I’m a freelance creative. Here’s how I sketch out my time management matrix.

I’m a freelance creative. Here’s how I sketch out my time management matrix.

In my occupation as an illustrator who has been printed by The New York Situations, Penguin Guides, Buzzfeed, and additional, I have to harmony freelance gigs with educating and other obligations — and I have located building a time administration matrix that displays my individual priorities as an artist to be important.

My plan is not gridded out into even 9-5 days, and the amount of money of perform is uneven. Careers are likely to ebb and movement — just about every assignment owing all at once, and then absolutely nothing at all. When you’re dealing with a glut of assignments to juggle, it can be quick to fail to remember what your ultimate goals are.

I’ve experienced to acquire time management methods more than the course of my occupation to make guaranteed all the get the job done I just take on is concluded on time and at the specialist level clients be expecting when they hire me — and that it matches what I want to be completed, way too.

If you have listened to of Covey’s Four Quadrants of Time Management Matrix, this is the version for creatives. Underneath is a list of crucial spots where by I’ve learned how to juggle my time and assignments centered on how crucial the career is, how substantially it pays, and how considerably other perform I currently have on my plate. And keep in mind: Be confident to acquire time for relaxation.

Pinpointing what is essential in the time management matrix

Cribbed from “The 7 Behaviors of Remarkably Effective People today,” Stephen Covey’s time administration matrix seeks to enable organize your priorities by dividing function routines into 4 quadrants. He divides specialist obligations into what’s crucial and what is urgent. Essential things to do help accomplish your particular and experienced priorities, even though urgent pursuits are the form of trousers-on-fire deadlines you come upon when you’re a freelancer operating on anyone else’s schedule. (Find out a lot more about Covey’s time administration matrix and discover sample time management templates here.)

For creatives, my prime tips is this: Usually prioritize your very own work. Regardless of what you prioritize will in a natural way be the factor that can take up most of your time and gets the most essential issue you are accomplishing. So make sure you are concentrating your time and electricity on the point that you want to be the centre of your daily life.

There will often be anything ready to try to eat up all of your time if you enable it. The work you need to do might be the issue that pays the expenses — for instance, coming up with layouts for grocery suppliers coupon flyers — when you WANT to be principle and character designing for Cartoon Community. It does you no fantastic to be a perfectionist on one thing you do not love when it requires time absent from the activity that may perhaps not pay out what you want now but will direct you to the foreseeable future occupation you hope to have and be known for. Never choose a career that you have to be excellent at unless of course it is the a person you enjoy.  

time management matrix
As a resourceful, whichever you invest the most time on becomes the center of your everyday living. That is why your time administration matrix should really prioritize your individual work


The two methods of examining value in a perform is to identify its monetary worth or its personal price. Monetary worth is easy. Are you getting paid a lot or even ample? Individual benefit is tough. I believe that that, for the most aspect, heading into artwork for the cash is an unfulfilling endeavor and, a bit like enjoying the lottery, not at all a protected guess. There are considerably less difficult ways to make funds and get loaded. Likely into art as a occupation for individual success is far more reasonable. So evaluating the great importance of a career primarily based on own ambitions is a smarter solution than focusing purely on financial get.

If all the get the job done you do is purely for financial acquire, the possible benefit of your function could really lessen more than time. Your perform may conclusion up extremely inconsistent you will constantly be producing work centered on other people’s views, aesthetics, and dreams, and you will seldom, if at any time, be in a placement to be the creator of your have tips.

You need to have to make dollars to survive, but you want to build a recognizable and personalized human body of operate that draws in customers based mostly on YOUR private vision and aesthetic. This is where by free operate is handy, possibly self-created do the job or do the job for other people. Some illustrations would be a new publication with astounding content and fantastic structure, but no budget approaches you or a band you truly like. Is it wrong for them to check with you to work for no cost? I really don’t assume so.

It is also good to notify these people no. But if you say sure, only do so if you truly feel like you are in control of the assignment. If the pay out is modest or non-existent, the payment need to be you showcasing new perform in the best probable light-weight. It is a problem where by you need to feel entirely comfortable using entire manage.

