In my job as an illustrator who has been posted by The New York Moments, Penguin Guides, Buzzfeed, and much more, I have to harmony freelance gigs with educating and other obligations — and I have found creating a time management matrix that displays my personal priorities as an artist to be essential.

My schedule is not gridded out into even 9-5 days, and the sum of work is uneven. Work have a tendency to ebb and flow — just about every assignment because of all at after, and then absolutely nothing at all. When you’re dealing with a glut of jobs to juggle, it can be straightforward to forget what your ultimate plans are.

I’ve had to create time administration approaches around the training course of my vocation to make sure all the function I consider on is done on time and at the qualified level clients count on when they employ the service of me — and that it matches what I want to be achieved, also.

If you’ve heard of Covey’s 4 Quadrants of Time Administration Matrix, this is the edition for creatives. Below is a record of important areas exactly where I’ve discovered how to juggle my time and assignments primarily based on how important the position is, how much it pays, and how much other work I now have on my plate. And keep in mind: Be positive to get time for relaxation.

Pinpointing what’s critical in the time administration matrix

Cribbed from “The 7 Practices of Highly Productive Folks,” Stephen Covey’s time management matrix seeks to support arrange your priorities by dividing get the job done things to do into 4 quadrants. He divides specialist obligations into what’s critical and what is urgent. Critical actions aid realize your private and professional priorities, whilst urgent activities are the form of trousers-on-fire deadlines you experience when you are a freelancer performing on someone else’s routine. (Understand far more about Covey’s time administration matrix and obtain sample time administration templates here.)

For creatives, my top rated suggestions is this: Generally prioritize your personal work. Whatever you prioritize will by natural means be the detail that will take up most of your time and will become the most significant thing you are executing. So make confident you are focusing your time and vitality on the issue that you want to be the heart of your everyday living.

There will always be some thing waiting around to consume up all of your time if you enable it. The get the job done you need to do may well be the factor that pays the expenditures — for occasion, developing layouts for grocery retailers coupon flyers — when you WANT to be principle and character planning for Cartoon Community. It does you no very good to be a perfectionist on a little something you really do not appreciate when it can take time away from the task that may possibly not pay what you want now but will lead you to the long term vocation you hope to have and be regarded for. In no way get a task that you have to be good at until it is the just one you adore.  

time management matrix
As a imaginative, what ever you devote the most time on turns into the center of your lifestyle. That is why your time administration matrix really should prioritize your individual perform


The two techniques of assessing value in a do the job is to establish its monetary benefit or its personal value. Financial value is uncomplicated. Are you acquiring paid out a good deal or even ample? Particular price is tricky. I consider that, for the most portion, heading into artwork for the revenue is an unfulfilling endeavor and, a bit like taking part in the lottery, not at all a risk-free bet. There are much less complicated ways to make dollars and get rich. Likely into art as a occupation for private fulfillment is a lot more realistic. So assessing the great importance of a work dependent on private goals is a smarter solution than focusing purely on monetary obtain.

If all the function you do is purely for financial get, the opportunity benefit of your get the job done could basically lower in excess of time. Your operate may possibly end up extremely inconsistent you will often be generating function dependent on other people’s thoughts, aesthetics, and dreams, and you will rarely, if at any time, be in a position to be the author of your have strategies.

You need to make income to survive, but you want to build a recognizable and particular body of do the job that appeals to customers based on YOUR private eyesight and aesthetic. This is exactly where totally free get the job done is useful, either self-generated do the job or perform for some others. Some examples would be a new publication with remarkable information and wonderful style and design, but no price range techniques you or a band you actually like. Is it erroneous for them to talk to you to perform for no cost? I do not imagine so.

It’s also fantastic to convey to these individuals no. But if you say yes, only do so if you truly feel like you are in control of the assignment. If the pay is smaller or non-existent, the payment should be you showcasing new perform in the greatest possible gentle. It’s a condition the place you really should feel thoroughly at ease getting complete manage.

