With last week’s National Freelancers Day headlines pointing out a big and time-consuming admin problem for freelancers, it seemed like a good time to talk about ways to free up your time as a freelancer. Doing so gives you more time to do the actual work you get paid for, enjoy your downtime, and get a better freelance work-life balance. Ready to start freeing up some time?
Is it really a problem?
Before you start trying to free up time, you might be wondering whether it’s actually even a problem. Everyone has admin to do, right? Well, recent research from Setapp discovered that freelancers in the UK spend an average of 8.5 days a year on basic admin. That’s 8.5 days you could be working and earning or sitting back and relaxing. In short, time that you’re neither earning nor enjoying.
The most time-consuming freelance admin tasks reported were:
- Taxes (44%)
- Emails (30%)
- IT problems (28%)
Plus, 48% of freelancers stated that these tasks affected their productivity. That sounds like a problem to me! So what can you do about this wasted time?
Track your time
Before you can start actually freeing up time, you need to know how and where you’re spending it. Unfortunately, only 23% of freelancers currently use time-tracking or productivity apps or tools that could help them. The main reason? Cost, with over 70% stating that this was the major reason.
Good news—tools such as RescueTime have a free option, as well as paid options with more functionality. The app runs in the background on your laptop and/or phone and tracks where you’re spending your time, emailing you daily and weekly reports on your time and productivity. So take two minutes to download it now.
Know your tasks
When you have a better idea of where you’re spending (and wasting) your time, take five minutes to write down the tasks you’re currently doing that:
- Don’t directly earn you money
- You don’t really enjoy
- Feel like a waste of your time
- Could be done by somebody or something else
This list will commonly include things like invoicing, emailing, backing up files, sorting paperwork, updating spreadsheets, posting blogs, updating social media, and so on. In other words, things that aren’t your core service offering but relate to your freelance business or keep it ticking over.
Then go through each of the items you’ve written down on your list and sort it into three possible categories:
#1 Abandon it
Sometimes this task highlights tasks that we don’t really need to be doing or that sap more time than it’s worth. This can even include core service offerings. For example, if you’ve got a time-consuming client that isn’t worth keeping, then get rid of them. If you really don’t need to do it, then stop doing it.
#2 Automate it
This is a great way to free up time, because you retain the tasks but reduce the time it takes to do them. For example, you could:
- Create email templates for common queries in Gmail.
- Save snippets of commonly-used text as shortcuts with an add-on called Text Blaze.
- Use software such as IFTTT (If This, Then That) to update multiple social media accounts rather than updating them all separately.
- Try accounting software such as FreeAgent or QuickBooks to send and track invoices, rather than manually tracking them and updating spreadsheets.
#3 Outsource it
The third option is find someone else who you can pay to do it for you. For example:
- Hire a freelance virtual assistant for invoicing, emailing, and other basic tasks.
- Hire a freelance social media manager to look after your accounts.
- Hire an accountant to manage your tax and finances.
In fact, you might find that one option, such as outsourcing to a VA, resolves most of your time-sapping problems. When hiring freelancers, your freelance network may be able to recommend someone they’ve used before.
Implement an alternative
When you have some options to resolve your time-wasters, you can start implementing them. However, there’s a snake in the grass. When you first start implementing alternatives, there’s a short-term cost, in both time and money. It takes time to outsource work, create templates, set up shortcuts, and download software. And it costs money to hire freelancers to outsource to or pay for some software.
But in the mid- to long-term, you’ll start to see the rewards, because it will save you time that you can spend on more important things, such as your core service offering or achieving work-life balance. And that really is worth it! So take some time now to start saving time in the long run.
Have any of these methods worked for you in the past? Let us know how your time-saving exercise goes by commenting below or getting in touch.
And stay tuned for more freelance tips every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on A Freelance Life!