You’ve decided to take the plunge and become a full time freelancer. You’re loving it; it’s everything you wanted it to be – but how can you make sure you keep things ticking over once the initial determination and energetic enthusiasm lessens, as it mostly likely will once the novelty of 10am starts wears off and the weight of responsibility sinks in…
There’s no reason to panic and start dialling your old boss’ phone number, it’s all about productivity. If you can make sure you’re productive, you can make sure you’ll be a successful freelancer. I thought I’d give you a helping hand, from one freelancer to another, so here are some of my top tips for productivity:
Well, not proper cheating. You should never cut corners on client projects, but if your work involves repetitive tasks that are more or less the same every time (hello, invoicing!) perhaps set up a template, an automated process, use an app, a shortcut, anything to make life a little easier for yourself, so you spend more time on the ‘big stuff’. Small admin-type tasks are often the things we can bury ourselves in to pretend we’re working, and not procrastinating – don’t give yourself the option.
At the start of every week, and then every day, write up a list of what simply must be done in that time period, and then tick tasks off as you go. It sounds simple, but committing these to paper (or perhaps an app, for all you tech lovers!) means you’ll have a harder time justifying to yourself why they haven’t been done. If you’re super competitive you might even find yourself powering through them at lightning speed and moving on to the next day’s tasks – easy now! However you choose to do it, vocalising what needs to be achieved each day makes you much more likely to step up.
No, I don’t mean turn up at a random office and wonder why they won’t let you in the building, but the ritual of getting up and dressed, having breakfast, getting ‘ready’ for work really puts you in a work mindset. This is something you can easily replicate at home, by establishing a routine, a working space and compartmentalising your work and ‘life’ life. Essentially this means getting up, getting dressed and not watching day time TV – easy, right…?
Sometimes, there is just too much to do in a day. Sometimes you might have a free day followed by a hectic one. You might have no work booked, go for a walk only to return to an avalanche of emails with new projects. You can’t regulate what comes in, but you can regulate your time to ensure the most important (i.e. the highest earning) projects are prioritised. Try to keep a bank of long-term projects with far-off deadlines that you can return to when things are quiet; getting a head start on these in quieter times will mean that you won’t need to turn down those lucrative emergency jobs that just can’t wait.
We’re all motivated by money, to some extent. Certainly, freelancers have to be, if they’re going to be successful. Sometimes the easiest way to keep up productivity levels is to think of your units of time as cash. If you’re charging £30 for a job you expect to take an hour, and it takes you three, you’re actually working at £10 an hour. This sort of realisation is usually what gets me off Buzzfeed and back to the grind. This can be combined with the task list trick; work out the total value of your task list, in money earned, and work out how long it should take you if you’re going to achieve your desired hourly rate.
So there we go, my five top tips for being a productive freelancer. Now stop reading blogs and get on with some work…