Freelancing and Time Management

Where Does the Time Go?

I usually have a plan in my head for the way I want to spend my day. But when I am working on maps I can often forget to take breaks, especially if I’m working on client projects because I want to get the draft to the client for review. I use Toggl Tracker to keep track of what I’m doing when on the computer. So at the end of the day when I wonder where the time went, I can easily see. I can also run reports to show how many hours spent in total on each project, even if it’s over several weeks. That helps me make more accurate cost estimates for future projects.

But in addition to tracking mapping projects, I also keep track of time spent on the business itself: things such as training (playing with Blender or reading tutorials), social media time (keeping up with Twitter and blogs of other cartographers) and time working on my own blog – these riveting blog posts don’t just happen out of thin air!

I also track time spent marketing, which can include listening to webinars and podcasts on how to market oneself as a freelancer and how to optimize my website for SEO, and preparing my own marketing materials such as a brochure to send out to prospective clients.

Recently I’ve started spending more time prospecting for clients, since I’d like to move away from Upwork and have a more direct relationship with my clients.

Keeping Focus

Unfortunately the tracker doesn’t allow me to track time not spent in front of the computer, such as:

  • staring out the window (although many times I am thinking about how to make my map better)
  • deciding that the laundry absolutely has to be done right now instead of writing a blog post; and then I need to post books on Kijiji because I own too much stuff (hey, anyone want to buy archaeology books?)
  • setting up my office then realizing that I need a monitor stand, so I find scraps of wood, my jigsaw and safety glasses, make a few cuts, then glue and nail and bam! – I have a monitor stand. Next time I need to step away from the computer I’ll paint the stand

monitor stand

Then it’s the end of the day and I haven’t exercised, didn’t have my breakfast until lunch, and I end up having a late supper because I forgot to stop work to start supper.

I might do it all again the next day, or a couple of the clients whose projects have been on hold will get back to me and all the work comes in at once. But I work until it’s done, then may take a day off in the middle of the week to go outside to make sure the sky is still there.

A friend contacts me every couple of weeks to go for a walk. I joke that I don’t get out except for our walks, and she just has to say “Julie… walkies!” and I get so excited to leave the house!

Job Satisfaction

Freelancing and working from home is so much better than working in a cubicle farm. I love that my time is organic (a term I heard  years ago at a Simple Living workshop).  If I feel run-down, I rest; if I am on a roll with a project, I keep going. I haven’t had a serious cold since I stopped working in a cubicle farm.

And in the summer I move to my summer office – a bench in my backyard with a view of the garden, where I can literally get distracted by birds and squirrels.

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