Time Management Strategies for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs

How can you get everything done in a one-person business? When you look at corporations with separate departments for research and development, marketing, human resources, accounting, and more, it’s hard to imagine that a freelancer could possibly fill all those functions alone. If you focus on ROI (return on investment) and implement a few time management strategies, though, it can be done.

Consider ROI

Do the most important tasks first.The reality of a one-person business is that it can be messy—  interruptions happen. If you have a time management plan and a few strategies in place, crises and interruptions won’t derail your productivity.

Take time to think through which of your activities gives you the highest ROI. From which business activity do you earn the most? Is it

  • writing a new book?
  • teaching a workshop?
  • ghostwriting a full-length book for someone else?
  • working on your blog so that you can connect with your audience?
  • editing a manuscript?

When you know which activities are most profitable, you can plan your time so that your most productive working hours are spent on those tasks, and other tasks are relegated to less productive times of day. 

The 80/20 principle

For most people, 20% of what you do in your business produces about 80% of your income (Pareto principle). It’s hard to stay focused on the profitable 20%, because the other 80% — bill paying, shipping, customer service, filing, and other administrative tasks — clamors for attention, and must be done. Don’t waste your creative hours on these tasks; they are perfect for the afternoon slump when your focus is least sharp. 

Divide and conquer

Once you know what your highest ROI category is, and you’ve listed the tasks that contribute to the most profitable 20% of your business, create a weekly time outline that puts the most important activities first.  

My personal system for getting things done could be described as a divide and conquer method of management. Here’s how:

  1. Divide tasks by category
  2. Prioritize based on profitability
  3. Do the most important things first
  4. Outsource things that are not directly income producing.

You can find a brief, informal overview of the system at my Do What Matters, Make it Pay blog. The post is a response to a fellow writer’s question, so doesn’t cover everything, but is a start. You can find it at How to Get it all Done in a One-Person Business

Do you have any tips for time management that you’d like to add? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Originally posted Feb 23, 2012; updated 2017.

Best Resources for Writers, Content Creators, and Digital Publishers

books-dtfree_122041-©DanielGilbey -smIf you write, and you’re considering the new frontier of digital publishing / e-publishing, here are links to resources that will help you learn how to publish in Kindle, DPS, ePub, iBook, and other formats. There are even a few tips on how to market what you publish.

Hubspot: Lots of free information and tools such as the Marketing Grader (try this– every website needs it!). This will help you with search engine optimization.

Google Analytics provides hyper-detailed statistics on your website, its visitors and sources, as well as the keywords used to search for it. This is an essential tool if you want to improve your search engine ranking.

Google Keyword Tool can be used to search for keywords related to your site. Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch used it to decide on the subtitle for their book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.

StatSheep offers detailed YouTube statistics. Since YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine after Google, it makes sense for your brand to be there.

Adobe Creative Cloud: No matter what size publisher you are, you need this. For a relatively modest monthly subscription, Creative Cloud provides you with access to all the wonderful tools in Adobe Creative Suite, including InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Muse, Digital Publishing Suite, and Acrobat.

Richard Harrington Blog: A lot of good technical information about digital publishing, including useful downloadables under the Resources tab.

Colin Fleming: Watch instructional videos from the InDesign Evangelist for Adobe.

Terry White: Instructional videos on design and software from Adobe TV.

Subcompact Publishing is a lengthy, thought-provoking article by writer, designer, and publisher Craig Mod that takes a past/present/future look at the disruptive role of digital publishing.

Kindle Direct Publishing: Kindle is the biggest market for e-books, and here is where you’ll start your publication journey.

Apple iBook Author: Learn how to create iBooks with the free iBook Author app from Apple.

Apple iTunes Connect: Here is where you sign up for the iOS Developer program so you can submit apps to the app store.

Z-Mags: Create interactive magazines, catalogs, or magalogs.

Clickbank is a good option for PDF e-book sales (I have used it for years). CB makes it easy to set up products, securely accept payment, and even become an affiliate for other people’s products.

e-Junkie is a similar shopping cart service that works for both digital and tangible products.

From InDesign to Adobe DPS – Tips for Planning Your First Publication Tablet App

Adobe Step-by-Step Guide to Publishing iPad Apps with DPS – The single most essential guide you need for creating apps. It’s a free PDF download.

Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) Tips app is free from the App Store.

Kuler will help you choose beautiful color schemes for your website, blog, book, or app. There is similar site, Kuler.com, that is currently under reconstruction but also provides good information about the use of color.

Marketer’s Guide to Facebook Timeline and other marketing instruction from Jack Morton International, a global brand experience firm, on Slideshare.

HootSuite Pro - try social media dashboardHootSuite Social Media Management saves me hours each month as I keep up with various social media sites and postings. The HootSuite dashboard makes it easy to see many feeds in one place and to pre-schedule tweets and updates to go out when you need them too. I use the Pro version and find it worth it, but you can definitely start with the free standard version.

Gravatar is where you need to go to create an online avatar (the little photo that shows up when you comment on a blog post– I’m sure you’ve seen them in NAIWE Member Activity Feed). It’s free and simple to sign up and post the photo you want to use.

SoundCloud is a network somewhat like GoodReads, but for audio products. It allows you to store and share your audio files, and offers social features such as following, a personalized sound stream, and more.

United States Copyright Office: Everything you need to know about copyrights and how to register them.

