Being a freelance designer, time is money and the time spent designing and developing is essentially the only time you’re getting paid for. Freelance design is a juggling act, not only do we do the creative and technical, we also have to take care of sales, accounts, marketing, client liaison and a host of other mind numbing admin tasks.
Recently I’ve found myself spending more time speaking to clients, attending meetings, answering the phone and sending invoices than actually designing and being creative. It can be increasingly hard to produce creative work and keep creative focus when the phone rings every 15 minutes and mundane tasks start to mount up. This can often make design and creativity feel lengthy, drawn out and time consuming, which is really not good. I can understand in many ways why there are lots of designers that choose the nocturnal route; because nobody bothers you, you can get yourself in the zone and produce some really creative work, this is however not an option for everybody.
The nocturnal route in many cases, including my own is not an option, designers often have to be on hand to offer support to clients and to take sales calls throughout the office hours of the day. So what methods can designers introduce to their work strategy to help save and structure time in order to stay as productive as possible? I’m going to introduce some of the concepts I’ve implimented and thought about to address this situation:
1. The lunch time power hours.
Lunch time is the quietest time of the day, the phone is less likely to ring and you can get down to some serious work. While everyone is having their lunch, you can be taking advantage of this quiet time to get creative. Anyone who calls, leave it to answerphone and ring back after your “lunch”!
2. Invoicing & admin
Doing your invoicing and accounts bit by bit gets annoying and tedious, try doing all your invoices for that week on a Friday afternoon. Doing this will not break you from your creative flow during the day, its also a nice way to finish your week off!
3. Time for creative and time for development
It’s been scientifically proven that your brain is at its most creative between 10am & 12pm if you’re working normal office hours. With that in mind I always try to do my creative in the morning when I’m feeling fresh and inspired, instead of trying to be creative in the afternoon when I’m drained and ready to pack in for the day.
Development is much more structured and mundane, more often than not its a case of just getting your head down and doing the work as opposed to your creative time where you can loose hours if your not producing anything that looks right, so I find development is best saved for the afternoon.
If you’re not careful meetings and client liaison can rapidly become a full time occupation, clients love to go off on tangents. It’s important from the designers point of view that meeting stays as topical and as productive as possible. Always spend 5 or 10 minutes planning your meeting, make a list of questions you need to ask your client and work through them, if the meeting begins to digress you will have a point of reference to subtly return the conversation to a topical matter. Time is king, keep your meetings short and snappy, once you have everything you need and you’ve made sure the client has no further questions you’re finished, let the client know that they can call you if they have any other queries, give them a timescale for next contact and you’re done.
5. Sales and promotion
Never stop selling and promoting, every freelancer has experienced the ‘highs and lows’ nature of the profession. Maintaining a steady flow of sales and promotion will lead to a more steady work flow. Even when you’re fully booked, similar to invoicing and admin, allocate a portion of a day of the week to focus on spreading the word because otherwise you’ll work through your busy period and realise you’ll have nothing left to do bar sell!
Your time is your money, it is important you manage it and constantly strive to develop new methods of productivity to get the most out of your working hours of the day, this will in turn earn you more money and help you provide a more cost effective service to your clients.