How Much Time Should I Devote to Freelancing?

Laura Spencer

Well-known member
Probably one of the questions that I get asked most often is “How much time will I need to spend on my freelancing business to succeed?”

The answer is…it depends.

I know freelancers who spend far more time on their freelancing business than any employer would ask of an employee. I also know freelancers who earn a good living working part-time hours.

In this post, we’ll discuss the amount of time that freelancing actually takes. At the end, I’d love to hear your feedback on the topic. Let us know how much time you spend on your freelancing business.

Unexpected Tasks​

Many freelancers have unrealistic expectations when they start freelancing. Some expect to be able to earn money with little or no effort on their part.

Most, however, do expect to do some work. It’s just that most freelancers don’t realize all of the work it takes to run a successful freelancing business.

Here are some of the unexpected freelancing tasks that take new freelancers by surprise:
  • Accounting–As a freelancer, recordkeeping is important. You need to keep an accurate of all your business transactions. That means records of all income coming in and all business expenses going out. Most freelancers must also file a quarterly income tax return. Don’t forget that you’re now responsible for invoicing clients and for collections.
  • Blogging–Nearly all freelancers maintain a business blog. While a business blog can be a great source of new clients, running a good business blog can be a lot of work. Posts need to be written. Software needs to be updated. Comments need to be moderated. Remember, your business blog isn’t really helping your business if it’s not updated regularly with quality content.
  • Learning–As a freelancer it’s up to you to keep your marketable skills up to date. For most of us, this means taking additional classes–either online or in person. To get the most from your classes, allow yourself adequate time for learning. You’ll also want to follow relevant blogs and magazines in your field.
  • Marketing–Freelancers spend a lot of time getting their freelance business message out and looking for new projects. Networking and relationship building doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve heard some freelancers estimate that they spend nearly half of their time on marketing and looking for work. Don’t underestimate the importance of these tasks.
Of course, some freelancers do earn a full time living while working less than full time at freelancing. One key to this is working smart.

Work Smart​

As a freelancer, you could easily find yourself working long hours. The truth is that while you may finish a project, you’re never really “done” with work when you’re a freelancer. There’s always something else that you could be doing.

If you’re working smart, though, you’ll be spending time on the things that really matter. Things that:
  • Bring in income
  • Increase your skills
  • Make work easier for you in the end
Most freelancers that I know have two lists. A must-do list and a would-be-nice-to-do list.

Also, be sure to avoid reinventing things. For example, you wouldn’t send a completely different invoice out every time you billed a client. Instead, create a standard invoice template and customize it with the details for each specific project when you send out a bill for your services.

But even if you’re working smart, you might still wind up working more than you did when you were an employee.

Beware of Overcommitment​

Freelancers sometimes overcommit themselves and wind up working more than would if they were working in a traditional job.

This happens for two reasons:
  1. The freelancer is nervous about getting enough work.
  2. The freelancer seriously underestimates the amount of effort a particular project takes.
I’ve made both mistakes in the past, and believe me it’s no fun being over committed.

You can avoid taking on too much work if you are careful during the negotiation phase of a project. Often a deadline can be pushed back so that you can work comfortably on another project. You just need to ask. You should also make sure that your understanding of the scope is accurate. Get the client to be as specific as possible.

Your Turn​

How much time do you need to spend on your freelancing business to succeed?

The answer is different for everyone. But if you follow some of the tactics described above you can earn a good living and avoid overworking yourself.

Have you found that freelancing requires more, or less, of your time? Why do you think that is so?