Ask a freelancer the best thing about freelancer jobs and you’ll get a range of answers. From choosing your own working hours to having a variety of clients and projects - the freelance life offers plenty of incentives. But now you’re working alone, you might find it hard to stay focused.
When you’re in charge of your schedule, it’s easy to drift out of routine. Yet it’s that structure and consistency that enables you to be productive rather than feeling overwhelmed. Creating a schedule is something that helps keep freelancers on task, and the great thing is that it can be based on the kind of life you want to live. Need a Monday off? Work it into your schedule. Date night planned? Finish your working day early. Ask yourself ‘How can I make my business work for me?’
Unlike in a lot of corporate jobs, where you start at 9 am and finish at 5 pm, freelance jobs allow you to play to your strengths and be as flexible as you wish. A freelance designer we recently chatted to swore her best work between 9 pm to midnight. You might have a friend that gets up at 7 am and starts work before showering. When creating a schedule, start by identifying what time of the day you are most productive and make sure you pencil in your most important tasks for later. You may also want to consider where you work best. Some people prefer the quiet comfortability of home, while others find having a co-working space helps them to separate personal from professional.
Depending on your setup, you may have some clients who would like you to be available during 'business hours’, but if there are certain periods where you don’t intend on working, be sure to set expectations. One of the great things about being a freelancer is that you don’t have to be constantly available. During those times you don’t want to be contactable, try switching your phone to airplane mode, or, at the very least, silence notifications. Of course, it’s important that you and your clients are on the same wavelength, so informing them of your general schedule is the best course of action — even if that just means adding a line to your email signature.
Once you’ve mapped out a rough plan for your week (or month) and you’ve adapted your schedule to work around real life, it’s time to put your plan into action. You might be someone that likes to put pen to paper in a diary or on a whiteboard, or maybe you’d prefer to utilise an online calendar, prompting yourself to work on different tasks by using alerts. Although it may take some time to get used to (research says it usually takes at least 21 days to form a new habit) you’ll likely find you become more organised and productive over time. And, if something isn’t working for you, mix it up. That’s the beauty of being a freelancer.
Don’t let the comforts of home distract you from staying productive. The best way to get around this is by having a designated area of your home to use as your office — ideally a professional set up with a desk and office chair. If this isn’t an option for you (if you’re sharing with roommates, for example) do whatever you can to separate work from personal. Even if your bed is your office, something as simple as a laptop tray can mark that as your workspace. If you are sharing your space, make sure others know interruptions should be kept to a minimum while you are working.
As mentioned above, a professional setup with a desk and chair may not be an option for everyone, but where possible — particularly if you’re spending large amounts of time in front of a computer — try to avoid slouching. This can cause various health issues associated with poor posture and lack of movement. Too much sitting can also result in pelvic tilt issues, which can be avoided by taking regular breaks and exercising. You’ll find these things help your focus and energy levels, too.
Work all hours of the day and it won’t be long before you reach burnout. When you’re just starting out, it may be necessary to work more hours to build your client list or develop an impressive portfolio of work to attract new prospects, but once you’re more established in your freelance career, it’s important to prioritise a good work-life balance. One way of doing this is to choose a set time each day when you finish work and close your laptop.
If you have various projects with different clients, it’s easy to lose track of how many hours you’ve worked for each. A good time-tracking app not only helps you to keep track of your billable work hours but also gives you a better idea of how efficient you are being with your time and whether you would be better off billing clients hourly or via a set rate. Toggl and Todoist are two options that come highly recommended in the freelance sphere.
This might be obvious, but it’s easily done when you’re a freelancer. Keeping regular sleeping hours is one of the best ways to keep you alert and energised enough to be able to stick to your schedule because it programs the brain and the internal body clock to get used to a set routine. You should ideally aim for between 6-9 hours of sleep every night. If you’re struggling to have a good night’s sleep, make sure you wind down before bed and ensure your bedroom is sleep-friendly.
How do freelancers get more clients? Read this post for some of our top tips.
by Emma Gibbins | 22 Feb 21
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