Productivity Tips for New Freelancers

When it comes to organizing your workflow, freelancing is a completely different ballgame than having a regular job.

In employment, your schedule is arranged for you based on your working hours. Your work focus is set by the projects your boss gives you. You may have to prioritize some tasks over others, but the choice of what you work on is fairly limited.

As a freelancer, you're responsible for your own work schedule and productivity. The possibilities for how you could spend your time can seem overwhelming. There's so much to do, from catching up on emails to working on projects to developing your marketing materials.

You might be wondering: Is the life of a freelancer really so hard?

What Do Freelancers Really Do All Day?

If you've yet to try freelancing, you might secretly dream that freelancers spend their days goofing off. With no boss to check up on them, freelancers can do whatever they like.

The truth is, as a freelancer you'll likely work harder than you ever did before. You'll need to be smart with your time and your attention, especially if you work from home, where distractions can veer you off course.

On the positive side, even when you're busy, you can arrange your work schedule around what matters most to you. You can take time out of your day to pick up your kids from school or walk your dog. You'll also learn excellent time management skills and develop new work habits that will stay with you for life.

Let's take a look at some productivity techniques you can use to be a productive freelancer. If you have yet to take the plunge into freelancing, you can start applying these at work. Finding that you enjoy being more productive is a good sign that freelancing is right for you.

Handy Productivity Skills for New Freelancers

Productivity advice is everywhere. Looking for productivity tips can actually be a way of procrastinating… So what really works if you want to get things done?

  • Know that you'll never be perfect
    If you're anything like me, you'll have some super-productive days and some slow days. It's okay to have both – you're not a machine, so don't beat yourself up when things don't go as planned.
  • Set yourself deadlines
    This is a productivity technique I use more than any other. When a client asks you to do something, reply telling them when you'll send it to them. For example, say "I'll get that to you by next Thursday." This shows professionalism and acts as an incentive to get working.
  • Keep a to-do list
    At the beginning of the week, write down everything you need to get done in the next seven days. This clears your mind of the nagging worry that you're forgetting something. It's also extremely satisfying to cross items off your list when you've done them.

Bonus tip: Avoid turning your to-do list into a "want to do" list. Otherwise you risk ending up overwhelmed by a never-ending list of tasks. If you come up with ideas for new projects you'd like to start, have somewhere other than your to-do list to write these down.

  • Track your working hours
    This has three effects. First, you can see how many hours you're actually working. If you're working too many hours, you can cut back on your hours by sharpening your focus when you're in the office.

    Not working enough hours? Then you could be getting more done or growing your business. Second, tracking what you do causes what's called the Hawthorne Effect. The effect is this: when you track something, it improves. So by tracking your hours, you'll boost your productivity.

    Finally, knowing how many hours you work allows you to calculate your real hourly rate. Simply divide your weekly earnings by the number of hours you worked that week.

  • Establish a routine
    When productivity becomes a habit, you'll no longer feel like you're swimming upstream. An easy habit to get into is working according to a routine. This could be focusing on client work in the mornings and doing your admin and marketing in the afternoons. Or you could set aside three days a week for client projects and meetings and the other two days for developing your business.

    A routine means you automatically know what to do the moment you walk into your office, so you don't waste time on distractions before you start work.

  • Eat frogs!
    Not literal frogs, of course! The idea of "eating frogs" comes from productivity guru Brian Tracy. To eat frogs, you start your day with the tasks you least want to do. By getting these out of the way, you give yourself a burst of motivation that carries you through the rest of your to-do list for the day.

As you integrate these techniques into your life, you'll find that you get more done and that your work becomes more enjoyable. Being more productive is an all-around win.

I'd love to hear your views. If you're reading this as an established freelancer, what productivity techniques do you use to stay on track?

Written by David Masters

David Masters helps businesses find their sweet spot of creativity, productivity and making money. He's been earning his bread as an online business writer since 2008.

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