There’s a delicate balance when you have a full- or part-time job in addition to a side project, additional income stream, or other fractional work. How do you carve out the time you need to get everything done during the day, meet the needs of clients or your own ambitions, and heaven forbid, actually make time to be a well-rested and well-rounded human being?
The good news is that there are countless tools to help multihyphenates stay organized, balance work, play, and playful work – and they range from high fidelity automations through to the lowest of low fidelity (see later: to-do lists). Below, we’ll break down a few helpful tools, softwares, and products to consider as you’re growing your side income.
5 tools for managing your side hustle time and workflow
The first rule of fractional work is that your calendar is your friend. Beyond just keeping track of meetings and commitments beyond yourself, a calendar is a great place to set blocks of work time for your various projects – even if it’s just for the benefit of holding yourself accountable.
As a freelancer balancing various commitments, calendarizing can quickly become tedious, especially when you’re trying to align calendars with a number of stakeholders. Picture this: you are setting a kick-off meeting with a new client for Thursday but you forget to put the holds in your calendar for the three slots you have that are free, and then your colleague books over the time with a cross-departmental meeting you can’t miss.
Calendly can help you there. It’s simply a scheduling app that puts the onus on others to book time with you. In that scenario we just walked through, Calendly is already synced to your calendar and only offers up available times to that new client, so you never have to worry about double booking. It reduces the back-and-forths with scheduling, the need to block holds on your calendar, and keeps you, your clients, and your team happier. Best yet, so long as you’re going it on your own, it’s a free service (there are premium plans for more than one account, but those are also affordable).
Every multihyphenate needs a project management tool to keep their tasks organized, and everyone seems to have their own favorites – from Airtable to Asana to Monday. Notion stands out above the pack for a few reasons:
- It’s incredibly flexible. You can use it as a Google Doc or as a database or as a single source of truth (i.e., wiki).
- It has private and public functionality, so you can have internal areas for yourself, and pages you share with clients if you want to give them access to your work or resources, or include a Notion page as part of a handover upon project completion.
- Databases offer various views for seamless project management. You can transform a database into a calendar view or kanban in an instant, making it easier to understand deliverables, timelines, and expectations.
- It’s easy to use. You’d think with its myriad use cases that it would be complex to use, but Notion is seamless to get started with and even easier to update once you’ve started.
Like Calendly, basic functionality for Notion is free and even offers integration with Slack and GitHub.
One of the most time-consuming parts of fractional work is finding and securing new business. Beyond the introductory calls, there’s proposal building and drafting SOWs and kick-offs. There are a number of tech solutions to help with each one of these problems, but Pitch has become a go-to for many creatives and freelancers for building decks that look much more polished than a standard Keynote or Google Slides.
Pitch has hundreds of templates for everything from pitching new business ideas to building out go-to-market strategies. Freelancers can leverage those existing templates or build their own for new proposals or even kick-off meetings or workshops. Editing within their platform is intuitive, and it saves version histories so you don’t have to stress about losing data. A favorite feature for those who work on decks collaboratively is that each slide has a toggle that moves between not started, in progress, or done, and you can tag individuals on those slides to assign tasks. A basic account starts for free, with pro accounts starting at $8 per member.
Speaking of collaborative workflows, this is where Figma enters the scene. Even if you’re working on a project solo, building out your brainstorms or mind mapping on Figma (specifically FigJam) is a great way to unleash your big, blue sky thinking at the start of a project.
Figma’s tools are meant to be used collaboratively, so you can conduct a client workshop or hold a brainstorm for others, giving everyone access to a FigJam board, but even if you’re looking at it as a fractional individual contributor, it is an incredibly flexible digital whiteboard for mapping your thinking and then sharing across the board to stakeholders for alignment. Figma has a free tier that is perfect for most freelancers, but professional plans start at $12 per month when billed annually.
Bonus: Go lo-fi
Technology is here to help manage workloads, maximize our productivity, and ensure we have enough time to do our best work and have time to clock off and enjoy life outside of it. But sometimes, nothing beats the old fashioned way, and that’s where a to-do list can be helpful.
Handwriting something down has been shown to increase memory retrieval and deepen the resonance of that task in your brain. Digital tools can mimic this activity, but not to its full extent. Thus, keeping a notebook at your desk and writing out your tasks for the day can sometimes be your best organizational and time-saving tool, even if it isn’t the most high-tech option.
Pro-tip: keep highlighters at your desk and assign different colors to different types of tasks. Perhaps yellow are tasks related to your 9-to-5 job, whereas pink might be your biggest current fractional client, orange is a passion project of yours, and maybe green is all the reminders of the things to do in a day that are not work-related at all (think: doctor’s appointments or reminders to exercise). This simple color-coded organizational tool can also help with your recall, as we’re more inclined to conjure up visuals when we attempt to remember what we need to get done.
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