The best thing about being a freelancer is having the freedom to do your work at your own pace and with your own rules. And this also can be difficult if your schedule and rules don’t fit your client’s needs. So, where is the freedom of being a “free”lancer? It’s in choosing to be your own boss, having your own work timing and following your own work ethic.
Being a freelancer can get tiring if you don’t have proper systems or rules practices in place. To help you with that, I am providing some simple, but working ways to increase your productivity.
I am totally qualified to give you these tips, because
- I have a full-time corporate job.
- I am a part-time freelancer – virtual assistant helping authors, publishers, and bloggers to achieve their goals.
- Most importantly, I am a mom to a one-year-old who demands my entire attention while being at home.
And you know what the awesome thing is? Being successful at all these three parts of my life, I want to help you in increasing your productivity as well. So, follow these great tips to increase your productivity and be free!
1. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE
I know it’s very easy to say, but very difficult to follow this. But, trust me on this – if you can complete a task within 5 minutes, just DO IT! If you are going to just mark it on your to-do list, then when you finally sit down to actually do things, these small tasks are going to tire you out.
The nature of procrastination says that there are four things that will influence people to procrastinate. Simply put, these are those four things: low-value tasks, personality, expectations and goal failure.
And I agree with all of these four things. To avoid being influenced by these factors,
- I would personally suggest not taking low-value tasks that you are not interested in or which you think is not worth your time or skills. It’s a major factor which gives you a bad name because of improper delivery, which in turn puts pressure of your other projects, which greatly decreases your productivity.
- Personality is another important trait. If you have a more impulsive personality and easily prone to distractions, I would strongly suggest that you use apps/tools that will block sites which distract you from doing your job. Here are three Chrome add-ons which are easy to use.
- Set strong and clear expectations from both you and your client.
- If you have the fear of failure and see procrastination as a way to postpone that failure, just know this. Take help from other freelancers by posting in a group or community to help with the issue. People are seriously ready to help, if only you ask. If you still fail within assigned timelines, you can always ask your client for more time saying the things that you have done so far. Most clients are super understanding and always ready to give another chance. All everyone needs is for you to work dedicated and remain true. You will be surprised by how many are ready to help when you come clean with your problem. Even if your client is not understanding and fires you right away, you tried and had been professional and brave. Take that to your heart and add it to your learning curve. That will make a great post for your blog, if not anything else. 🙂
2. ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN – ALWAYS
You should always know what to do next. Be it in the restaurant queue waiting for a table, in a commute to your office or waiting for a friend in a coffee shop, always have a clear plan. At least use that time to read your feeds, schedule your social media posts, respond to the comments or just answer a no-thinking-necessary email. The best part of this is you are already doing all this, but without a plan. With a proper plan, you are saving yourself a great amount of time.
I have a Business Calendar app and a paper planner at all times. I usually have all my tasks and events planned in Google Calendar which syncs with my Business Calendar app. And I never have tiny tasks at hand. I finish them at the earliest opportunity that I have.
This will ensure you to gather focus on most important things when you at last sit before your PC. Eliminate distractions via emails and social media when you, at last, have that focus. And do not be tempted by your favorite websites and start surfing. It will deplete your limited time and end up having you sitting through wee hours of the morning.
3. USE TIME-SAVING AKA PRODUCTIVITY APPS AND SOFTWARES
If there is one thing you can’t beat in freelancing, it’s the freedom to have your work hours depending solely on you. There is no rule that you have to work from 8-4 or from 9-5 (ugh, right?).
If you want to work only half-day or 2 hours a day and still make enough money to support yourself, then that’s totally fine. And you can totally take a vacation during weekdays and work full days during the weekend.
That’s also the main reason why those few hours you spend is more important. There are ways with which you can save your time with softwares, tools, and mobile apps.
DOWNLOAD THIS PDF TO GET THESE MUST-HAVE TOOLS WHICH ENHANCES YOUR PRODUCTIVITY AS A FREELANCER.
12 Blogging Tools to help you blog smarter
With 6 years of blogging experience and being virtual assistant, I know how much time blogging can consume. Do smart blogging by using these 30 FREE tools. These are essential for every blogger!
4. DEFINITELY SET LITTLE TIME FOR BREAK
All work and no play will make you dull.
I know you are working hard, trust me, I know. And I also know there are also people who even ignore their sleep, appetite, exercise, friends and family to establish their freelancing business and make their dreams true.
You are going to be exhausted, depleting all your energy sooner than you expect and eventually get burned out. Take some time for breaks – even small ones – between your work hours. Even an hour with your friend or a few hours with your family would do wonders to the creative side of you, greatly enhancing your productivity.
Just playing with my kid for an hour makes me happy enough to sit through the next few hours of focused work. I feel refreshed and ready and it works every time. You can say that you have very less time, that you even forget to grab your lunch sometimes. If that’s the case, it’s not long before you feel like you are really going to lose it. And that’s actually my own experience and that hasn’t worked well.
