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

In my job as an illustrator who has been revealed by The New York Times, Penguin Books, Buzzfeed, and a lot more, I have to equilibrium freelance gigs with educating and other obligations — and I’ve identified acquiring a time management matrix that reflects my personalized priorities as an artist to be critical.

My plan isn’t gridded out into even 9-5 days, and the quantity of do the job is uneven. Careers are inclined to ebb and movement — each and every assignment because of all at as soon as, and then very little at all. When you are working with a glut of projects to juggle, it can be simple to forget what your supreme ambitions are.

I’ve had to establish time management methods around the program of my occupation to make absolutely sure all the operate I consider on is finished on time and at the qualified level consumers hope when they seek the services of me — and that it matches what I want to be achieved, also.

If you have read of Covey’s 4 Quadrants of Time Administration Matrix, this is the model for creatives. Underneath is a checklist of key regions where by I’ve uncovered how to juggle my time and assignments centered on how critical the job is, how significantly it pays, and how significantly other operate I presently have on my plate. And bear in mind: Be certain to just take time for rest.

Identifying what’s vital in the time management matrix

Cribbed from “The 7 Routines of Very Productive Men and women,” Stephen Covey’s time management matrix seeks to help manage your priorities by dividing get the job done things to do into four quadrants. He divides skilled obligations into what is critical and what is urgent. Significant functions support obtain your individual and experienced priorities, even though urgent routines are the sort of trousers-on-fire deadlines you come across when you are a freelancer working on a person else’s schedule. (Discover a lot more about Covey’s time management matrix and find sample time management templates below.)

For creatives, my leading guidance is this: Generally prioritize your have do the job. No matter what you prioritize will the natural way be the matter that usually takes up most of your time and will become the most essential thing you are doing. So make positive you are concentrating your time and energy on the thing that you want to be the middle of your life.

There will usually be a thing waiting to take in up all of your time if you allow it. The perform you require to do could possibly be the factor that pays the expenditures — for instance, creating layouts for grocery suppliers coupon flyers — when you WANT to be concept and character designing for Cartoon Network. It does you no good to be a perfectionist on one thing you never adore when it will take time absent from the undertaking that might not pay what you want now but will guide you to the long term career you hope to have and be recognised for. Hardly ever choose a task that you have to be good at except it is the one you adore.  

time management matrix
As a imaginative, what ever you devote the most time on will become the middle of your life. That’s why your time administration matrix should prioritize your own do the job


The two ways of examining price in a get the job done is to determine its financial worth or its personal price. Monetary price is straightforward. Are you having paid out a lot or even enough? Private value is tough. I believe that, for the most aspect, heading into artwork for the income is an unfulfilling endeavor and, a little bit like enjoying the lottery, not at all a harmless guess. There are far much easier approaches to make funds and get abundant. Heading into art as a vocation for private fulfillment is extra sensible. So assessing the value of a work primarily based on particular plans is a smarter technique than concentrating purely on financial achieve.

If all the get the job done you do is purely for financial acquire, the potential price of your function may possibly really decrease more than time. Your operate could conclude up pretty inconsistent you will constantly be making get the job done dependent on other people’s views, aesthetics, and needs, and you will rarely, if ever, be in a placement to be the writer of your individual suggestions.

You need to make revenue to endure, but you want to establish a recognizable and personal overall body of work that appeals to consumers based mostly on YOUR particular eyesight and aesthetic. This is in which no cost do the job is practical, either self-created do the job or work for some others. Some illustrations would be a new publication with astounding articles and great style, but no spending budget approaches you or a band you seriously like. Is it wrong for them to request you to perform for no cost? I don’t think so.

It is also wonderful to notify these folks no. But if you say indeed, only do so if you really feel like you are in management of the assignment. If the fork out is little or non-existent, the payment should really be you showcasing new do the job in the greatest achievable light. It is a predicament exactly where you really should truly feel thoroughly relaxed having entire manage.

If the consumer doesn’t have a funds, they never get to convey to you how to do your career. You really should be able to make a piece that shows off your talent, a challenge that you can convert into your desire occupation, and one thing you can easily use to boost you. It must be get the job done that you can use to get much more operate.

