How to Be More Productive as a Freelancer
Freelancing may give you much freedom but that freedom can also lead to procrastination. In addition, you may feel overwhelmed by all the work you have to do. Would you like to know how you can be more productive as a freelancer? This blog addresses how you can be more productive by applying some simple time-management skills and watching your health.
Look after your physical and mental health
The first thing I would like to focus on is your health. The freedom you have as a freelancer also means you have to be your own health supervisor: being healthy is the only way to be able to cope with all the work and to balance it with your personal life. Freelancernews.co.uk agrees with me: “With great freedom and great flexibility comes great responsibility because you are the only one responsible for, and to, yourself. So here are four ways to keep yourself on the right track, both physically and mentally.”
1. Work smarter
Take some time to identify the things that cause you stress or boredom, and those things that hamper your productivity. Aim to increase your job satisfaction, reduce your stress, and earn more money for fewer hours of work, giving you more time to relax.
- letting go of persistently late-paying clients or those who cause you stress
- moving away from humdrum work and focusing on winning work that you find more stimulating and enjoyable
- reviewing your rates, which should increase regularly, just as your costs do
- automating or outsourcing time-consuming tasks such as social media posts, book-keeping, invoice tracking and tax returns.
2. Work healthier
As a freelancer, you need to be your own health monitor. If you work alone, there is nobody to see you take a chocolate break every day or knock back a glass of wine or two at the end of each day. There is also nobody to remind you that you should get up and move regularly.
You could use an app for timing your work sessions and reminding you it is time for a (water) break. Make sure that your working environment promotes your health. If you are working at a computer for much of your day, you should have a comfy chair and a monitor at eye height. Go to the doctor when you need to and do not ignore illnesses because of approaching deadlines!
3. Get your work/life balance right
You should work to live, not live to work. Look critically at how you use and divide your time, and change things for the better. You have the freedom to work how, when and where you want. So, make the most of it!
Try to work when you are most productive and least likely to be interrupted. Use other periods for catching up on domestic chores or exercise etc. When you are planning and pitching your work, always factor in a little extra time before you fix a completion date. You need time for family, friends, unexpected events, and the other commitments in your life as well as the flexibility to take a day off sick when you really need it.
4. Banish the loneliness of the long-distance freelancer
Freelancing can be lonely, and loneliness can impact your mental and physical health more than you might think. Therefore, make the effort to form connections with other people. Social media and internet forums can be great places to interact with others, but try to have face-to-face interactions too.
There may be local groups or networks that you can join, offering you the chance to be sociable, access support, and make useful business connections. Meeting friends for coffee or lunch can break up the monotony of a week spent by yourself. Recently, I joined a basketball team rather than going for runs by myself. This allows me to be sociable and work out at the same time. I feel so much better ever since!
More productive as a freelancer
Erin Ollila urges you to hustle smarter, not harder: “If you are constantly being advised to hustle, hustle, hustle, take it from me—you do not have to do more, more, more. You just need to be smart about how you approach the hustle in the first place.” She offers the following five ways to be more productive as a freelancer.
1. Invest in systems
If you can automate a portion of your workload, you will free up more time in your day. Think of social media schedulers, accounting software, and appointment scheduling software. There is so much to do when running a business, so you need to simplify things and save time for more important things.
2. Prioritize your to-do list
Successful entrepreneurs prioritize what they will focus their attention on every day. They are strategic and forward-thinking when they assign work for themselves and they do not overload their days.
List the top three items you plan on working on each day. If you feel as if you are swimming in tasks, keep a running list of things you need to touch or complete. That way, if you finish your three goals early, you can jump into something new. You can add to the bottom of your running list throughout the day if something pops into your head. Then, forget about it temporarily so you can focus entirely on whatever it is you have prioritized.
3. Break your work into baby steps
The bigger the project is, the more intimidating it can be. Any big task can be broken down into smaller, easy-to-complete steps on your to-do list. Work on one bite-sized chunk at a time.
4. Hire out for help
You might not think it is possible to hire someone when you are working on your own but you would be missing out on a huge opportunity. Yes, it may cost more but if you prioritize their workload, there is a great possibility you will earn even more with them helping out. Let your new hire handle what they are an expert at, so you can focus on what is really important.
You can hire people (other freelancers?) per project, so you are not bound to each other if you only need them temporarily or if the partnership does not work out. Think of virtual assistants, accountants, graphic designers, website designers, writers, coaches, launch strategists, videographers, bookkeepers, salespeople, customer service reps, organizers, and public relations professionals.
5. Be proactive with research
Being in the know makes a job easier. When you are paying attention to what is happening in your industry, it is easier to grow with the changes versus trying to swim against the current. For instance, I write these blogs every Friday; they allow me to stay up to date when it comes to news in my industry and best practices as an entrepreneur.
Take a break regularly to be more productive as a freelancer
Julia Gifford claims it is wise to take effective breaks if you want to be more productive as a freelancer: the most productive people using their time-tracking and productivity app DeskTime work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it.
People with the highest productivity ratings, in fact, do not even work eight-hour days. The secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a workday is not working longer but working smarter with frequent breaks. The human brain just was not built to focus for eight hours at a time; the best way to refresh attention span is to take a break.
Time management tools for freelancers
Need help with staying focused? Abdullahi Muhammed lists seven time management tools that can help you stay organized and be more productive as a freelancer.
1. Time Doctor
Time Doctor will provide you with a full accounting of the time you spend on your activities, with an easy-to-read report. Once you have the report, you will be able to assess and adjust.
The Pomodoro method has been around since the 1980s and is very simple. You set a timer for 25 minutes and work in a focused manner for those twenty-five minutes before taking a five-minute break. You can have four sessions before taking a longer break of thirty minutes.
If you are charging your clients by time spent, you want to be as honest as possible. Sighted lets you set the tasks related to each client project and digitally track the time spent. The report you generate will validate your time for a client and provide validity to your charges.
Freelancers can set up their own time-tracking parameters with Toggl, setting work and break times and setting up reminders when they veer from work to other distractions.
5. Rescue Time
With Rescue Time, you can block websites that will distract you during your work time or set alerts to let you know when you have spent a set amount of time on a specific task. In addition, the software will automatically log highlights about how much time you spend on each task during your day.
6. Thrive Solo
Do you know how much time you spend with each client versus the amount of revenue generated? How accurate are your timesheets? Thrive Solo generates reports so that any freelancer can see how one’s time is spent and how that time might be better managed.
Harvest offers daily reports in graphical form that provide you with daily tracking of how much time you spend on each project. This will help you estimate time for future projects and craft better estimates. You can also have automated billing and payment receipts as well as tracking expenses.
Before starting as a freelancer
If you are reading this blog about being more productive as a freelancer as research for your decision whether or not to quite your nine-to-five job and become a freelancer, I have two questions you need to ask yourself. You can find them in my blog 2 Questions You Need to Ask Before Starting as a Freelancer. Also, The Top 10 Things People Dislike About Being a Freelancer might be a good read for you.