Despite enjoying the freedom and flexibility of being a freelancer, it takes a lot of self-motivation to stay productive as a freelancer. There are mornings when we wake up and would rather binge watch Netflix than talking to clients and working on an assigned task. But, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. That’s why you need to stay productive each and every day. And you can accomplish that by implementing these 12 techniques.
1. Set a Schedule
I know you become a freelancer to escape the burden of schedules. But, if you want to remain productive as a freelancer, it’s necessary to establish a daily schedule to keep you organized and motivated. For example, you may dedicate an hour every morning to planning your day, responding to emails, making phone calls, or updating your social media channels. After that, you may set aside the hours between 9 and noon for work, take an hour lunch break, and get back to work from 1 to 4.
2. Get an Early Start
Again, you left the 9-to-5 world behind because you didn’t want to get up early every morning. The thing is, instead of waking up early, getting ready for the day, and commuting to a job, you’re actually out of bed and getting to work before everyone. I used to wake at 6am so I could be out the house by 7am. However, I still wasn’t getting to any actual work until 8 or 9. Even if I slept in until 8, I can get right to work – after I’ve had my cup of coffee first.
Besides getting to work before most other people, waking up early has benefits like being more proactive, being able to anticipate problems, and become better planners. It also gives you time to fit in other activities like exercising.
3. Actually Get Dressed
Since you’re not actually leaving your home, what’s the point of putting on professional attire? Isn’t’ better to just stay in your comfy clothes like your pajamas or sweatpants? Not exactly.
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.”
4. Design a Functional Workplace
Your couch might be extremely comfortable, but is really the optimal space for you to work? To remain productive as a freelancer and prevent distractions, you should create a functional workspace that contains the following:
- Exposure to natural light.
- A temperature setting at 77 degrees.
- Painted in neutral or soft colors.
- Filled with plants.
- Free from background noise.
Most importantly, make sure that you keep your work area clean and organized so that you easily find items when you need them.
5. Cut Out Distractions
Besides a productive work environment, you also need to cut out distractions in your home that prevent you from staying productive. For example, you can put your phone on airplane mode during hours, turn off social media and messaging notifications, and download concentration apps like SelfControl, Anti-Social, and RescueTime.
Another way to cut out distractions is put on some headphones if there’s too much background. The chatter between your family members or roommates may not seem like a big deal, but you’re probably going to pay more attention to the conversation instead of focusing on work. Also, if people see that you have headphones on they probably won’t bother you.
6. Give Yourself a Break
Research has found that taking frequent breaks can increase productivity and creative thinking. Breaks can also prevent stress and exhaustion. In short, it’s a win-win situation.
The Pomodoro Technique is an effective way in learning how to take breaks since it forces you to work in 25 minute increments, which are followed by a 5 minute breather.
7. Earn Rewards
One of the best things about working from home is that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Of course, that takes a lot of self-discipline. But, if you reward yourself, you’ll actually find that you stay productive. Staying productive as a freelancer isn’t easy, but a rewards system makes it much easier.
For example, I finally decided to watch Breaking Bad last year. Instead of binge watching the series in a couple of days, I would watch an episode per day after I completed a task. Not only was it a reward, it also gave me a break from writing.
8. Separate Personal and Professional Communication
It’s incredibly easy for both your personal and professional messages to get jumbled together. When this happens, it decreases your productivity because you’re spending times responding to personal texts, emails, or phone calls. If you need to be in the loop for work, you should consider having a phone line and email address dedicated solely for work. During work hours, you can keep your personal lines of communication silent.
9. Know Your MIT
We all have that one or two tasks that are high priority. Instead of procrastinating, you should be aware of your Most Important Task (MIT) and make a point to complete it as soon as possible. As suggested on LifeHacker;
“It’s Friday. Near the end of the day, deliberately decide on your MIT for Monday morning. Make sure it’s tiny, achievable and important. Write it down and place it somewhere you will see it, even if it’s a Post-It note on your keyboard. Monday morning when you arrive? That’s the first thing you’re going to do. No matter what.”
10. Vary Your Tasks
As a freelancer you’re paid to work on probably one specific area of expertise. Let’s say that you’re a programmer. You’ve been hired to write code. But can you honestly sit there and code 10 or 12 hours straight? Of course. After a certain amount of time you get tired of just coding. That’s why it’s important that you shake things up throughout the day.
While this may not be possible for all gigs, writers for example could write for a couple of hours and then edit to break-up the writing, there are other tasks that you could work on. It could be checking your emails or doing a little self-promotion by interacting with influencers on social media. Whatever you select to do, it’s important that work on various tasks so that you don’t get burnt out.
11. Churn, Churn, Churn
There are times when we all hit the proverbial wall. As a writer, it’s not uncommon to suffer from the dreaded writer’s block. Instead of just staring at the blank Word document, push through that writer’s block and keep writing. Even if it’s not your best work, the worst case scenario is that you have a solid outline that you can come back to when you’re ready to deliver your best work.
Even though you work from home and are bringing a decent income, it’s still important that you continue to work on your social skills – you’ll need them when approaching and working with clients. When you take that much deserved break, go grab a cup of coffee, do your weekly grocery shopping, hit up the gym, have diner with your friends, or take a class to enhance your professional or personal life. Just get outside and socialize with someone in the flesh.
Not only will that keep your social skills sharp, it will also give you an energy boost to complete a project.