Let’s be frank. Being a freelancer comes with tons of perks. You can set your own hours, take yoga classes during the day if you’d like to, and take business meetings in the comfort of your PJs.
Freelancing is becoming increasingly more common. Around 36 percent of the US workforce are freelancers today, according to a report by Upwork and the Freelancers Union. More interestingly, that number is projected to be over 50 percent by 2027.
It’s not all rosy though. Freelancing can be tough. Whether you’re a small business owner, designer or blogger and work from home – distractions and time wasters are everywhere. It may be your roommate who wants to tell you all about last night, or your son who wants to know where his hockey gear is. It may even just be your itch to check out the latest on Twitter and Facebook.
But let’s remember, freelancing is your livelihood. Let’s explore 5 simple tips to improve productivity and get more work done.
1. Set up Business Hours
- Create and stick to a schedule
Keeping regular “business hours” can be tough for freelance workers. Whether you work from home or commute to a shared workspace, keeping set hours helps you to prioritize your time.
“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will,” wrote Greg McKeown in Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. When you respect your time, others will follow suit.
Set up a daily schedule for yourself to improve productivity, whether it’s 5 am to 2 pm, or the traditional 9 am to 5 pm. It will give you a set routine to follow. Schedule your client meetings and video chats during those hours. Include a time slot for lunch and smaller breaks to keep you motivated and balanced.
Be stingy with your work hours. If possible, delay all non-urgent personal calls and obligations until your tasks are done. This way, when it’s time to spend with your friends or family, you can be fully present and not obsessing about imminent deadlines.
2. Improve Productivity with Tools
Tasks, meetings with clients, follow up emails, deadlines – there is so much to keep track of when you’re a freelancer. It can be overwhelming when you have multiple tools that just serve a single purpose.
Instead, use a productivity tool that bundles key tools in one app. Messaging services such as WhatsApp, Skype, regular text messages and Facebook Messenger have replaced email for teams and freelancer/client relationships. However, they can be limited as work tools.
Brief helps improve productivity by combining chat, video chat, tasks and file sharing in one place. This helps you stay focused and get more work done. When you have a new client, create a Hub. Share proposals, completed work and invoices here for quick reference. If you need to video chat, you can do so directly in the app. Chat messages can be edited or deleted, which helps you stay professional after you realize you misspelled a word in a message you sent at 3 am.
3. Prepare for Distractions at Work
We are living in an age of non-stop notifications. Twitter alerts, messages, emails – the list is endless. Prepare for these distractions by anticipating them. Turn off your notifications, stick to your work schedule and if you work from home, let those around you know you’re off limits.
Another issue that might not seem like a problem on the surface is multitasking. While it can appear that multitasking helps you achieve more things at once, studies find that only 2.5 percent of people are able to multitask effectively. To improve productivity, stick to a single task at a given time.
4. Work in Short but Effective Bursts
Focusing on a set task for a short burst of time is an effective way to get more work done and improve concentration. The Pomodoro Technique is perfect for this. This method was created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s to improve productivity. He named it after a tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student.
It involves working for 25-minute chunks followed by a 5-minute break. The key is to focus on your task at hand and nothing else. Then, a reward of either taking a quick stretch, grabbing a coffee, is a great way to keep you motivated.
There is a free Chrome extension, Tomato Timer which helps you stay the course.
5. Don’t be Afraid to say “No”
Saying no can be hard. Especially when you want to ensure a long relationship with a client, it may seem counterintuitive to say no.
However, there are times when a “no” is merely is the only way to go. If a client changes the scope of work half-way through a project, and you’re juggling four other clients, what do you do? Remember, your quality of work is the most important. It’s better to submit work you’re proud of than some half-baked project just because you couldn’t say no to the extra load.
Too many freelancers give up their scheduled free time to satisfy clients. It’s ok to say no. Focus on living a healthy, balanced life, and that will be reflected in your output.
All in all, find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Perhaps you’re a night owl or morning lark? We’re all different and are more productive at different times of the day. Incorporate these productivity tips to improve your performance as a freelancer.
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