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The life of the freelancer presents a unique set of challenges and demands. While you have the benefit of becoming your own boss, you must take responsibility of managing your time and maintaining lucrative client contracts. The aim of the game is to maximize your creativity in order to make the most of your earning potential. There are many tried and tested methods for increasing your productivity as well as simple ways to boost your output and reap the financial rewards of your freelancing opportunities.
1. Make To-Do Lists
One of the beauties of freelancing is that there’s no boss telling you what to do, but by the same token it’s up to you to take control and tell yourself what needs to be done. It’s very useful to draw up a to-do list at the outset of each project, at the beginning of the week and at the start of each day.
2. Make a Work Schedule
Once you have a list of tasks you can map out a work schedule, planning exactly what and when you need to do to complete each project and meet your deadlines. The work schedule should cover long-term objectives, weekly work patterns and a breakdown of daily targets. Try to keep to office hours; occasionally there will be times when you have to put in an all-nighter to get a project wrapped up, but try to keep to a regular program to maintain productivity.
3. Turn off Instant Messaging
Freelancing and working independently can sometimes make you feel a little isolated, so instant messaging is a great way to keep in contact with friends and maintain a virtual office environment. It’s also a perfect way to keep in contact with clients and make enquiries regarding ongoing projects. But chatting with IM can be enormously distracting and a source of procrastination, so while you’re busy working switch it off and only sign-in when you need to make a specific query, or during time set aside for communications.
4. Switch off the Phone
Likewise, the phone is an essential tool of the freelancer, but also a source of distraction. When you’re focused on a project the last thing you need is a cold-caller offering double-glazing solutions or your mates inviting you to the pub. Switch off the phone to maximize concentration during work time.
5. Allocate Communication Time
To avoid procrastination and make the most of the working day allocate communication time, periods of the day when it’s okay to switch on the phone and IM and have a chat with friends and family, and check your emails. This will allow you to reduce the sense of isolation that sometimes comes with freelancing whilst maintaining productivity during dedicated work time.
Decluttering your workspace will help promote a methodical and organized approach to your work. Remove all unnecessary clutter, untangle and tidy away all computer wires and adopt a minimalist approach to your desk and work area.
7. Make Your Workspace Practical and Ergonomic
Ensure that your desk and chair are comfortable and your workspace is organized in a practical and functional manner. Lighting design, a carefully chosen color scheme and the addition of posters and plants can all improve the quality of your workspace.
8. Close Your Internet Browser Whilst Working
Constantly checking emails, looking at news sites and reading irrelevant Wikipedia pages are typical forms of procrastination and work avoidance. Close your browser and only open it for essential reference, research and to contact clients and contacts for your current projects.
9. Take Regular Breaks
Make sure you take regular breaks to rest the eyes away from the computer screen and take your mind off work for some time. Once or twice a day have a rest and do something pleasant such as reading a book or taking a walk outside. You’ll return invigorated and able to review the day’s work with fresh eyes and renewed creativity.
10. Listen to Music
Many freelancers find it useful and inspiring to listen to music during the working day. While it may not suit everyone’s methods, carefully selected ambient music can helpfully influence the tone and pace of your work.
11. Invest in the Best Tools
There are plenty of applications available to make the life of the freelancer simpler and more efficient. To organize projects try out packages such as Backpack , while iOrganize collates ideas, notes and bookmarks in one place. Google Calendar is a great way to maintain an online schedule, and Neptune manages daily task lists.
One of the central aspects of maintaining a freelance career is the ability to manage your finances. FreshBooks takes the headache out of sending and tracking client invoices. For an overview of your financial management, useful business tools and help with monetary decisions join the online community at Wesabe, where you can benefit from the shared experiences of your fellow freelancers.
Header image by kevinzhengli