Note: This post is written by Danny Donchev
Working as a freelancer offers a lot of freedom, but that freedom can also lead us down a highly unproductive path. One minute you’re sipping that first delicious cup of freshly brewed coffee as you log into your computer, the next thing you know two hours have gone by while you were watching hilarious YouTube videos.
It happens to the best of us. Being a freelancer requires a strong will and dedication, but with social media a tap of the finger or a click of the mouse away it can be hard to stay focused. Productivity is the name of the game and the only way to success. If you’re falling victim to the various distractions around you, get your time management back on track with these productivity tips for freelancers.
1. Create a Schedule
Freelancing allows us to break away from the traditional nine to five working mold, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need a schedule to accomplish your tasks. The best part is that you tell yourself when it’s time to get down to business and when you can relax.
Your schedule might change from week to week or even day to day, but sticking to the time frames you’ve created to get your work done is a sure-fire way to boost productivity.
2. Do One Thing at a Time
Multitasking is a useful ability in almost every facet of life, but it will kill your productivity. Everything you are doing besides the task at hand is stopping you from completing it, plain and simple.
While sticking to your schedule, make sure that your time spent on working is just that. Turn off your phone if you can’t resist the urge to hop on social media, clear your workspace of distractions, and get rid of anything that keeps you from getting the job done.
It isn’t easy at first, but the more you practice “single-tasking,” the more work you will get done.
3. Prioritize Your Work
When it comes to productivity tips for freelancers, this one seems as though it should be common knowledge. However, simply working on the next item with the closest deadline doesn’t always work out as planned. Here’s what to do.
Put Common Tasks Together
Answering emails and calls are part of the trade, but jumping to answer either in the middle of your workload can severely impede your productivity. Setting a specified time in your schedule to answer emails or make calls will allow you to reach out to your clients without interrupting your creative flow.
Do the Undesirable
If there’s a task you’re dreading, do it first. Eliminate having that weight looming over your head all day and snub procrastination in one fell swoop. Everything will be easier once that pain in the rear is over with.
Get the Small Stuff Out of the Way
After dealing with the hardest part of the day, tackle the little things. Whether that’s resizing images, putting documents together for a presentation, or creating an email list, accomplishing those smaller tasks first will help the rest of your day to run smoothly.
Set the Order of Importance
Once you knock out those first three, figure out what needs to be done next. That might mean completing an assignment due today or finding social media influencers to help promote a product. Make a list of what needs to be done today.
When the work day is done, make another list of what will need to be done tomorrow to help you stay on task.
4. Avoid ‘All Work and No Play’
Breaks are an essential aspect of productivity for freelancers. Your schedule should allow for a few minutes away from your computer screen every hour or so. During that time you should stretch, get a glass of water, or just step outside to take a breath of fresh air.
Don’t forget to schedule longer breaks so you can eat. Pro tip: Skip the Hot Pocket and make yourself a dish that will provide sustained energy.
5. Do It All in Intervals
Ever try to power through a term paper in one night? How did that turn out for you? Working straight through for an extended period of time like that can amp up the stress and destroy your motivation along with your creativity.
Take a hint from LiveOps, a telecommuting company that hires freelancers, and section your schedule into thirty-minute increments. This will help to make large tasks seem smaller while setting aside dedicated working hours (no phone, social media, etc.).
As a bonus, it makes scheduling work times around life obligations a whole lot easier.
6. Challenge Yourself
To make serious money freelancing you have to work fast and efficient. Unfortunately, there aren’t any coworkers to compete with. So, where does your healthy competition come from?
Jump back to sectioning off your workload into thirty-minute segments, then make it a game. Set a timer and review how far you’ve progressed with your current task. Keep trying to outdo yourself each time for one week and you’ll be surprised at how much you can get done in just a half hour.
7. Add an Incentive
Challenging yourself can be a fun exercise to boost your productivity, but the end goal is always sweetened with a little incentive. The faster you work, the more assignments you can take on, which means you’re making more money.
Set a few goals for yourself with rewards for reaching them. For instance, if you can turn one week’s worth of assignments into three days then treat yourself to a nice dinner. As your income and speed increases then make the reward greater, a dream vacation.
It won’t happen overnight, but adding incentive certainly increases your motivation to get the job done.
8. Equate Your Time with Your Expenses
We all know that ‘time equals money’, but that doesn’t stop us from procrastinating. Expand on that age-old piece of wisdom by equating your time with your expenses. Before you can think about that dream vacation, you need to think about paying the bills and buying groceries, right?
Break down your assignments into what their pay will be going towards. Look at those next two articles as the money it takes to fill your fridge, that presentation as your car payment, or another hour answering calls as a night out with friends. Aside from easy budgeting, it helps to create the motivation you’ll need to get the job done.
9. Make Time to Market
Marketing may not seem like it belongs on a list of productivity tips for freelancers, but making time to land the next gig is important. Try to fit this in at the end of the day to avoid making it another fateful part of procrastination.
The reason marketing yourself is important comes from the motivation more jobs creates. It adds a little pressure to get the tasks at hand done so you can move on to the next. At the same time, more assignments mean more money and we can all agree that is one amazing motivator.
There’s nothing wrong with working under pressure. In fact, some of us are ten times more productive that way. However, an unnecessary load of stress does nothing to help your productivity.
Before you even start the day, create a ritual that gets you ready to tackle any assignment. For some that might be a morning run, for others it could be coffee and a cigarette on the front porch or a little quiet meditation. Whatever helps you to relax, do it.
Stressing out over your workload makes it something you want to avoid. Instead, clear your head and get ready to do what you do best. That’s why you’re a freelancer because you have the skills to take on these assignments and produce quality work from the comfort of your home.
Some days our willpower is stronger than others. It happens to the best of us, but staying productive is the only way to make a comfortable living when you work from home. Adding the ten tips above to your daily work routine will help you stay on top of your workload and see yourself succeed in this industry.
– About the Writer –
Danny Donchev is a marketing manager of AdaptRM, a revolutionary time-tracking tool. Danny writes more posts about productivity and efficiency on the AdaptRM blog.