There are excellent prospects to be had in the gig economy, especially for those who hate the daily grind of a traditional 9-to-5.  If you’re fed up with the long commutes, hours confined in an office cubicle, and many missed opportunities to spend time with family or on hobbies, a freelance job search in the Philippines may be the gateway to what you seek: flexible hours, work-life balance, and full control over your career. You can choose to take on multiple clients, exercise more than one skill set, and work from the convenience of your home office or a coffee shop. Likely all you will need is your laptop, a power source, and an Internet connection!

Those who are new to freelancing may be enamored with the prospect of having all this free time on their hands. But one big mistake many freelancers are prone to making is mismanaging their time. Without proper time management skills, an independent contractor may fall into the traps of procrastinating, missing crucial deadlines, or experiencing fatigue and burnout.

What can a freelancer like you do to strike balance between your freedom and your need for structure? To answer that question, here are six valuable tips on time management, keeping a reasonable workload, and upholding the value of discipline in your freelancing life. 

  1. Determine a schedule for yourself. Even though they are no longer bound by rigid time and attendance constraints, most freelancers still opt to work around a schedule. You can do the same by designating work hours for yourself—be it from 9:00 to 5:00, 10:00 to 6:00, or even 12:00 to 8:00—and committing to be productive during that time. If your new freelance job as a virtual assistant or data entry specialist requires that you log certain hours, you can bring up the possibility of using time-tracking software with your client. Whichever schedule arrangement you choose, it’ll help you accustom yourself to developing a productive routine.

  2. Make timetables for separate projects. Timetables are especially valuable if you’re working with more than one client, or are juggling multiple projects with different types of output. Plot your deadlines on a calendar app like Google Calendar, on a free project management program like Trello, or with a simple manual setup like one that uses a corkboard and sticky notes. This will help you organize your workflow, as well as avoid missing important deadlines.

  3. Take note of bad habits and distractions that curb your productivity. Now that you’re working on flexible hours, do you find yourself spending a little more time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit? Are you tempted to lie down in bed and watch YouTube videos or play mobile games? It’s true that you are free to do all of these things at home, and it may feel good that no one is policing you. But that is all the more reason to be aware of how you spend your time during the workday. It will do a lot of good to your productivity if you single out your distractions, then slowly minimize your engagements with them during your work hours.

  4. Try a new productivity “hack” for yourself. A freelance work setup may be the perfect chance to learn something new—namely, methods that other freelancers use to get their work done. For starters, research on the Pomodoro technique, a time management strategy that involves working non-stop in 25-minute intervals and then taking 5-minute breaks in between. Such methods can inspire you to think out of the box, experiment, and discover how much work you’re capable of doing in a single hour.

  5. Allot free time for yourself. Even if being a freelancer means that you can technically work anytime, it’s wise to know when to turn the switch off. Don’t set yourself up for a 24/7 workday; make sure that you have enough wiggle room in your schedule to eat meals, stretch, and take power naps. Moreover, be sure to decompress from freelance work when it’s time to log out. It would also be healthy to take Saturdays and Sundays off, so that you’d have the same weekend break that you would in a regular office job.

  6. Never bite off more than you can chew. Alas, the greatest threat to a freelancer’s time is an overload of work. You might have entered the gig economy with the intention of handling multiple projects, thinking that this is the only way to get a profit—but nothing gets in the way of quality work than spreading oneself too thin. Find out what your threshold is before you get too exhausted or burnt out, and learn to say no to a new project if it will eat up too much time from your current ones.

There are many obvious perks to freelancing that you wouldn’t find in a traditional job, one of which is flexible time. But in terms of building discipline, structure, and routine, a freelance gig and a 9-to-5 arrangement may not be all that different. Regardless of where you’re stationed and what your hours are, working hard and working smart still prove to be the best policy!