If the shopper doesn’t have a spending plan, they really do not get to tell you how to do your job. You should be ready to make a piece that reveals off your expertise, a venture that you can switch into your aspiration job, and a thing you can very easily use to promote by yourself. It ought to be operate that you can use to get much more work.

Under no circumstances need to you do perform for free of charge for any consumer, other than your dad and mom or siblings, which you are unsatisfied with or are not in finish handle of. And if you come across that you’ve completed a venture for free, and the shopper starts to question for changes, stroll absent from the job.

Any probable client that presents get the job done for totally free mechanically relinquishes any remaining say or appropriate to revisions. (There are a few of crucial exceptions, such as not-for-gain or charitable consumers wherever the get the job done would be for a good lead to you guidance.) So do not be afraid to say sure to free of charge work as extensive as it’s a project you can get energized about and make extraordinary function for, do the job that you are in command of, and that developments you to a personalized profession goal.

Established limitations with the total of freelance perform you acquire on

The most critical way to control your time is to not just take on a lot more function than you can deal with. As a freelancer, especially a freelancer that is just setting up out, the inclination is to want to say sure to anything, but this can lead to a bottleneck of perform. There will appear a time when you inevitably have to turn down assignments, both owing to a complete workload, travel or disease, or any amount of other difficulties.

How do you make your mind up what work to prioritize? you have to determine which do the job is the most important to you, the most precious in phrases of cash, or the most worthwhile to your occupation in other phrases, does the do the job obtain or progress any individual aims of yours?

Using operate for income is practical, but if it is not artwork you will demonstrate any individual, or that you are not proud of, or will not get you more of the sort of function you want, it may not be beneficial. Perfectly-having to pay operate that you are not very pleased of only serves brief-phrase ambitions, not prolonged-phrase types.

If you have to turn operate down, inquire on your own what your most significant goals are, and assess the value of the do the job from most to minimum vital. Really do not be fearful to convert down the lesser significant employment. When you are a freelancer, you normally face the stress that each individual occupation is your likely very last job and that turning something down is terrible for your occupation and name.

But I have uncovered to glimpse at it another way: burning time on careers that are not relocating you forward can be extra detrimental by shifting your vitality and focus away from your aims. If you are in a predicament in which enough men and women are making contact with you about do the job, you can flip down employment periodically and not have to be concerned that operate will disappear.

This assistance is not meant to overlook possessing to operate to support yourself. If you are just setting up out and not thoroughly supporting on your own as an artist, it is critical to imagine of a part-time job or any function that is performed purely for profits but in any other case not section of your career as anything that ought to be significantly less demanding and less crucial. This could imply quickly dwelling with a lot less for a time period of time, obtaining roommates, not feeding on out, and many others.

When I initially started out, soon after my undergraduate scientific studies, I experienced to get a job earning pizzas to pay back hire. I also labored as an artist’s assistant to acquire working experience in my field, and the relaxation of my time was dedicated to generating my personal work. My workdays clocked in at about 12-16 several hours. This was an exhausting equilibrium to maintain, and in some cases it meant likely a week or a lot more without producing any of my possess artwork.

A side outcome of the fluctuations in freelance — the basic feast-to-famine cycle — is that other much less essential but continue to significant issues get pushed apart. Marketing, social media and web site maintenance, invoices and taxes, and every day healthy patterns like training, buying groceries, and cleansing, are all put off, together with private passion initiatives, and your very own perform may perhaps get sidelined.

It is inevitable that selected factors will get neglected the risk is shedding contact with or concentrating on individuals peripheral points. To continue to be focused, maintain a checklist of responsibilities to emphasis on in the course of downtime. It is quick to drop concentration or not know how to change target from expert operate to particular responsibilities. Not knowing in which to get started on a day off is a typical trouble.

Holding lists seems like a easy issue, but it’s crucial for staying concentrated. After you have free time, glimpse at your checklist of responsibilities.

Make creative conclusions based on the time you have

time management matrix
As a freelance inventive, you should really develop a style that allows you to complete paid out function on a deadline.