Below no conditions must you do get the job done for absolutely free for any consumer, other than your mother and father or siblings, which you are unhappy with or are not in full command of. And if you uncover that you have accomplished a task for cost-free, and the client commences to talk to for variations, walk absent from the challenge.

Any likely customer that presents operate for cost-free mechanically relinquishes any remaining say or appropriate to revisions. (There are a pair of crucial exceptions, like not-for-revenue or charitable purchasers exactly where the work would be for a fantastic bring about you help.) So do not be fearful to say certainly to cost-free get the job done as lengthy as it is a job you can get psyched about and make exceptional work for, perform that you are in manage of, and that improvements you in direction of a personal career intention.

Established boundaries with the sum of freelance work you consider on

The most critical way to take care of your time is to not just take on additional get the job done than you can cope with. As a freelancer, in particular a freelancer that is just commencing out, the tendency is to want to say yes to everything, but this can direct to a bottleneck of perform. There will arrive a time when you inevitably have to flip down assignments, possibly because of to a full workload, journey or health issues, or any variety of other concerns.

How do you decide what function to prioritize? you have to come to a decision which do the job is the most important to you, the most useful in terms of money, or the most precious to your profession in other text, does the get the job done obtain or progress any individual plans of yours?

Taking operate for income is functional, but if it is not artwork you will present any individual, or that you are not happy of, or will not get you far more of the kind of do the job you want, it may possibly not be worthwhile. Nicely-spending work that you are not proud of only serves small-expression targets, not extended-expression ones.

If you have to flip operate down, request you what your most crucial ambitions are, and evaluate the worth of the perform from most to least crucial. Really do not be afraid to change down the lesser significant work. When you’re a freelancer, you often facial area the panic that every career is your possible final work and that turning anything at all down is bad for your career and status.

But I’ve learned to glimpse at it one more way: burning time on careers that aren’t moving you forward can be a lot more harmful by shifting your strength and concentrate away from your aims. If you are in a problem where more than enough men and women are getting in touch with you about work, you can convert down work opportunities periodically and not have to fret that get the job done will disappear.

This assistance is not meant to disregard having to work to assistance yourself. If you are just commencing out and not completely supporting by yourself as an artist, it is vital to assume of a element-time work or any operate that is done purely for profits but in any other case not section of your career as a little something that should be fewer demanding and significantly less crucial. This might necessarily mean briefly residing with much less for a interval of time, getting roommates, not feeding on out, and many others.

When I first started off out, after my undergraduate scientific tests, I had to get a career building pizzas to pay hire. I also worked as an artist’s assistant to gain expertise in my industry, and the relaxation of my time was dedicated to building my possess work. My workdays clocked in at about 12-16 hours. This was an exhausting stability to keep, and often it meant heading a week or a lot more without the need of making any of my personal artwork.

A side result of the fluctuations in freelance — the vintage feast-to-famine cycle — is that other considerably less crucial but nevertheless important matters get pushed apart. Promotion, social media and web site upkeep, invoices and taxes, and each day healthful behaviors like doing exercises, shopping for groceries, and cleaning, are all set off, alongside with private enthusiasm projects, and your very own operate may well get sidelined.

It’s unavoidable that selected things will get neglected the hazard is getting rid of touch with or focusing on all those peripheral points. To stay targeted, retain a checklist of tasks to concentration on for the duration of downtime. It is uncomplicated to lose concentrate or not know how to change aim from experienced do the job to individual duties. Not figuring out wherever to start off on a day off is a prevalent challenge.

Preserving lists appears to be like a simple issue, but it’s important for staying centered. The moment you have free time, search at your checklist of duties.

Make inventive conclusions primarily based on the time you have

time management matrix
As a freelance resourceful, you should produce a fashion that lets you to total paid operate on a deadline.


In my time administration matrix, I have had to make selections about my design and style that replicate how very long I have to total the perform — meaning what I have time for frequently establishes stylistic and product choices. I have learned to make speedy drawings that are placing to accommodate quick deadlines. I would never ever test to do a painting for an assignment that I only have a working day to total.

