11 Tips to Maximize Freelance Productivity and Profit

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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.

6. Declutter

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

19 thoughts on “11 Tips to Maximize Freelance Productivity and Profit

  1. Posting my thoughts as requested by Nikhil–
    To-Do lists and schedules I have no problem with, although I tend to make very idealistic schedules and can never stick to them because I find myself needing to take a break after accomplishing something. So I still need to perfect that.

    I’ve gotten rid of instant messaging altogether – it was a huge annoyance. But I need to get better at scheduling Google Reader/Twitter processing bursts just like Inbox Zero & GTD suggests we do with email processing.

    I don’t have much of a problem with my phone disturbing me to be honest. I’m usually the one making the calls, not receiving them.

    Keeping my workspace clutter free and having the right tools are both very important to me getting things done. Just knowing I have a sketch book available makes me 100x more likely to sketch something, even though I could do the same on normal paper.

    Good tips overall – just have to decide which ones each of us need to take the next step and go for it…

  2. Good points-I enjoyed this post.
    Sometimes a break can bring back your creativity and give you a fresh prespective. I have a hard time remembering that. A quick walk outside always helps me refocus.

  3. An interesting article to read, but easier said then done on a lot of those unfortunately.
    I definitely agree with the to-do list, these hugely save my life and time.
    I also find creating a list of the hardest things to do first then work my way to the easiest, this helps break the projects up instead of looking at it in one big picture.

  4. @AJ – if I need to get things done, I pretty much always turn off IM to stop the digg requests and other random chat that eats into my time … it definitely helps focus.

    @Michelle – I know one guy who takes a snooze at work for his 15 minute break in the morning and afternoon. He puts on his earphones, chills out and takes a short siesta … 15 minutes later he’s wide awake and refreshed!

    @Jodie – couldn’t agree more! I find that the most important thing with todo lists is to be realistic with your targets and keep it simple.

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  6. Nice post.
    I usually don’t listen to music when I’m working; i should try something that’s not too heavy, but something calm.
    The picture at the point n. 9 is fantastic.
    Regular breaks and even doing some stretching exercises, help so much concentration.

    Thanks for sharing these awesome tips.

  7. I personally think home workers face bigger challenges as they need to get committed just to sit and do what they are getting payment for. If they become able to sit for some time, they can control diverting their atrtention and concentrate on work.

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  9. Thanks for the tips and pointers… always open to new suggestions to increase my productivity, effectiveness, etc. prograstination and distraction overrule far too often. for instance, I should finish calculus homework, study for midterm which is tomorrow morning, work on a website, finish 2 3d animations, etc. this week’s been bad lol.

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