organize your time with a to-do list

Freelance Slump? How to Organize the Slow Times

In an earlier post, I discussed some tips to manage your time when the freelance work is coming fast and furious, but what happens when it all dries up?

Last Friday, I had a fantastic day. I finished drafts of two projects and emailed them, and then I even wrote a cover letter and reworked my resume for a part-time remote position. I rewarded myself for all this hard work with a weekend without work – something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Unfortunately, no work over the weekend means no work on Monday.

One of the best things about freelance work is you have the freedom to manage your own work flow. It can be bonkers if you want or need it to be (Hey, you need new tires for your car? Sell a couple of articles!), or you can schedule a week or month of vacation when you need it.
That is assuming, of course, that you are managing your workflow well. In order to help you manage workflow better, here are some tips:

Keep and Update To-Do Lists

I am a to-do list fiend, because I am a firm believer that if I don’t write something down I will forget it. My to-do lists are mainly for small one-off tasks like emails or phone calls I need to make, or bills I have to pay. I have a weekly list in my Passion Planner, and also one for our household tasks on trello. Sometimes I make another one if I have a lot of errands outside of the house.

All of these lists have to be updated, aggregated, and synthesized at some point. I usually do this at the end of the work day, so I don’t have to think about it in the evening. Some people prefer to do this at the beginning of the day so they won’t think about their tasks for the rest of the night. Do what works best, but keep your tasks organized.

Make and Update a Freelance Project Spreadsheet

A spreadsheet is designed to keep multiple projects visually organized in one place. If you can make, update, and maintain a spreadsheet with your ongoing project information and stage (research, draft, revision, review), you should be much better prepared when a company asks, “When can you finish this project?” A simple Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet will do the trick here.

Maintain the Hustle

Business isn’t going to come to you, or if is was, you probably wouldn’t be looking at this post. If you find that your workflow is slowing down, make moves to increase it before it stops altogether.

Designate a day of the week or a time of the day to surf the freelance websites you use. This should be outside your normal time for returning phone calls, emails, or networking. I find that I can make a lot of proposals on freelancing job boards while watching TV at night.

Budget Time for Yourself

This does not mean that you are budgeting time for playing video games, soccer, or meeting your friends for drinks. This is work-related me-time. When you budget time for personal pursuits, you are making an investment in your future. If that means that you include your personal and professional blogs on your to-do lists or you schedule time for creative drawing and designing time in your day, do something creative but won’t get you paid, so you keep your skills and your interests sharp.

Stay Busy in the Down Time

Hopefully, if you’ve been keeping your creative juices flowing while you’ve been working, you’ll be more prepared for the really slow times. When you find yourself without work, use those times to follow your creative impulses and finish the projects you’ve been working on in your budgeted time during the week. What could have sent you into a panic before is now a gift of time! Enjoy it, and then make that me-time work public.

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