5 Do’s and Don’ts for the Freelancer’s Online Calendar

A major part of working freelance is using your time productively and efficiently. You might schedule your time as blocks of each day, or as random periods of time at any hour of the day or night.

Regardless of our individual working patterns, all freelancers keep some sort of calendar, to-do, or scribble list. (If you don’t have some sort of calendar, you should start one today. )

In this post, I’ll explain why an online calendar is better. I’ll also give you five tips for getting the most from your online calendar.

Some Advantages of Using an Online Calendar

Paper calendars are fine, but have many limitations. Writing something down is a proven method to help remember it later. However, an online calendar allows you to access your schedule anywhere thanks to the expanding availability of cellular and Wi-Fi connections. With the ability to synchronize calendars and to-do lists with smart phones or portable tablets, you can stay on task even when you’re offsite or offline.

You don’t have to worry about accidentally leaving a planner behind at the house or office only to have that embarrassing moment of having to tell a client that you won’t know until you get to check your schedule. If your penmanship is not going to win any awards, online calendars can save you time and eliminate the frustration of trying to interpret your own handwriting and wondering what you were trying to remind yourself to do or schedule.

5 Ways to Get the Most from Your Online Calendar

Below is a list of five simple tips to help you get the most out of using an online calendar.

  1. Keep your “home” and “work” events separate. Keep your ‘home’ and ‘work’ events separate. Most online calendars allow you to separate them by color or category. This is vital. Being able to visually differentiate between what events are taking place helps you prioritize your time and commitments. Some day’s projects and meetings go later into the evening. On other days an important home event happens to come in the middle of the workday. Neglecting any of these can hurt your reputation with clients or your impact your social engagements.
  2. Use your calendar for appointments, not as a to-do list. Your calendar is not a to-do list. It is very easy to add events that are not time specific such as ‘call client about payment,’ ‘finish logo design,’ etc. Unless it is a specific event that is actually taking place like a meeting or a time set aside for an explicit project, then use a to-do list. Use Google, TeuxDeux, or even a pen and paper. Clutter on your calendar can be stressful and overwhelming and can result in confusion or procrastination. With a clearer view of your unscheduled time you can focus your attention on your pending to-do list. Using a dedicated to-do list gives you the ability to arrange, cross off, or prioritize the tasks and projects that need your immediate attention.
  3. Choose the right layout or view. Use the calendar view that best accommodates your work pattern. This can make or break your experience with an online calendar. The majority of online calendars allow the choice of a day, week, month and list view. Week view is a great choice, allowing you to see ahead just enough without being overwhelmed by month view.
  4. Synchronize across multiple platforms for improved access and security. Synchronization between each of your platforms keeps you up-to-date at all times (i.e., cell phone, browser, tablets, and desktop applications). Any changes made on one device can sync to the others. If your computer is a desktop, you clearly can’t bring it with you to that meeting. Your portable devices can help to ensure that you have a complete and current copy of your calendar and schedule with you at all times.
  5. Create a client-access view for enhanced project communications. The ability to have a client calendar helps you to separate a specific project visually from your other commitments. With many online calendars you can also share a calendar link with others allowing them to see the schedule and progress on a project. Clients enjoy staying informed and feeling like they have an active role in a project. Calendars and project dashboards give them a way to see, but not edit, your project schedule and management activities. Keeping a client happy and motivated is always a wise decision.

Your Turn

What tips, comments and advice do you have for getting the most from your calendar?


  1. Tim Parkin says

    Great advice! I’m guilty of sometimes using my calendar as a to-do list. Week view layout is definitely the best; it allows me to focus on the relevant timeframe at a glance.

  2. says

    I sometimes see people “even flowing” their schedule and I think this can be a mistake for some freelancers…especially part-timers.

    If you have more time on the weekends or “early days off” from the 9-5 then use it. I write sparsely during the week because of the real job (Army) so I might get in an hour to three every night. But on the weekends…I’m a machine!

  3. says

    For those people who like to view their calendars in month view, my favorite calendar program for the Mac surprisingly isn’t iCal (which comes for free with the Mac), but actually the excellent calendar program BusyCal. Why BusyCal? It provides hundreds of features that iCal doesn’t have, but most importantly it provides an optional SCROLLING WEEK VIEW on the monthly calendar! What this means is that it always keeps the CURRENT WEEK at the top of the monthly calendar, so you can always see exactly 4 weeks ahead, and your current commitments are always right at the top. It’s really amazing and so handy.

  4. says

    I like the idea of sharing the calender with a client so they know the progress on their project or when the project will be worked on.

    What applications allow you to do this? Ideally I’d like to actually put a schedule right on my website where clients could go to see my openings/bookings so they’d know how long of a wait they have.

  5. says

    ical is a great cal for events but never that good to categories an event/customer. I struggle to overflow any relevant information from one event to the next. any suggestion will be greatly appreciated.

  6. says

    Shannon – Google calendar allows you to share it with who you’d like. They also just added the ability to set up a block of time to allow public appointments someone can sign up for your time in a set block.

    Richard – what do you mean “overflow”?

  7. says

    I use a free project management software called Freedcamp for my projects. I’ve played about with Google Calendar but i’ve never really found it useful.

  8. says

    Thanks Brent – I`ll definitely look into their calendar then. I have just been using excel for my own personal uses as I find it works best for me but obviously there`s no way to share that with others.

  9. Ajay kedare says

    A very useful tips for being productivity and control procrastination suffered by most of the self employed kind… Keep up the good work

  10. says

    OK, I DON’T use an online calendar, in the conventional sense. I use Outlook and PlanPlus on my desktop and laptop (they are continually synchronized), which is synchronized further with my smartphone, my two key lieutenants, and my family. Items NOT in the purview of my lieutenants and family appear as “blocks”, so they know I am engaged elsewhere (so if they call or need me, they know why I may not instantly respond). [Pure block diagrams appear on the corporate website, so that others may request discussions, meetings (with or without others, with clients, etc.) with relative ease.
    One of the big errors I have done in the past (and continually re-enter that rabbit hole) is my tendency to list “ToDo”s on the calendar. You are right- this is a terrible practice; one I need to eradicate from my repertoire.
    Thanks for your post.


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