10 Ways to Increase Productivity as a Freelancer

Being your own boss has its perks but can also present challenges. Whether coding a new app or researching Zoom phone competitors for a guest blog post, life as a freelancer can quickly become hectic. There are clients to manage, distractions to avoid, and payments to chase, not to mention doing the freelance work itself!

Top obstacles that a freelancer faces in 2020
Top obstacles that a freelancer faces in 2020. (Source: Freelancermap)

From the Freelancermap survey result, we know that 25% of freelancers interviewed said that they found staying productive a challenge, with 35% feeling keeping a healthy work-life balance posed a problem. Thankfully, there are steps that you can take as a freelancer to increase your productivity. What are they? Read on to find out.

10 Ways to Increase Productivity as a Freelancer

If you were running a business and wanted to increase your employees' productivity, you might invest in new software or VoIP for small businesses. However, the challenges faced by freelancers are often quite different, mainly because, more often than not, you're working for yourself. 

These 10 tips can help freelancers increase productivity, manage their workload, and make life easier.

1. Create a Schedule

Work as a freelancer is often less structured than a standard nine-to-five job. In many cases, freelancers work from home or embrace a hybrid work solution, often tackling multiple overlapping projects for different clients. Creating a schedule can help to keep things organized, not only benefiting your work life but your home life, too.

A daily schedule helps structure the work day and ensures that your work life doesn't eclipse your personal life or vice versa. Planning out what time you start work, when you take breaks, meal times, and any other chores that need to be taken care of will help you to keep track of what you should be doing and when ensuring you always have enough time to finish your projects without neglecting other essential tasks.

Thinking more long-term, using a calendar can help you plan your time. Quickly seeing what deadlines are looming will enable you to prioritize your projects and see whether you have time to take on additional work should the offer come your way.

2. Create a Workspace

Many freelancers work from home. Typically, this will result in more distractions to overcome than you'd find in a standard office environment. Creating a dedicated workspace where you can concentrate and get on with your work can do wonders for your productivity.

Ideally, a workspace should be quiet, private, and away from distractions. A home office is ideal, but if your home doesn't have a room you can use as an office, a quiet corner can work just as well. 

The main thing is that you have somewhere to sit and work where you won't constantly be interrupted or tempted by a looming television set. Wherever your office is, virtual office software can help you feel like you're in the same space as your clients and contributors.

Some freelancers may work at a local coffee shop or another public place or rent a coworking space. If you're the kind of person who doesn't work well in isolation or needs others working around you to keep you motivated, these could be options worth investigating.

3. Work on What You are Passionate About

Flexibility and freedom are the key drivers for freelancing
Flexibility and freedom are the key drivers for freelancing. (Source: The Next Web)

One of the biggest benefits of freelancing is that you get to work on the projects you choose. In fact, 70% of full-time freelancers cite this as a benefit to working freelance.

Granted, there may be times when you find yourself working on a project that you don't feel a profound connection with. Still, even then, chances are you're using skills and talents that you enjoy honing, whether writing, designing, web developing or something else entirely.

Working on assignments you want to work on is the best way to stay motivated and increase your productivity. The more a project feels like a chore, the less likely you want to do it. Try to choose projects that interest you, especially at the beginning of your freelancing journey. As your client network expands, you'll find other connected topics and areas of interest that will expand your skill set and knowledge.

4. Set Targets and Goals

Setting targets and goals, whether long-term or short-term, can help to inform your choices as a freelancer and help keep you focused and on the right path. 

At the start of each project, set out what you want to achieve by the time you turn the work in. This could be learning something new about a particular subject, practising a skill, or getting to grips with some new software. Even completing a project on time and getting paid is a worthy goal if it helps motivate you. After all, those bills aren't going to pay themselves!

Long-term goals and targets can also be helpful, helping you to make decisions about which projects to take and which to avoid and keeping you moving in the right direction. A five, three, or even one-year plan can give you a goal to keep your sights on. 

What does your ideal workload look like at that point? Are there any clients you want to work towards partnering with? How much would you like to be earning? All these questions give you something to work towards, increasing your productivity and helping you keep focused during any ups and downs in the intervening weeks and months.

5. Manage Your Time

Time management is essential to master if you want to make it as a freelancer. Without a direct supervisor to tell you what to work on and when it's up to you to structure your day in a way that keeps you on track and fulfils your productivity plan

This can become even trickier for those working from home, who not only have to worry about making sure they meet their work deadlines but also have to fit in doing the dishes, walking the dog, and picking the kids up from school. 

The benefits of better time management
The benefits of better time management. (Source: Timewatch)

Time management is a challenge for many freelancers, but thankfully several techniques can help you keep focused and meet your deadlines:-

Eat That Frog!

No, that's not an unfortunate typo. It's actually the name of a book by author Brian Tracy, in which he explains that tackling the most difficult, extensive, and unappealing task on your to-do list first will boost your productivity.

