Ask A Freelancer: On Time Management

Ask A Freelancer

It’s a new year and if your calendar looks anything like mine, you are juggling quite a few things. I’ve had a couple of unexpected events that have knocked me off course but thankfully I had my posts planned out and my projects have very detailed schedules. Still, even with the best of plans, it’s hard to juggle a social life, a full time job, a freelance career, and a new shop in the works. I reached out to two very fantastic ladies who are all about their business to talk about managing time.

You might know Kate Baird but she is the owner and designer of Katelynn Brooke Designs. I’m always impressed with Kate’s wonderful branding projects. She uses a clean style and her projects are very Hamptons-chic, think C. Wonder.

Shanice of Shanice Cameron Design, formerly Modern Mint Designs, is a web designer focused on creating beautiful spaces for women. She posts amazing blog tips on her blog, much like the one featured yesterday. She loves to help people achieve their business goals and it’s what I adore about her. So let’s talk about managing time and how these ladies make it happen!

Ask A Freelancer About Time

What does your typical work day look like?

Kate:  Honestly, at the end of 2013 I was doing really well with having a weekly structure, and so far in January I’ve had trouble getting back into it. Ideally, I wake up around 7:00 and have coffee and mentally prepare for my day, and then start working at 8:00. The first two hours of my day are usually the most productive, so ideally I’m only glancing at my email and then diving into a project. From 11 to 2 I usually do a combination of email, working out, eating lunch, walk the dog, etc. Then from 2 to 5 I’m back to working on client projects, and then I generally spend the last hour of my work day addressing emails. I try really hard to be done working at 6, but sometimes that doesn’t happen

What does your typical work day look like?

Shanice: I recently rearranged my schedule so that I work on specific things on certain days. I got this amazing scheduling idea from my business coach.

I do marketing on Mondays and Wednesdays. I work on client projects and/or my own projects on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I use Fridays to finish up work from earlier in the week. Of course this can vary quite a bit, and I rearrange things as needed. But it really helps me to focus on specific areas of my business each day, and it keeps things interesting!

I typically work Monday – Friday from 7:30am – 8pm. That may seem like a long workday, but I take at least a small break every two hours.

From 7:30 – 8:00am, I’ll take about 30 minutes to respond to any time sensitive emails and those that just need quick responses. Around 9:00am, I’ll get to work on my task for the day.

If it’s a Monday or a Wednesday (marketing days), I’ll write content for my blog, create content for my email subscribers, and engage with my target audience on social networking sites. If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday, I work on client work and/or my own projects.

During the day, I focus on each task for about two hours. I usually take a lunch break around 1:00pm – 2:00pm. I’ll stop to cook and eat dinner from 4:00pm – 6:00pm. Then I’ll get back to work around 6:00pm and work until 8:00pm.

Lovely Little Parties - Katelynn Brooke Designs

What is the biggest challenge you find in managing your time?

Kate: Definitely getting distracted. It’s so easy to get sucked into email and social media, when really my time could be spent better elsewhere. But really, I mostly distract myself with all the tasks that need to be accomplished. I really struggle with putting the to-do lists away so that I can focus on just one thing.

How much time do you feel you spend designing on a daily basis?

Shanice: It can vary a lot depending on how many projects I have going on. I estimate that I spend on average about 15-20 hours a week designing.

That’s one thing that surprised me about freelancing! I expected to be designing virtually all day, every day. However, a lot of my time is spent marketing and handling administrative tasks like invoicing and correspondence.

Measuring Without A Cup - Shanice Cameron Design

What tools do you use to help manage your schedule?

Kate: I think the better questions is what tools haven’t I tried?  Since I struggle so much with time management, it feels like I’ve tried everything.  Right now i’m using a combination of my Day Designer and Todoist.  My Day Designer sits open in front of me all day and has an hourly scheduler and a written to-do list.  I use Todoist to help me keep track of tasks on individual projects.  I’ve also started using Basecamp in the last 4 months, and it’s been good for helping me really buckle down and work on what needs to be worked on.

Do you have any techniques that you have found to be helpful in managing your project schedules?

Shanice: On a micro level, Google Calendar alerts are very helpful! I don’t know where I would be without them.

Before I begin a new design project, I break it into smaller segments (e.g. discovery, mockup, development, and delivery). I outline the project schedule and setup deadlines for each segment.

I setup four (4) alerts for each segment – two alerts before each segment is scheduled to begin and two alerts as the segment deadline approaches. This really helps me keep track of everything since the alerts show up on my phone and iPad. The Google Calendar alerts are especially helpful when my personal life gets hectic

On a macro level, spreadsheets work really well. I can easily keep track of multiple projects at a time when I can see which segments I’ve completed for each project and which segments I need to start.

Brittany Morgan - Katelynn Brooke Designs

How do you deal with unplanned interruptions in your projects?

Kate: Generally my clients are pretty understanding, and I purposely set up my work to be not very deadline oriented, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. I guess I am just constantly assessing and prioritizing my tasks, and constantly reshuffling that list of what’s next. I’ve come to expect the unexpected, so even when I don’t plan for interruptions, I’m usually quick to figure out the best course of action from there. It takes practice!

How do you balance your social life versus your work life?

Shanice: I’ll be honest and say that I’m still working on finding a balance! It can get tough trying to make time for my social life. Luckily, my husband is a professor, so he has a flexible schedule. We take our breaks together when he works from home. We also have date night at least once a week. We’ll hang out with friends once every couple weeks.

This probably isn’t a good thing, but I’m notorious for multitasking and maximizing my time as much as possible. I’ll use my headphones to talk to a friend on the phone while I’m cooking. If I have errands to run, I’ll schedule lunch with a friend on the same day in the same area. When running a business, scheduling and practical planning are essential.

Chic After 6 - Shanice Cameron Design

Many thanks to both Kate and Shanice for being so open and helpful regarding managing time!

AAF - Kate Baird

Connect with Kate: Portfolio | Blog | Dribbble | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter 

AAF - Shanice Cameron

Connect with Shanice: Portfolio | Blog | Shop | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

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Angelica Yarde
My name is Angel Yarde. I am a designer, front-end developer, and speaker. I am the editor and designer of Studio 404 whic was founded in December 2006. In January 2014, I launched Studio 404 Paper, a paper shop which includes type-focused greeting cards, note cards, and prints. I currently reside in Celebration, Florida where I co-own a branding strategy studio, Sevenality, with my husband.
Articles: 676


  1. These ladies and yourself are extremely talented and I thank you for sharing this post, time management is something I need to add to my weekly wishes.

  2. this was SO good… time management is definitely one of my biggest struggles at the moment, and it’s nice to see some of their solutions for similar problems! excellent tips.

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