In my time management matrix, I’ve experienced to make decisions about my style that replicate how prolonged I have to complete the function — indicating what I have time for frequently determines stylistic and product choices. I’ve realized to make fast drawings that are striking to accommodate quick deadlines. I would under no circumstances test to do a painting for an assignment that I only have a day to entire.

For the reason that several of my dealings are small, I have realized to work effectively in uncomplicated lines and minimum coloration instead than very rendered drawings and paintings. It’s also just as very likely that I get extra work with short deadlines simply because art administrators understand that I have a style that is hugely efficient and bold due to its deadline-oriented nature.

Budgeting time for unique assignments is significant. How do you know how prolonged an assignment will consider? How do you know what system to use to get a piece completed on time?

There is no fantastic remedy to this the only alternative is expertise. It’s significant to acquire an creative observe that does not guide to overwork. It is also not a very good plan to experiment with new concepts on a small deadline. Recognizing your system is vital in currently being able to gauge how to make great operate on a short deadline.

Some deadlines can be as short as a handful of hours. In instances like this, the principle and model for the art have to suit the timeline, your artwork is a product or service of the limitation of the deadline. It’s not reasonable to believe in phrases of earning the ideal graphic or dwelling on how the do the job could have been greater as soon as you’ve turned it in. It’s more effective to consider an technique that allows the work to be as excellent as achievable in the timeline.

About the many years, I have personalized my procedure to in good shape in the kind of deadlines I get. Areas of my course of action I have lose in excess of the yrs that get up much too considerably unneeded time. My lifework became much less fussy and a lot more to the point, my shade grew to become simpler and bolder, and I produced a responsible palette that I can return to with no substantially deliberation or 2nd-guessing. If you discover that your workflow sales opportunities to consistent all-nighters, you may possibly look at applying improvements in your artmaking tactic.

Look at out for pink flags that can guide to overwork

            Environment limitations on a job at the incredibly beginning is critical. A task that would seem simple can easily get mired in revisions. Beware of artwork directors who never give obvious guidelines on what they are on the lookout for. “Approach this challenge nonetheless you want” or “we want to see your interpretation of this” can sound enjoyment, but in actuality, they are warning indicators.

It ordinarily indicates the shopper doesn’t know what they want and would like you to make a thing as a starting stage for the client to explore all of the matters they never want. Or it suggests that the consumer thinks you can go through their head and see the photographs in their head while lacking the techniques in language to tell you what they want evidently.

In any scenario, this can lead to limitless and frustrating revisions. So it is very critical to condition at the beginning how a lot of rounds of revisions on sketches and revisions on finals you are keen to do just before the finances has to improve to accommodate the excess function. If you condition this at the starting, the client’s direction generally will become a great deal clearer.

Often you really do not believe to make these stipulations up entrance, which is Alright. If you make it to the second spherical of revisions on possibly sketch or final, and you really do not come to feel like the funds, or your schedule, accounts for this, then it’s Alright to tell the client that right after this spherical of revisions, the finances desires to be increased to accommodate far more revisions.

It is not practical for you or your consumer to be a perfectionist with each individual position. In some cases excellent is excellent enough when time and funds are confined, and you do not owe any consumer a masterpiece except they are spending you masterpiece charges.

 Don’t neglect the significance of rest

When I was in faculty and as a young expert just commencing out, overworking and all-nighters were being glamorized and considered a badge of honor. In truth, overworking, all-nighters, and in general, pushing oneself to extremes and exhaustion is unhealthy and normally unproductive (even though often unavoidable).

The real truth is you make much better decisions — and much better artwork — when you are effectively-fed and properly-rested. If you completely must do the job all evening, be certain to consume and stay hydrated usually, your mind will shut down ahead of you want it to. It’s fantastic to keep in mind having and ingesting water, specially ingesting drinking water, are far much more powerful strategies of being up longer than just ingesting coffee.

A person exceptionally critical matter I’ve learned about the many years in freelance is to not overlook to acquire breaks or devalue my own time. Learning to just take rest into account is straightforward to neglect but essential to take into account. As a freelancer, you nonetheless have earned a private life and no cost time, so often account for that.

What time administration strategies do you use in your creative lifetime? Enable us know in the comments.