Freelancing is a popular alternative to the (highly unattractive) 9 to 5 job.
What makes freelancing so popular is having the freedom to set our own speed and rules. You don’t have a boss to answer to, you can choose when to work or slack off and you can indulge yourself in what you truly enjoy doing
But, freelancing may not be as savory as it sounds. It also has its cons.
Without a proper working structure, routine or self-control, freelancing can be really difficult. Little details pile up and soon the work-that-needs-be-done will overwhelm us as the number of days to finish the project closes in.
If you do not manage our time properly, you might even have to work harder than what you bargained for.
It’s common for freelancers to work overtime at odd hours just to finish their project on time. Freelancing, if there is a lack of dedication, can be more tedious than the normal 9 to 5 grind.
Did that scare you?
Well, be at ease because I am going to help you become to be a Highly Productive Freelancer in this article.
I am going to talk about getting the better out of a Freelancing career. These tips are highly effective and will cost you no more than your dedication and commitment.
So, stay with me.
Table of Contents
1. Create a timetable that suits you
Wait, isn’t the entire point of freelancing to avoid routine and schedule?
Well, it’s true that freelancing does help avoid the 9-5 boredom that we dislike so much. But on the other hand, it is necessary to follow a timetable to maintain productivity and to get the work done.
Having a predefined set of working hours ensures that you are being fruitful and you aren’t wasting any time. It’s crucial to learn which times of day you are most productive and then focus on scheduling your work with it.
Pre-prepare your working hours an hour early. Taking a quick shower, drinking tea/coffee helps you stay refreshed and optimizes your brain to work optimally.
As a freelancer, you would always want to maximize your efficiency in your prime time.
2. Set up a Distraction Free Working Environment
Social Media is a great tool to promote yourself, find new clients, and increase your network. They are extremely useful to freelancers for all the opportunities they create.
But at the same time, social media is also your number one enemy while freelancing.
During work hours, it's best to put all distractions aside to gain maximum efficiency.
Keeping your phone in Airplane mode and turning off social media and messaging notifications helps you to stay concentrated on your task at hand without getting pulled away.
I recommend using apps that increase productivity like SelfControl (Mac only), Freedom (Mac and Windows) and AppBlock (Android only) to keep your social media addiction under control. These apps block the notifications and stop you from visiting social media sites so that you won’t curve away from your current important task.
3. Take Breaks and Time your Breaks
Working continuously can be tiresome.
Research suggests that taking breaks after a brief period of working can refresh your brain to improve focus and productivity. Also, taking breaks prevent stress and exhaustion.
Breaks also ensure that you’re always refreshed and not distracted by extra tasks like filling your bottle of water or making coffee during your working period.
You can follow the Pomodoro Technique to schedule breaks in-between jobs.
Pomodoro technique is very effective in a sense that it encourages you to work for 25 minutes continuously then take 5 minutes break as a reward. You can adjust the work/break time according to your own need.
While creating your own work/break time, don’t forget to add regular breaks but don’t be too generous.
Freelancing is all about challenging yourself to complete the required task on given time.
If you’re overwhelmed by stress, you won’t be accomplishing much. Hence, little breaks every now and then benefit you by keeping your energy levels and productivity higher.
4. Prepare your next day before sleeping
It’s always a good idea to list down the important things in a to-do list before sleeping. Doing so reduces the cognitive stress on your brain the next morning.
You don’t have to wonder and plan about what you should accomplish throughout the day just after waking up. This significantly improves your productivity.
You can focus on the most important task when you’re fresh and pick up from last day’s work. This also applies to your activities, food, and clothing for the next day. Once you have them all planned out before sleeping, you won’t have to bother about them the next morning.
This leaves room for all the decision making to be dedicated towards your project instead of the mundane tasks like wondering which cloth to wear or what to eat.
The biggest problem of freelancers is underestimating the amount of time needed to complete a project, which is exactly why preparing for each day is very crucial.
5. Build a functional workplace environment
The difference between a successful freelancer and others is the environment they have built for themselves.
It’s recommended to design a functional workplace that removes all distractions and is comfortable enough to work in. Sure, the sofa/couch is comfortable, but will you actually be able to get any work done?
Having a room that is equipped with proper lighting, proper furniture, small plants with soft/neutral colored walls can help improve focus and promote productivity. It is important to be dressing up for work, even if you’re not going anywhere. It can significantly improve decision making and help you stay motivated.
Dr. Karen Pine, Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, explains: “When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on, we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
So, even if you hate formality and structure, you might have to introduce some structure to your freelancing career to be successful and productive.
6. Manage your Emails
Many professionals and in-house employees set aside a time to read and respond to their emails.
Incorporating emails during working hours can seriously hinder productivity. The more time you spend with your emails, the lesser time you will have to achieve your goal.
Managing emails, conversations, and promotions is crucial.
We understand that it’s tempting to read your emails at the start of the day, but doing so can distract you from what’s really important.
Use email services like Inbox by Gmail to filter out the distractions from the important messages, so that you spend less time finding and more time getting things done.
While the above-mentioned points are proven to be effective by many freelancers, there are a few other activities that help you to be a highly productive freelancer:
- Be Happy.
- Get fit with proper exercise.
- Socialize with others.
- Automate repetitive tasks.
- Reward yourself for each successful task.
- Be selective with the jobs and clients that you choose.
At last, don’t blindly follow what others say. Learn from their experiences. Experiment yourself and find out what works best for you. In the end, we all are different– what worked for me might not work for you. So, feel free to experiment.
Hail, Freelancing. Hail, Productivity.