Freelancers were the original work-from-homers; the ones who could work from Starbucks or an island or pretty much anywhere as long as they had internet access. But now, due to the pandemic, the corporate world has shifted to allow for remote employees and hybrid schedules, causing the lines between work & home to blurr. This may mean that you now have a spouse or roommate also working from home or a client who works in a different time zone than you. So how do you find productivity and balance among all the chaos?
- Set Boundaries
Boundaries are of the utmost importance for all aspects of your life. Whether it’s for a
new or existing client, a spouse/roommate with a lax job, or children at home, you
need to set clear rules and expectations with them upfront. Everything from how and
when to contact you, expected response times, emergency situations, and more
should be covered.
For example, if you have a client on a different time zone who starts to message you
at 3 am your time, you may need to tell them you will respond to any requested
within 48 hours via the laid out communication methods (email/Slack/etc.) and gently
remind them that you will not be prompt in responding to their messages since it’s
3 am your time and you are asleep. If there is an emergency, they need to title the
email subject line “URGENT” to receive quicker response.
Another example is to set boundaries with your work-from-home partner. Things like
a closed door or red sticky note on the back of your computer mean do not disturbed
and they need to be respected.
- Time Block Your Calendar
The easiest way to make time for each task is to organize your calendar once a
week and block off times for specific tasks. The beauty of freelancing is that you can
make a schedule work for you, not against you! Do you work better in the mornings
when everyone else in the house is asleep? Block off a chunk of time each morning
for deep work so that you can get in the zone and knock items off your to-do list. Get
the afternoon slump? Take a break every day at 2pm and get outside. More of a
people person and need to work off of other people’s energy? Block off time to work
from a co-working space so you get a change of scenery and improve your
productivity. Remember to use alerts/reminders for each calendar event to help you
change tasks and keep all of your projects moving.
Don’t forget to block off time for things outside of work too! Freelancers typically
have a hard time with work-life balance since you have the ability to work at any
time, anywhere. However, don’t let that fact turn you into a workaholic or leave you
scrambling to get everything done at the last minute.
- Use a Project Management Tool for Productivity
Written down to-do lists are fine but they can get lost easily. Due dates and subtasks
can and will change, and you may be dependant on another person’s work before
you can finish your task. Using a cloud-based project management tool will help you
keep track of the statuses on all your tasks, dues dates, notes, revisions, comments,
Don’t have a task management tool? Checkout UncommonGood’s new freelancing
- It’s OK to Take Breaks
Sitting in front of your computer screen for hours on end is not healthy; as many
research reports have shown, it causes dry eyes or blurred vision, posture issues,
headaches, and so much more. You need to remember to take breaks both for your
mental and physical health. Work small 5-15 minutes breaks into your time blocks
and don’t forget to eat your lunch!
- Use an App to Restrict Doom Scrolling
Do you ever find yourself picking up your phone in the middle of a project and
checking social media? Are you endlessly doom scrolling for no reason and wasting
hours of time? Then you need to download a social media app blocker. Apps like
AppBlocker, Flipd, and Freedom will lock you out of an app after you’ve been on it
for a set period of time, forcing you to shift your focus and not waste time scrolling.
Some of these apps can even extend to your computer or using a browser
extension, such as SelfControl and Cold Turkey.
A word of caution, some of these apps have ways around the lockout such as
entering a password, so take it a step further and have someone else set the
passcode to the app so you HAVE to stop using social media and focus.
- Set Long-Term & Short-Term Goals
Start with the big picture and think of the things you want to achieve in your
freelancing business. Then work backwards and set smaller goals that help you
attain your larger one(s). Make sure that your goals are S.M.A.R.T. (specific,
measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) before implementing them.
Say you want to increase your revenue by 25% over the next 5 years. You need to
work backwards to figure out exactly how many hours and/or how many additional
clients you’ll need to land in order to achieve your long-term goal.
Revenue for 2022 = $80,000
25% increase = $20,000
Hourly Rate = $80
Hours Needed to gain $20K = 250 hours
In order to reach your goal, you’ll need to get 1-2 long-term clients that need 5-6
hours of work per week for an entire year OR 25 short-term clients who need
projects that will be around 10 hours each project. In addition, you’ll need to figure
out where you can work those 250 hours into your already full-time freelancing
schedule. Does that look like 50 additional hours each year for 5 years? Or do you
front-end the hours the first 1-2 years?
Once you map it all out and break it down, you can set smaller goals and schedule
time to periodically work on them. Your goals will have to be adjustable should you
fall behind, loose a long term client, or if you speed through and meet them quicker
than you thought. But that’s okay – it’s the life of freelancing!
- If You Can’t Focus, Step Away
If you find yourself not able to focus on the task at hand, just stop. Step away and
do something else so that your brain gets the break it needs, then come back to your
task at a later point in time. Take a quick walk outside to reset then look at your
schedule for the rest of the day and pick something that speaks to you. Your time
blocks are important but can be easily rearranged so don’t stress the small switch
- Schedule Weekly or Monthly 1:1s with Your Clients
If you have long term contracts, you should schedule a regular cadence of check-in
meetings with your clients to keep abreast of their current situations and see how
you can better service them. This consistent contact also allows you to get feedback
on new ideas and concepts before going too far down a rabbit hole as well as build better rapport with them instead of constantly Slacking or emailing.
If they aren’t open to the idea of one-on-ones, consider sending weekly recaps of any communication throughout the week as well as items you’ve completed, items in progress, and items not yet started so they can help you prioritize. Yes, sending a massive email may seem daunting, but it will help consolidate and organize communication as info gets lost in Slack channels and text threads.
- Assign Task Due Dates Before They Are Due
If your client gives you a due date for a certain project, aim to get it done atleast 2
days beforehand. That way you can take a step back from it before reviewing the
project one final time. Giving yourself leeway also allows you to adjust your schedule
should any emergency/urgent projects get thrown on your plate.
Conversely, if you client doesn’t give you due dates, use your 1:1 time to ask about
priorities, what other freelancers or employees are working on, and important
business initiatives so that you can set your own due dates.
- Have a Hard Stop
Your work (freelancing or not) should not ruin your relationships. You need to take
back control of your life and set a hard stop on all freelancing activities after a certain
hour each day. That means turn off your computer, mute your Slack notifications on
your phone, and don’t answer any emails until the next day. This will allow you to
clear your head, spend time with family or friends, and have a restful night’s sleep so
you are ready to get back at it the next day!
Looking to increase your productivity and time management as a freelancer?
UncommonGood is the software platform and community that helps you to think like a freelancer and act like a business. UncommonGood was founded on the idea that freelancers, small businesses, and nonprofits should have access to the same high-quality tools and resources as large corporations, without having to spend half their budget on them. By providing an all-inclusive, cloud-based software platform where freelancers can manage their operations, marketing, invoicing, and more in one place, UncommonGood enables freelancers to focus more on what matters, getting work done.