Get more from your software with Lynda.com.Lynda.com offers short, clear training videos for all kinds of software. There’s a subscription option, but there are also many free videos.

Creative Cow is an online community with helpful podcasts (some by Richard Harrington), tutorials, videos, and more.

International Association of Electronic Publishers (IAEPUB) is a new association dedicated to cutting-edge digital publishing technology. If you want to learn from creatively geeky types, this is a good place to be.

TAP2013 Website: There will be more TAP events, and this is where to keep up with them.

Photos and tweets from TAP2013 are hosted on Eventifier, an interesting service I discovered at TAP. Be sure to notice the nicely sketch-illustrated notes from one attendee.

Align: An online publication from Bates Creative This company is on the creative edge of digital publishing, as can be seen in magazine apps they’ve created for Heifer International’s World Ark (you’ve got to see that one) and the Marines. Their blog offers good tips, and the two apps linked here give you a sense of what is possible with digital publishing.

This list of links is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a start. I hope you enjoy exploring these new publishing frontiers!

How to Open a New Book

Long ago, books were regarded as treasures and cared for with a measure of respect. This nostalgic excerpt details the way my grandmother taught me how to open a new book without breaking the spine. A hardcover book opened in this way is easy to hold and pleasant to read.

Writing Advice from Ray Bradbury

Author Ray Bradbury has done it all– novels, non-fiction, short stories, and more. In “Telling the Truth,” the 2001 keynote address at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, he shares frank, practical writing advice. He’s laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally profane, but his advice is profound and well worth absorbing.

Here is a quick outline of a few primary points. Don’t miss his talk, though. It’s peppered with wonderful anecdotes, interesting people, good humor, and vivid language.

  1. Write short stories, not novels, first.
  2. You may love another author, but you can’t be them.
  3. Study high-quality short stories by classic authors (he provides specific recommendations).
  4. Stuff your head with good stuff.
  5. Fire the friends who don’t support you.
  6. Live in the library, not in front of a screen. He “graduated from the library.”
  7. Fall in love with old movies.
  8. Do what you do with love, and write with joy. If writing starts feeling like work, scrap it and start something else.
  9. Don’t focus on making money, but on writing. The story of his trip to New York City and the sale of his first two books is inspiring.
  10. You can deal with the ten things you love, hate, fear, or almost remember by writing them into stories.
  11. Surprise yourself. Type what comes into your head–intuition and word association can spark many ideas. You don’t know what is in you until you test it. Bradbury said his first film wasn’t good, but it was a beginning.
  12. You write for readers. What you’re writing for, even if you don’t know it, is for at least one person to love what you do. And you must love it too.

I love his opinionated commentary about short story writers, perhaps because he shares my taste for classic authors, metaphors, and stories that go somewhere.

If you've never read anything by Ray Bradbury, my pick for "must read" is Fahrenheit 451.

My favorite tip is to “stuff your head with good stuff.” He suggests that if you read one short story, one good, classic poem, and one essay before bedtime for the next one thousand nights, you’ll have a wealth of material to work with. I’ve been teaching for years that “input must come before output,” and Bradbury offers concrete examples of how to make it happen.

Bradbury’s joy in reading and writing are contagious, and mental snapshots of dandelions, King Kong, Bill Gates (“I don’t do Windows”), an enthusiastic barber, a destroyed face, and Gene Kelly are vivid reminders of his gift. This video is part of the University of California Television (UCTV) series.

Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries . . . I went to the library three days a week for 10 years. (Ray Bradbury)

You Need a Business Website–Really

People aren't looking for you in a phone booth any more; the internet is where they're browsing! No matter what kind of writer or editor you are, or what kind of business you’re in, you need a business website. And no matter what your budget or skill level, you can create a simple business website. Even if you’re in a very traditional market niche, potential clients like having the ability to look online to learn more about you.

The easiest kind of site to put up is a blog-based site that you can edit with the ease of writing an e-mail. If you’re a member of NAIWE, you already have this kind of site– it’s what I’m writing on now. The NAIWE sites all feature the same professional design with an internet address (URL) of yourname.naiwe.com. They serve not only as a business website, but also as evidence that you belong to a relevant professional association.

There are other simple blog-based sites available, some of them totally free. These include Blogger.com, WordPress.com. Weebly.com and others. These allow you the same point and click ease of the NAIWE sites, but most have long URLs such as yourblogname.blogspot.com, which is dead giveaway that you’re using a free public space for your site.

Having a free web address isn’t entirely professional, but if it’s all you can do at the moment, at least purchase your business name as a URL and forward it to your free blog (you can do this with your NAIWE blog as well). You can read about how to purchase your domain at my Do What Matters, Make it Pay blog. When you’ve purchased the domain name, just go into GoDaddy’s Domain Manager (if that’s where you purchased the domain) and click on “Forwarding.” Fill in the address of the page you want your domain name to open; click “Save,” and you’re done.

Now www.BusinessName.com will point directly to your free website, and it will be the only address you’ll need to put on your business cards. That way, when you’re able to move into a new site on your own domain, you won’t have to change cards, and you can just stop the forwarding by canceling it your domain manager.

After you move to your own domain, use the old free domain as a pointer site to your primary site. Copy excerpts from each of your new blog posts with “Read more . . . ” links attached so that your old free blog site can continue driving traffic to your new site.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, it helps to have the basics in place. Enjoy!