If the client does not have a budget, they don’t get to tell you how to do your task. You need to be ready to make a piece that reveals off your talent, a venture that you can change into your aspiration task, and a little something you can conveniently use to promote by yourself. It should really be perform that you can use to get far more operate.

Less than no instances should you do function for free for any customer, besides your mother and father or siblings, which you are not happy with or are not in complete command of. And if you uncover that you’ve finished a project for cost-free, and the client begins to inquire for modifications, stroll absent from the challenge.

Any prospective client that provides perform for totally free mechanically relinquishes any ultimate say or appropriate to revisions. (There are a few of important exceptions, which includes not-for-income or charitable shoppers where the do the job would be for a superior result in you assistance.) So do not be concerned to say of course to free of charge function as prolonged as it is a job you can get psyched about and make remarkable perform for, do the job that you are in manage of, and that innovations you in direction of a own job objective.

Established restrictions with the amount of money of freelance function you choose on

The most vital way to deal with your time is to not take on extra do the job than you can cope with. As a freelancer, particularly a freelancer that is just starting up out, the tendency is to want to say yes to anything, but this can lead to a bottleneck of do the job. There will come a time when you inevitably have to transform down assignments, either because of to a full workload, journey or illness, or any range of other challenges.

How do you make a decision what do the job to prioritize? you have to determine which work is the most precious to you, the most useful in phrases of funds, or the most worthwhile to your job in other terms, does the operate attain or progress any personal goals of yours?

Using get the job done for dollars is sensible, but if it is not artwork you will exhibit any person, or that you are not happy of, or will not get you more of the form of do the job you want, it could not be worthwhile. Nicely-spending work that you are not very pleased of only serves limited-term ambitions, not extended-expression ones.

If you have to turn perform down, question on your own what your most significant goals are, and evaluate the benefit of the get the job done from most to minimum vital. Really don’t be worried to convert down the lesser vital employment. When you’re a freelancer, you usually face the anxiousness that every single work is your probable previous job and that turning anything at all down is poor for your vocation and name.

But I’ve acquired to seem at it a different way: burning time on careers that aren’t transferring you ahead can be much more harmful by shifting your electrical power and emphasis absent from your goals. If you are in a problem where sufficient people are making contact with you about perform, you can convert down jobs periodically and not have to fret that get the job done will disappear.

This tips is not meant to ignore obtaining to operate to aid you. If you are just setting up out and not entirely supporting yourself as an artist, it is vital to believe of a aspect-time work or any work that is finished purely for revenue but if not not portion of your career as some thing that should really be considerably less demanding and less important. This might imply briefly dwelling with less for a period of time, acquiring roommates, not eating out, etc.

When I 1st started off out, right after my undergraduate scientific tests, I experienced to get a task creating pizzas to pay rent. I also worked as an artist’s assistant to acquire expertise in my field, and the rest of my time was focused to making my possess perform. My workdays clocked in at about 12-16 several hours. This was an exhausting stability to preserve, and at times it intended likely a week or more without the need of producing any of my own artwork.

A aspect outcome of the fluctuations in freelance — the common feast-to-famine cycle — is that other fewer vital but continue to vital issues get pushed aside. Marketing, social media and internet site upkeep, invoices and taxes, and day to day wholesome patterns like exercising, purchasing groceries, and cleaning, are all put off, along with private passion initiatives, and your possess operate may possibly get sidelined.

It’s unavoidable that sure items will get neglected the risk is losing contact with or concentrating on those peripheral matters. To remain focused, retain a record of responsibilities to emphasis on throughout downtime. It is quick to lose aim or not know how to change target from qualified operate to personal tasks. Not recognizing exactly where to start on a working day off is a common challenge.

Preserving lists appears to be like a very simple point, but it’s necessary for staying focused. As soon as you have cost-free time, search at your checklist of responsibilities.

Make artistic decisions primarily based on the time you have

time management matrix
As a freelance resourceful, you need to build a model that makes it possible for you to entire paid get the job done on a deadline.


