How to Improve Productivity as a Freelancer
For many people, the freelance life sounds like a dream come true. Work from home (in your pyjamas if you want to!), set your own hours, and pursue the work you love. However, without the structure and routine of a more traditional job, it can be a struggle to stay productive. As work rolls in, savvy freelancers develop strategies to stay on top of their workload.
Freelance Productivity Tips
Here’s some of the top freelance tips from industry experts on how to become more productive as a freelancer:
1. Take Control of Your Time
One of the greatest benefits of working from home as a freelancer is the ability to control your own time. However – without a clear plan, you may quickly find yourself feeling stressed and working all hours of the day. Overworking and putting yourself on a path to burnout are not going to improve productivity or the quality of work.
Create a schedule and stick to it.
Start by defining your working hours. When do you plan to be at your desk each morning? When are you going to call it done for a day? Your preferred hours may depend on many things. What other responsibilities do you need to fit into your day? Do you need to be online at the same time as your clients? What schedule best suits your circadian rhythm? Experiment with your schedule to find your most productive hours.
Consider an early start.
When you’re looking at your schedule, consider whether you can start earlier in the day. Top entrepreneurs start their days early. Many find that they get their best work done in the early hours when they’re fresh and free from distractions.
Make it a routine.
Routines can be a great way to make order from the chaos, and keep you focused on getting more done. For example, Cal Newport schedules the times of day that he checks email and then spends the rest of the day in “deep work.” How can you build routines into your day to be more productive?
2. Use a Calendar or Planner
For freelancers who want to improve their productivity, planning their workflow can be a game changer. When you feel overwhelmed, paralysis can set in, meaning nothing gets done. But taking control can help you move swiftly through each task.
Utilize productivity apps.
There are many ways for freelancers to stay on top of their workflow. You can use your email calendar, a paper planner, or productivity apps, such as Asana. Whatever system you use, make sure you write down the tasks you need to get done. Include key information: Who’s the client? What’s the deadline? This can help you prioritize the tasks on your list. Review these checklists on a daily basis.
Schedule your day before it starts.
Once you understand what’s on your plate, it’s time to schedule your day. Estimate roughly how long each task will take you, and where you plan to fit it into your day. Schedule in some flex time for things that run over or unexpected urgent items that come up during the day. Make these plans before your day starts: this will allow you to take an organized approach to the day as a whole, preventing you from constantly hopping from task to task.
3. Maintain an Organized Workspace
Keeping your work organized is critical for freelancers who want to increase their productivity. It’s hard to be productive without a place to work, with everything you need close at hand.
Setup a designated workspace.
First, make sure you have a designated workspace, ideally separate from your living space. Even if you just have a desk in the corner of a room, keep this desk a work zone. This can help you get into the right mindset when you sit down to work. Keeping your desk or office as a designated workspace can help you limit other distractions (bills, your kids’ homework, magazines) from creeping into your workday.
Keep your office clean and comfortable.
Second, you’ll want to ensure that you keep your designated workspace clean and comfortable. When freelancers are in a comfortable and relaxed environment, they’re able to think more creatively and logically. Keeping this area clean will also save you time by knowing where everything is while eliminating potential distractions.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Speaking of distractions… Your inbox is overflowing, your phone won’t stop pinging, and you’ve got 500 Facebook notifications. When you’re constantly distracted, it can be hard to focus.
Understanding professional vs. personal communication.
Start by separating your professional and personal communication by getting a business email address for yourself. If you find your phone distracting you when you’re trying to get work done, place it in another room or off to one side when you need to get your head down. If you’re really struggling to eliminate distractions such as social media, apps like Freedom, Stay Focusd, and Forest can help you take back control.
5. Make Time for Breaks
Far from decreasing your productivity, building time for exercise and/or breaks into your day can actually help you be more productive. Going for a short walk can help you figure out a solution to a problem that’s been bothering you for hours. Taking a quick nap after lunch can leave you refreshed and re-energized for your afternoon. Take advantage of your flexible schedule to build breaks into your day.
6. Set Goals
When you’re your own boss, there’s no annual corporate bonuses to make you strive harder; no quarterly performance review where your boss is going to check in on your progress. You’re in charge of motivating yourself now. That’s why it’s important to set goals. These could be financial goals (earn X amount in Y months) or personal development goals (learn X skill so I can deliver extra value to clients). Setting meaningful goals is a great way to stay motivated and to boost your productivity — and your business.
Earn rewards for yourself.
Once you have your goals in place, stay on top of them. Check in regularly, and evaluate your performance. This will help you stay on track, and change course if needed. Also: remember to reward yourself! For each goal, decide in advance how you will celebrate your success.
Are you a freelancer? What are your top tips for staying productive? Let us know in the comments below.