Studies show that taking short breaks during your typical work day can make you more productive. Go to a garden, take a walk in the park or take your friend to the coffee shop.
I am not asking you to spend hours on social media and tell me that you had your free time. Obsessive social media interactions can be even more bad for freelancers.
Give this break time to give your mind and body some rest. According to scientific research broken down by New York Times writer Phyllis Korkki, “A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.”
Have it from someone who was once constantly exhausted, breaks are good. There is nothing to feel guilty about taking short breaks. Take breaks that doesn’t border on procrastination. It’s really good. Try it – it will make you more ready to get back to your work and you will more success.
Another main reason for bad productivity is monotonous tasks. I know that not all freelancers can have jobs that are interesting every other day. They can be monotonous and boring and irritating – sometimes.
One solution to this monotonous work is automation. There are so many tools that can take your time off simple and mundane tasks.
6. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Start saying NO, although it’s just temporary. I am a freelancer and virtual assistant and I hear your mind always saying and doing things that will impress your clients (or potential clients). Our reputation depends on it. Our referral rate depends on it. Our repeat business depends on it.
But, it’s also important to know to set the limits on both sides in this business. One simple solution is to have a clear contract.
Saying NO is not a wrong thing, but saying it in a respectful and nice way is more important. And mutually agreed-upon contract would be a major advantage to this discussion – to both parties. And this can solve you a lot of headaches.
7. FIND YOUR INSPIRATION
Freelancing can be awesome, but tiring at times. Do not lose your inspiration in all this game of money and life.
Taking that special break as I said above can be great. But, there are other additional ways too.
Vary your tasks
Varying your tasks can keep you away from hitting that wall of monotonous activities. This can be done, but you got to be super organized for that to happen. When concentrating on one task, do not try to think about working on other. Break down the tasks and always complete the current sub-task at hand.
- You have got 2 tasks at hand: social media marketing and content creation.
- Split the social media marketing to tasks into multiple sub-tasks: Create designs, create content, schedule via tools like Hootsuite.
- Split the content creation task into: Prepare a draft, create images, proof-read the post, formatting and publish.
Now, shuffle these sub-tasks so that you do not get bored, but rather inspired to work on those items. This will keep your creativity and inspiration intact.
Have some creative outlet outside of work
Deadline after deadline after deadline? It’s easy to lose your inspiration when you are getting buried in deadlines. But, that’s okay. It’s a rookie mistake. Over time, you will learn to set your client’s expectations right and holding your stand on the required timeframe to get the job done.
Meanwhile, when you are at it, feel your passion with some real food. Do something that will make your love your job again. Create an interest outside of work. Get inspired. When it’s finally time to work again, you will feel the inspiration rather than just responsibility.
8. GO, GET DRESSED
In a Forbes article Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, 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.”
Freelancing can be lonely at times. Staring at your computer all day (and night) without any human company will make you feel isolated. Maybe not!
Maybe, it’s just that all your friends are only through online via social media and forums.
Whatever the reason, most freelancers forget one very important stuff: SELF-CARE.
According to researchers at Northwestern University, clothes aren’t just a device of perception, but a tool that can really affect how you perceive yourself. Your posture of sitting up straight and wearing more professional clothing (instead of being in PJ pants all day without any makeup or even without brushing your hair) can help you perform better. It seems like the dress codes at workplace are not for nothing.
9. DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET HELP
Even with all the smart moves that you make, there is always something that you may need help with. It’s totally fine to ask for help. Actually, having help can give you more financial and emotional stability. There are two ways you can do that.
There are so many tasks that you need not do it. Keeping your inbox to zero read emails (you can just concentrate on important emails alone that require your complete attention), website maintenance, blog post publishing (proofing, formatting and scheduling), project management, bookkeeping, social media management and so many other tasks take so much of your valuable time. This can be done by hiring a virtual assistant. You can take up more money by focusing on more important tasks.
KNOW FROM OTHERS FROM YOUR NICHE
There is so much know new information, tools and softwares every day. As part of my job, I make it a habit to know about a new tool every two weeks, which will help my clients. Be friends with other freelancers who are from your niche. Their experience and knowledge can do wonders to your business.
10. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Actually, you are doing great. Tweaking a few things can set you far, yes, but being hard on yourself can set you a long way from that goal.
In fact, this study shows that self-blame is definitely counter-productive. Instead, forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and come back with more force and productivity.
This research points out that it’s important to evaluate each task to make sure you aren’t engaging in ‘automatic behavior’:
Often our behaviour is robotic. We do things not because we’ve really thought about it, but because it’s a habit or we’re unconsciously copying other people. This type of behaviour can be an enemy of goal striving. Ask yourself whether what you are doing is really getting you closer to your goal.
Are you reaching at least a small step forward to your goals every day? Then you are doing it right and actually doing great.