In my time management matrix, I’ve experienced to make selections about my style that reflect how lengthy I have to complete the do the job — this means what I have time for often establishes stylistic and product alternatives. I’ve realized to make brief drawings that are striking to accommodate small deadlines. I would never ever test to do a portray for an assignment that I only have a day to full.

Due to the fact many of my dealings are small, I have acquired to operate properly in basic strains and minimum color fairly than really rendered drawings and paintings. It’s also just as possible that I get far more jobs with quick deadlines due to the fact art directors realize that I have a fashion that is remarkably productive and bold owing to its deadline-oriented nature.

Budgeting time for particular projects is essential. How do you know how extended an assignment will get? How do you know what approach to use to get a piece performed on time?

There is no excellent solution to this the only option is practical experience. It is crucial to acquire an creative practice that does not direct to overwork. It is also not a excellent concept to experiment with new thoughts on a quick deadline. Recognizing your course of action is essential in remaining equipped to gauge how to make great perform on a short deadline.

Some deadlines can be as small as a couple hours. In cases like this, the thought and fashion for the art have to fit the timeline, your artwork is a solution of the limitation of the deadline. It’s not realistic to think in phrases of making the ideal image or dwelling on how the do the job could have been better as soon as you’ve turned it in. It’s additional effective to consider an technique that allows the operate to be as good as possible inside of the timeline.

About the decades, I have customized my process to fit within the type of deadlines I get. Elements of my course of action I have drop in excess of the a long time that acquire up also significantly unwanted time. My lifework became much less fussy and much more to the stage, my coloration became less complicated and bolder, and I produced a dependable palette that I can return to without much deliberation or next-guessing. If you locate that your workflow potential customers to constant all-nighters, you could look at utilizing modifications in your artmaking solution.

Check out out for pink flags that can lead to overwork

            Setting limitations on a job at the really commencing is essential. A project that looks simple can very easily get mired in revisions. Beware of art administrators who never give very clear directions on what they are hunting for. “Approach this job even so you want” or “we want to see your interpretation of this” can audio pleasurable, but in actuality, they are warning indications.

It usually implies the client doesn’t know what they want and would like you to generate some thing as a starting up level for the consumer to find out all of the issues they never want. Or it usually means that the shopper thinks you can read through their thoughts and see the images in their head though lacking the skills in language to tell you what they want clearly.

In any circumstance, this can lead to limitless and annoying revisions. So it is pretty vital to condition at the starting how quite a few rounds of revisions on sketches and revisions on finals you are willing to do before the funds has to improve to accommodate the added perform. If you state this at the commencing, the client’s path ordinarily gets much clearer.

In some cases you really do not assume to make these stipulations up entrance, which is Ok. If you make it to the next spherical of revisions on possibly sketch or final, and you don’t experience like the finances, or your timetable, accounts for this, then it’s Ok to convey to the client that following this spherical of revisions, the finances wants to be improved to accommodate far more revisions.

It is not simple for you or your client to be a perfectionist with each individual task. From time to time fantastic is excellent more than enough when time and funds are minimal, and you do not owe any client a masterpiece except if they are paying you masterpiece charges.

 Don’t forget about the great importance of rest

When I was in higher education and as a youthful specialist just starting off out, overworking and all-nighters were glamorized and regarded a badge of honor. In truth, overworking, all-nighters, and in common, pushing yourself to extremes and exhaustion is unhealthy and usually unproductive (even though occasionally unavoidable).

The fact is you make far better conclusions — and greater art — when you are very well-fed and very well-rested. If you certainly must do the job all night, be guaranteed to consume and keep hydrated normally, your mind will shut down in advance of you require it to. It is very good to bear in mind eating and ingesting h2o, particularly ingesting water, are significantly much more effective ways of being up more time than just drinking coffee.

A person incredibly significant factor I have uncovered in excess of the yrs in freelance is to not neglect to acquire breaks or devalue my particular time. Understanding to just take relaxation into account is quick to neglect but critical to look at. As a freelancer, you nevertheless are entitled to a individual everyday living and free of charge time, so always account for that.

What time administration tactics do you use in your inventive life? Let us know in the comments.