Tackle Freelance Time Wasters

Freelancing can be fun, liberating, and hopefully profitable. But it can also be riddled with temptation to do things other than the work required, to be too optimistic about what you're capable of doing skills-wise or to take on too much and thereby lack the time needed.

To be effective and to maintain an excellent reputation, it is important for you as a freelancer to manage your time efficiently, in order to get the most benefit out of time and to produce the best you can.


  1. Decide what service you want to provide on a freelance basis. The more specific, the better. One possible time wasting element of trying to be too broad in your freelance skills is that you'll try to be a jack of all trades and a master of none, never quite producing high quality work in anything because you're dabbling across everything in your field. Resist this temptation and hone down the freelancing to what you're absolutely best at. You can always sub-contract for areas in which you have weaknesses rather than slowing down your response time and not giving the best service.
    • Go through your skills list. Ascertain from the start where your strengths and weaknesses are and map out how to deal with weaknesses, such as getting help, not accepting assignments based on your weaknesses, or working with someone else who has strengths where you don't, on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.
  2. Ensure you have the equipment necessary to do the job before accepting any new assignments. Lacking the right equipment can slow you down considerably because you'll be attempting to make-do or having to chase across town to find the one place that can do the service for you. Although the initial outlay on equipment might be pricey, in the long run you will save money because everything you need to produce professional outcomes will be at your fingertips and under your own control.
    • Don't be afraid to call in mobile technical assistance when equipment breaks down on you. The cost of doing this will be far outweighed by having equipment in good working order, fast.
    • Buy quality equipment at the outset so that it doesn't break down and let you down. If the costs are prohibitive, see if it's possible to make a highly accessible arrangement to share equipment with others in your freelance field who are close by. Make sure that these arrangements are with reliable people who will be happy to see you at 3am in the morning to use the equipment on the odd occasion.
  3. Advertise your services. Be very specific about what service you are actually offering to your potential clients. This will cut down on time spent answering calls and emails from people who need something you can not, or will not do. Use a website to add more details that cannot be included in the advertisements, making it clear in the ad that more information is available there.
    • If you use an outsourced call center to handle calls about your freelancing, make sure that they have all the necessary facts before them. You don't want to put off customers by having someone else's lack of knowledge undermine your business.
  4. Do not take on more work than you can handle. Too much work will cause you to feel overwhelmed and you'll soon fall behind. Making excuses to clients about things over which you have total control never looks good. Start out slowly until you learn how much work you can realistically complete on your own, taking into consideration the size of your budget, and your team. It is better to make little at first than to get a reputation for being unable to meet what you've promised to do.
  5. When agreeing to do any type of work that you intend to be paid for, be prepared to issue an invoice, work order, or contract that you and your customer can sign. This document should clearly describe exactly the work that you promise to do, and whatever terms for compensation you agree to. This can save an enormous amount of time in the event a disagreement arises regarding the work that should be performed, or the amount of money to be paid by your customer. A binding written agreement can save extensive time and costs in court should a legal dispute arise. This document can be as simple or as complex as your particular discipline requires.
  6. Designate a time and place to do the work that is free from distractions. Although freelancing may offer more freedom than traditional full time employment, it is incredibly important to practice self discipline. If you have constant distractions, you'll be interrupted and lose your flow of thought and action. If you have a noisy workspace treated as a thoroughfare by everyone else, it becomes hard to take your freelancing seriously. Your workspace should be free of excessive noise, unnecessary electronic devices, children that require your care while you are working, etc.
    • Freelancers working from home often feel guilty about housework and meals. It is important to clarify with all other household members that your work day is as real as anybody else's and that you're not available to do chores and meals on demand. Don't feel guilty if you need to hire a cleaner even though you're constantly at home; having it done is far better than having it weigh heavily on your mind and it frees you up to get more freelancing done.
  7. Keep a log of the hours spent working on freelance assignments. Note which tasks are taking more time than others. Look for ways to streamline your work flow. Research tools and techniques that may speed your progress.
    • If you find some things are taking a lot more time than you originally envisaged, consider whether a change in approach will be adequate or whether it is something you are always going to find a bit of a battle. Administrative tasks can easily become time-wasters that could be better done by someone else, such as students after school, online call centers, or a bored homebody looking for a few hours work a week.
    • If you feel that your client is demanding too much in the way of additional workloads, be honest about what is and is not possible in your current schedule. By saying yes to everything even though you're swamped, you set unreasonable expectations that you're able to cope.
  8. Expect to make mistakes. Do not let these mistakes discourage you, or cause you to quit. Be determined not to repeat the mistakes that prove costly and time consuming. In time you will increase your speed and effectiveness as a freelancer. And eventually, you will be in a great position to pass on this knowledge to others working freelance.


  • Listen to your body and feelings. Sometimes you may be truly determined to work on certain things but it turns out that they're not as interesting, straightforward or ideal as you originally thought. There is a fine line between not giving up and doing yourself damage by trying to do work that isn't your forte and never will be. Body pain such as constant neck aches and back pain and feelings of despair, anger and frustration are warning signs that what you're doing isn't working.
  • Time wasters can come in all sorts of different forms if you're not alert. If you start finding yourself making excuses to do things that are peripheral to your freelancing by stating that they "help" in some vague way, be wary of the time these extra things are chewing up; from using apps to attending seminars, everything that you claim as useful for freelancing really must be, or don't use it as an excuse but treat it as the break, hobby or entertainment that it really is.


  • Freelancing isn't for everyone. The relentless pace and the feeling that things are never quite ended can drag you down after the initial flush of enthusiasm wears off. If you've given it a good go but find that after a year or two that it's still really hard work and you find it very difficult to discipline yourself, you may be better off returning to salaried work. At least you gave it a try to you won't have regrets for doing so.

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