When you’re a freelancer, time is money.
The longer you spend checking your email, scouring job boards and pitching new clients, the less time you have to complete work – and that means LESS money going into your pocket.
Unfortunately, though they may seem like annoying time-wasters, these tasks (and many others like them) are a necessity if you want a successful writing career.
Sure, skipping some of them may give you more time to work, but it could also hurt the quality of clients you get, the number of jobs you nail down and your overall customer satisfaction – and that will hurt your bottom line, too.
The truth is, the best method isn’t to forgo those menial and tedious-feeling tasks. Instead, simply manage your time better – get organized, streamline your processes and make your day as efficient and productive as possible.
It’s not easy, but luckily, there are some tools and apps out there that can help.
Here are just a few of my favorite tools that can make time management for writers simple and easy:
1. Rescue Time
Think you might be spending too much time applying for jobs or surfing Facebook?
Download Rescue Time, and it will record how many minutes you spend on every activity. Once you’re done tracking, you can look at a breakdown of exactly how you spent your time.
Use it to gain insight, set goals and change your habits so that you’re more effective and more productive.
Find yourself getting distracted and off track while writing? Use OmmWriter to stay focused.
A unique tool that works on Mac, PC and iPad, OmmWriter transforms your screen into a simple, distraction-free environment for writing. It blocks out other windows and programs, lets you choose clean, minimalistic document backgrounds and offers up relaxing, zen-like music that gets you in the mood for writing.
Charging by the hour? Want to know how much time you spent on each client?
Toggl allows you to track time with one simple click. Set up individual projects, assign billable rates and produce time reports and use them for invoicing. It’s also a great tool for staying organized; you can color code clients and even add sub-projects.
4. Now Do This
An incredibly simple tool, Now Do This requires one thing: your daily to-do list.
Just add it into the box, keep the window up as you work, and hit “done” every time you finish a task. Once you do, Now Do This will display the next task on your list to keep you on track and productive.
A time-tracking application for tablets, computers and smartphones, OfficeTime lets you easily monitor time spent per client, project and task, and it gives you reminders if you’ve been idle or away from your screen for a while.
You can also export hours to Excel or into a customizable invoice, which can include a quick summary of your work or full details of each task you completed.
Emails get lost in the clutter and most of us shy away from phone calls, but text messages? Those are a writer’s Holy Grail.
With Oh Don’t Forget, you can use this to your advantage and set text message reminders for deadlines, daily to-dos or appointments with clients. You can even schedule out recurring messages for long-term commitments.
Billed as the tool for time management for writers, TimePanther lets you set up tasks, organize them by client or project and even calculate revenues for each.
There are also built-in tools that let you visualize how your time was spent, and you can export weekly reports to get the full picture.
Easily distracted, but still need your web windows up and available for research?
Instead of a minimalistic tool like OmmWriter, try Freedom, which allows you to block out your most distracting apps and websites while you work. You can even set schedules for when the sites are blocked.
StayFocused is another similar tool, though it is specific only to Chrome.
A cross-platform way to manage your to-dos, MLO lets you add tasks (including subtasks and even subtasks of those subtasks!), as well as assign a hierarchy to each one.
If something changes, the app’s easy drag-and-drop features make changing things up a breeze.
You can even set location-based reminders on your tasks, so if you head to the grocery store, MLO will send you a notification with your shopping list in it. It’s pretty intuitive and helpful. Remember the Milk and Todoist are other similar apps.
Need to keep track of more than just to-dos? Evernote may be a good fit.
While it does offer you an easy place to store projects and to-dos, Evernote also has some added features that can make managing your time even easier. Snap pictures, attach notes or add documents to your tasks, and thanks to the instant syncing capabilities, accessing those on your phone, computer or even tablet is easy and fast.
Nutcache is a good option if you need help keeping your projects on track.
It offers integrated project management, time tracking and invoicing and expensing tools that can help you streamline your day and your freelancing business as a whole.
It’s also great if you’re working on a team or hand-in-hand with a client; just add the other person to your board, and you can collaborate on work, share comments and exchange documents.
12. Focus Booster
A tool made just for freelancers, Focus Booster uses the Pomodoro Technique time-management method to break down your projects into intervals – a strategy proven to boost focus and productivity.
It tracks your time, enforces breaks and keeps you fresh and alert as you write, apply for jobs or whatever else you might be working on. It also has a visual dashboard that helps you spot problem areas so you can further boost productivity.
Ever feel like you spend half your time looking for files, opening documents or starting programs? With Launchy, that issue is a thing of the past.
Launchy lets you assign short keystrokes to specific programs, files, folders and web bookmarks so you can pull them up with just a few taps on the keyboard. Depending on your tasks at hand, it can shave hours off your day.
Have clients you work for often?
Preprogram textual shortcuts with TextExpander, an app that lets you assign shortened abbreviations with full sentences, paragraphs, images or CSS code. All you do is type in a few letters, and you could have a full blog template up in seconds.
15. Google Calendar
An old standard, Google Calendar provides a great way to organize your work, track deadlines and stay on track no matter what device you’re using. As a big bonus, it integrates easily with many other Google apps and features, and you can export calendar data to most project management tools and apps.
Try one of these tools!
Time management, for writers, is paramount. It plays a huge role in your overall productivity, your client satisfaction and, most importantly, the money you make. If you’re having trouble staying focused, keeping track of to-dos or just using your time wisely, use these tools to your advantage.
Have more to add to the list? Share them in the comments!