hang-ups. Your client thought you were good enough to work with, so prove them right. Be proactive by staying on top of communication, sharing timelines and managing your workload. Over promise and make them want to hire you again and again and again.