Because quite a few of my dealings are quick, I have realized to work efficiently in very simple traces and small colour fairly than very rendered drawings and paintings. It’s also just as most likely that I get more careers with brief deadlines because artwork directors identify that I have a model that is remarkably productive and daring owing to its deadline-oriented nature.

Budgeting time for specific projects is significant. How do you know how extended an assignment will consider? How do you know what procedure to use to get a piece carried out on time?

There is no best remedy to this the only remedy is practical experience. It’s essential to establish an creative practice that doesn’t lead to overwork. It’s also not a superior plan to experiment with new strategies on a brief deadline. Figuring out your procedure is vital in staying in a position to gauge how to make fantastic get the job done on a short deadline.

Some deadlines can be as small as a number of hours. In conditions like this, the strategy and design and style for the art have to match the timeline, your artwork is a product or service of the limitation of the deadline. It’s not sensible to feel in terms of generating the ideal impression or dwelling on how the operate could have been improved once you have turned it in. It is much more effective to contemplate an tactic that enables the work to be as excellent as attainable inside the timeline.

In excess of the several years, I have tailored my approach to suit inside of the form of deadlines I get. Components of my process I have drop in excess of the several years that acquire up far too a lot unwanted time. My lifework grew to become less fussy and much more to the issue, my shade became easier and bolder, and I produced a responsible palette that I can return to with no considerably deliberation or second-guessing. If you discover that your workflow qualified prospects to consistent all-nighters, you might contemplate applying adjustments in your artmaking approach.

Look at out for pink flags that can guide to overwork

            Environment limits on a venture at the quite commencing is crucial. A challenge that looks easy can simply get mired in revisions. Beware of artwork directors who really do not give crystal clear guidelines on what they are seeking for. “Approach this project nevertheless you want” or “we want to see your interpretation of this” can seem fun, but in actuality, they are warning indicators.

It ordinarily signifies the customer does not know what they want and would like you to make something as a starting up issue for the customer to explore all of the factors they do not want. Or it implies that the shopper thinks you can read their brain and see the photographs in their head though lacking the abilities in language to notify you what they want obviously.

In any circumstance, this can direct to infinite and annoying revisions. So it is quite important to point out at the starting how many rounds of revisions on sketches and revisions on finals you are inclined to do in advance of the spending plan has to enhance to accommodate the excess do the job. If you condition this at the commencing, the client’s path normally gets a lot clearer.

Often you don’t feel to make these stipulations up entrance, which is Alright. If you make it to the second spherical of revisions on either sketch or final, and you really don’t truly feel like the funds, or your schedule, accounts for this, then it’s Okay to explain to the shopper that immediately after this round of revisions, the budget desires to be greater to accommodate far more revisions.

It is not practical for you or your client to be a perfectionist with every single occupation. Sometimes great is great sufficient when time and funds are limited, and you do not owe any client a masterpiece unless of course they are shelling out you masterpiece fees.

 Don’t forget the great importance of relaxation

When I was in college or university and as a young skilled just starting out, overworking and all-nighters were glamorized and regarded a badge of honor. In fact, overworking, all-nighters, and in general, pushing your self to extremes and exhaustion is harmful and normally unproductive (though at times unavoidable).

The fact is you make improved selections — and much better art — when you are nicely-fed and well-rested. If you totally must get the job done all night, be guaranteed to try to eat and remain hydrated in any other case, your brain will shut down prior to you will need it to. It is very good to remember eating and consuming water, particularly consuming drinking water, are far a lot more helpful approaches of remaining up longer than just drinking espresso.

One particular extremely significant detail I’ve discovered over the many years in freelance is to not forget to choose breaks or devalue my personalized time. Finding out to just take rest into account is easy to forget but vital to look at. As a freelancer, you nevertheless ought to have a particular lifestyle and cost-free time, so constantly account for that.

What time management methods do you use in your inventive lifetime? Let us know in the opinions.


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