Tracking Your Time as a Freelance Writer

A freelancer’s tips for keeping calendars, breaking down projects, and tracking your billable time.

Cat Webling

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A monthly planner in a brown leather case, with a grey pen on it and a plant over it.
Via Unsplash.

I’d say that one of the hardest things to figure out when I first started freelancing was time management.

When you’re working as someone else’s employee, your time is structured according to their schedule; you have a set shift with a start and an end time, you have specific tasks that you have to do within that shift, and your pay is set based on those hours.

When you’re a freelancer, your time is entirely your own. You decide when you work and for how long. Sure, you still have things that you need to get done for your clients, but you’re in control of when those things are done, which can be both exciting and terrifying.

I’ve learned that as nice of a luxury as setting my own hours is, I do have to keep regular hours if I really want to get anything done, and I have to know what I’m doing during those hours to avoid cramming everything into one mad dash at the end of a deadline (freelancing =/= high school English papers).

So, I thought I would share my tips for fellow freelancers about time management — your time is money, so maximizing your time maximizes your money. Go figure!

Organizing Your Work Week

One of the first things I learned to do was set up an organizational system for my work week. This is essentially the same thing your manager does at a more standard job, except you’re the manager and your employee is you.

The basics of organizing your work life are to keep running calendars (yes, multiple) of your activities and plan ahead to ensure that you’ve got the time you need to finish your projects to the best of your ability.

Keeping Calendars

As weird as it sounds, I keep three different calendars:

  • A digital calendar — I use Google — for long-term event planning and reminders
  • A physical whiteboard calendar — mine covers one month at a time with room for notes — to keep track of short-term event planning and make quick adjustments

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Cat Webling

Hello! I’m Cat, a writer and editor based out of Kansas. I write about literature, theater, gaming, and freelancing. Personal work: catwebling.com.