Articles - 1st November 2018

Five Tips to Make your Freelancing Day More Productive

Words by Peter Townsend
Illustration by Will Francis

By freelancing you can abandon the long boring commute and work from your home office, or even the kitchen table. Freelancing gives you the freedom to set your hours and work in the way that best suits your family and your lifestyle. The attractions of freelancing are obvious but what you rarely know when you start working from home is the struggle it can be to maintain productivity.

In an office, your day is regulated by the clock. You arrive and leave the office at set times and your daily workload is set by your superiors. As a freelancer, you are left to structure your day alone and without a plan, it’s easy to get to the end of the day and feel that you haven’t achieved anything. If you can learn to plan your day effectively, your income will rise and your business will start to grow.

Here are five ways to get more out of every freelancing day.

  1. Establish a daily schedule

While freelancing frees you from the 9-5 daily routine that doesn’t mean you can abandon all scheduling. Many new freelancers make exactly this mistake; they wake up in the morning and start the day by checking their emails or seeing if there has been any interaction on their Facebook page before planning their next move. Working without a fixed routine means it is easy to get distracted and before they realise it lunchtime has arrived and they’ve spent the morning surfing Facebook.

Set up a work schedule so that you know exactly what you should be doing throughout the day. You will have to build in some flexibility for emergencies but just knowing what you should be doing helps you to plan and to boost productivity.

When setting your schedule always start your day with the hardest activity or the job you like the least. Once the unpleasant task is out of the way, you have the rest of the day free to spend on work you enjoy. If you leave the hard task until later in the day, your productivity will slide as you keep finding reasons to put it off.

  1. Train your brain

One of the biggest problems for any freelancer is separating home and work life. When you work from home it is easy for the distinctions to become blurred. Often you know that you should be working but there are other ‘home tasks’ that seem important as well. It’s all too easy to find an excuse to finish the washing up, put the washing through the dryer or to finally fix that leaking tap when you should be completing work for a client. You must train your brain so that you actually sit down and start work in the morning.

There are lots of ways to ‘trigger work mode’, the easiest way is to have a particular behaviour that you do every morning that indicates the start of the working day and permits you to then ignore the distractions of home life. This could be as simple as placing a mug of coffee by your laptop, or turning on your working music, or even physically placing a pair of headphones over your ears to remove outside distractions.

  1. Block off time

Freelancers juggle lots of different jobs. With emails coming in all time from clients either requesting work or wanting updates on existing jobs it’s easy to lose focus on individual tasks. An effective solution is to block off sections of your day for a particular task. Set yourself 30-60 minutes for a job depending on how long you think it will take and concentrate on that one task. During that period don’t allow yourself to be distracted. You will be surprised what you can accomplish by giving yourself to a single task for a fixed period. When the time is up, give yourself a short break to grab a drink or stretch your muscles for a few minutes before blocking off another section of time for the next task.

  1. Organise your lists

Freelancing is about so much more than the hours you bill to your client. In addition to your billable hours, there is invoicing, marketing, and your other administration paperwork to get done. If you don’t schedule time for each of these activities, then it’s unlikely they will ever get done.  Start to make to-do lists, list all the client work you need to complete and put the due dates by each item so you can prioritise them. Next list all the routine tasks you do each day. Invoicing, preparing quotes, following up with clients etc. Finally, have a to-do list for your wider business goals. Include marketing ambitions, influencers with whom you want to connect, the particular income level you want to reach etc. Taking the time to write out your goals means that you can start to schedule the time to complete these tasks and reach your goals.

  1. Reward yourself

Freelancing is hard and the workload can seem never-ending. One of the best ways to motivate yourself to keep going is to set up a reward system. Knowing that there is something to look forward to can give you the push you need to get the work done. It could be as simple as pouring yourself a drink or enjoying a sweet or a chocolate when you finish the job. Pick a reward that you will enjoy but don’t make the rewards too hard to reach, the idea is to always have something to work towards, not cause yourself further frustration.

Everyone’s freelancing day will be different, the key to success is to find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to customise these tips to maximise your productivity and drive your business forward each day.

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