The idea is that the beginning of the work day is when you have the most energy and focus, so it's easier to tackle the most difficult tasks at this point. 

Not only that, but once these tasks are out of the way, everything else you need to do in a day will seem more straightforward by comparison, giving you the boost you need to get through to the end of the workday.

So if you're writing a breakdown of the best uses for business process management software for a tech blog, you could start by getting the research out of the way first. Once you've finished the arduous task of gathering the information, writing it up will be much simpler.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro technique. (Source: Sketchplanations)

This is one for the procrastinators (no judgment here, I'm one of you). The Pomodoro technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo. It involves working for 25 minutes, taking a five-minute break, and then repeating the process. The theory is that this will result in 25 minutes of focused work, knowing that a break is coming up soon, so there's no need for your mind to wander.

6. Get Some Accountability 

Whether it's a new diet, workout routine, or work, it can be easy to procrastinate and then make excuses as to why you haven't achieved your goals. One way around this is to get someone to be accountable. It could be a friend, family member, or work acquaintance. You could find someone impartial through an online service or join a group.

Having to answer someone each week about the work you've completed or your progress on a project could be just the pressure you need to stay focused and on target. No one wants to have an uncomfortable conversation explaining why they haven't hit their targets, so this method could do wonders for your productivity. 

7. Maintain a Realistic Workload

As a freelancer, it's up to you to decide which clients you take on work from and when meaning that the size of your workload is entirely up to you. You should ensure that you never accept more work than it's realistic for you to complete. Doing so may result in missed deadlines and substandard work.

In order to determine what a realistic workload is for you, it's helpful to time projects, especially when starting out on your freelancing journey. This will help you gauge roughly how long different types of projects will take you to complete, allowing you to have a better plan for deadlines and giving you the confidence to accept or decline work offers as necessary.

8. Assess Your Performance

If you want to know exactly how much your productivity has been impacted by any changes you've made, you need to assess your performance and compare how it changes over time. This can be as simple as taking a minute at the end of the day to see if you've achieved your daily goals and targets.

However, you may wish to measure your performance more quantitatively. This can be done using time management tools, which can help you to track how long a project has taken from research to completion and compare this metric over time. If similar projects are taking you less and less time to complete, it likely means that your productivity has increased.

It's important to be reflective as your freelancing career develops. Taking stock of your achievements will boost your confidence, and acknowledging any mistakes you've made will help you improve in the future.

9. Utilize Productivity Tools

The top freelancer tools
The top 10 freelancer tools. (Source: MarketerHire)

Software and apps can be used greatly in streamlining workflows and increasing productivity in various industries. For example, a warehouse management system (WMS) can help to streamline warehousing operations. 

In much the same way, there are a variety of tools available that can help freelancers to better manage their time and increase their productivity. Cloud-based calendars can help you to stay aware of deadlines no matter where you’re working from or what device you’ve got with you. 

To-do list apps can help you prioritize tasks and provide a visual reminder about what you need to work on next and what you've already achieved. Communication tools can make it easier to stay in touch with clients. Those with features such as screen sharing can make it easier to receive feedback and steer the project in the right direction.

Finally, time-tracking tools can help monitor your progress and productivity, giving you a better idea of how long projects typically take you to complete and allowing you to better plan your future workload.

10. Communicate With Your Clients

Staying in touch with your clients is another great way to increase productivity. When you're working remotely, often without direct face-to-face contact with those you're working for, it can be challenging to remain focused on a project and hard to know if it's headed in the right direction.

Asking for clarification of any aspects of a project you're uncertain about or getting regular feedback on the project will help you to know if you're on the right track. Thanks to modern communication tools, this is now easier than ever. Document collaboration tools make it easy for clients to make suggestions and edit your written work as necessary.

Video conferencing solutions can help you feel a more personal connection with your clients and facilitate more accessible feedback. Apps like Line2 can provide an alternative solution to making numerous phone calls if you're worried about blurring your personal and business communications. Keeping in regular contact with a client will help you clear up any uncertainties about their expectations, ensuring your brief is accurately fulfilled when it comes time to turn it in.

Productivity Needn’t Be Painful

Increasing your productivity as a freelancer may seem daunting at first, but hopefully, with these helpful tips, you'll see some real results in no time at all. An increase in productivity means an increase in the number of briefs you can accept, and the number of clients you can work with, all of which culminates in more money in your pocket. 

If you're thinking about setting up your own freelance business, you can search domain names for something suitable, select one, set up your website, and get started.

Set realistic long-term and short-term goals, then create a schedule that helps you to achieve them. Find a place to work that suits your preferences, and manage your time there efficiently. Make use of productivity tools where you can, whether it's helping you to communicate clearly with your clients or helping you to maintain a realistic workload.

Trying even just a few of these productivity tips will put you on the fast track to freelancing success.

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Article by Grace Lau