Here’s the truth:
Freelancing sounds appealing to anyone who has to spend eight hours per day—every day—in an office. And why wouldn’t it? You get to set your own schedule, plan your tasks, and work whenever it suits you. There’s no stressing about coworkers, office life, strict deadlines, and getting to work on time.
So, why isn’t everyone working as a freelancer then?
Because freelancing is actually quite a challenging career path which will fool you into thinking it’s easy. Don’t let the flexible hours and making your own rules trick you, though—freelancers have troubles of their own, most of which are related to productivity.
Being Productive Needs to Be Your #1 Priority
Believe it or not, staying productive when working from the comfort of your own home can be even more difficult than doing the same thing in an office. There are all sorts of things out there to distract you, including your friends and family who probably don’t get the fact that you’re actually working from home and not chilling while watching Netflix.
As a freelancer, your first and most important task is to block out all distractions that could be detrimental to your productivity. Because, if you’re not productive, your business suffers, and if your business suffers, you can kiss your freelancing career goodbye.
If you want to make the most out of your work hours, then you need to come up with a system that will keep you on track and help you finish your daily tasks. Naturally, not every system will function for every freelancer, but that’s the beauty of this career—you can experiment and see what’s right for you.
What follows are a few tips that should give you an idea of how to stay productive and complete your assignments, yet still have the time to relax during the day.
1. Create a Routine and Stick to It
Here’s what will save your day whenever you have a number of tasks to complete and seemingly not enough time. Having a schedule will not only help you become a more successful freelancer, but it will also allow you to find enough time for your favourite past-time activities.
Routines have been known to help freelancers avoid burnouts, missed deadlines, and unproductive days, so this is the first step towards creating that system that’s just right for you. Naturally, schedules will differ from one person to the next, but they will help you establish a routine that will have you breezing through even the toughest of tasks.
For example, it’s a good idea to figure out at what times during the day are you most creative and then do the most daunting of your assignments. Once that’s done, distribute the rest of your tasks to the remaining time slots, but also make sure to include breaks in your schedule (lunch, walks, gym time, etc.).
You can create your schedules for the entire week in advance or you can make them at the end of your every workday for the following day—this is completely up to you.
Having a schedule doesn’t mean giving up your flexibility. It just means that you’ll have more time to do everything you have planned.
2. Eliminate All Possible Distractions
Remember all those distractions that can lower your productivity levels?
To survive as a freelancer, you need to remove them as quickly as possible.
Eliminate anything from your surroundings that could distract you from work at hand.
This means no talking to family/friends, no liking and sharing posts on social media, and no funny cat videos on YouTube. When your break time comes, you can enjoy all of this for a few blissful hours and get it all out of your system. But until then—just say ‘no’ to distractions.
It might seem to you that there’s no way of doing all of this, but it’s actually pretty doable. You can:
- Tell your loved ones that you are unavailable between 9AM and 12PM and then 2PM and 5PM. If necessary, turn off your phone and pretend you are in the 90s.
- Install an app on your computer that will block your social media accounts for a certain period of time. For example, Chrome’s Stay Focusd is a great tool that can help you out with this, along with Anti-Social and a number of other cool apps you can check out.
- Start tracking your time with Toggle or a similar app, and see just how much time you spend working and how much time you waste online.
In case there are any distractions in your surroundings, clear out a desk in your home completely, arm yourself with only your computer and pens/notebooks, and start working away.
3. Have a Time Slot Just for Checking Emails
Here’s one thing most successful freelancers have in common:
They don’t mix opening and answering emails with the rest of their tasks. They have a special time slot just for emails.
Emails are just as distracting as social media—before you know it, two hours have gone by and all you’ve done was respond to a couple of inquiries. That’s two hours away from your more important tasks that you’ll never get back.
In order to avoid this, you can pick a time during the day which you’ll dedicate only to emailing back and forth with your clients and/or partners. You can even let them know when you’re available, so that they don’t contact you during your “task time”.
If it’s something urgent, tell them to call you, and if you’ve got your phone off, leave Skype open on your computer just in case.
Another solution is to set aside one hour in the morning and one hour at the end of your workday, and respond to all the necessary emails then.
Whichever option you choose, just know this: with no emails to distract you every half an hour, you’ll become more productive and finish all your assignments right on time.
4. Mix and Match Your Tasks
Let’s be honest: doing the same tasks over and over again, every day, can become boring really fast and can start affecting your productivity.
That’s why it’s a great idea—and highly recommended—to vary your assignments as much as you can.
Of course, this is not possible for everyone and all gigs, but if you’re e.g. a writer, you can start off your day by writing a blog, then check your emails, then proofread something, then go back to writing, etc.
If you are a social media manager, you can always come up with your posts first, then publish them, then go back to interacting with your followers, and so on.
Shaking things up when it comes to your tasks is often overlooked, but it’s pretty important to any freelancer that doesn’t want to lose their mind and burn out.
If there’s no possible way for you to mix and match your tasks, then make sure to take short breaks more often in order to get your focus and energy back.
5. Don’t Forget to Take Breaks
Just like you need to vary your tasks in order to stay focused and productive, you also need to take timed and well-deserved breaks during your day.
It’s your decision whether you want to get up every hour and take five minutes away from your computer, or take a longer break later in the day. Like mentioned above, you can go out and get some fresh air, work out at your local gym, cook lunch, grab a coffee—anything you like.
Freelancing offers a world of opportunities for you, so why not make use of them?
You can even time your breaks according to your tasks, i.e. try to finish a task before another break and best your previous “results”. The thought of a walk or another coffee will motivate you enough to compete with yourself and complete your assignments efficiently.
6. Reward Yourself for Achieving Your Goals
A wise person once said: treat yourself!
All jokes aside though, it’s a pretty great idea to write down your goals for the day/week and then celebrate each completed goal with a reward. This will give you enough incentive to finish your tasks on time and keep that productivity flowing.
In the beginning, these rewards can be something small, from a cup of coffee down the road to going to the movies at the end of the day. As you become more productive and get more work, your rewards will become more substantial. It’s all tied together, which is all the more reason for you to make sure you stay on track when it comes to your assignments.
After all, if you work hard, you deserve to treat yourself every now and then, don’t you? So, let yourself relax after a fruitful workday, drink a glass of wine, catch a movie, or go out with your friends.
You’ve worked hard for all of that, so enjoy the benefits.
There are so many ways for you to stay productive as a freelancer, yes, but the truth is that not all of them will be the right fit for you.
You have to learn what makes you tick through trial and error, and with time, you’ll be able to build your very own system that will increase your productivity, help you tackle all of your assignments, and become an even better freelancer than you already are.
No matter what, just don’t forget that doing a job that you love, on your terms, is a productivity boost on its own.
So, whenever you start feeling low or need additional inspiration, remember that you are doing something you enjoy—which a lot of people can’t brag about.
With all of this in mind, it’s time for you to sit down and come up with a plan that will make sure that you’re as productive as you can be. Good luck!