Being a freelancer can be a satisfying way to earn money and control your future. But it also means you’re more likely than the average worker to waste time on distractions, procrastination, and other counterproductive habits. Don’t let that happen to you! With a little planning and a few timesaving power tips, you can boost your productivity and make freelancing more efficient and profitable. Let’s look at some tips for doing that.
Don’t jump into a project without pre-planning. For example, if you’re working on a project that requires lots of research, start with a skeleton outline (or “mood board”) that describes what topics are important to include in your piece before starting. It’s also helpful to make an outline or mind map that shows what to include in your project. Have a blueprint to guide your efforts and help you get from point A to point B, so you won’t spin your wheels and waste precious time.
Specialize in a few areas
You will be working a lot, so don’t try to tackle too many diverse projects. Focus on a few areas. If you try to be the jack of all trades, you’ll master none, and your business will suffer. Concentrate on the tasks you enjoy and/or are good at. This will allow you to charge more for your services and spend less time doing things that don’t benefit your bottom line or personal happiness.
Becoming an expert is especially important if you’re working in a niche industry where many other people offer similar services. If your niche is competitive, figure out what makes you unique and focus on pitching those skills instead of broadening your portfolio with unnecessary work that doesn’t showcase your strengths.
Use project management software
Whether you manage your projects or work with clients, tracking what needs to be done and who’s doing it can be a time-consuming process. If you’re not using project management software, get a free trial. There are many options out there: Trello, Basecamp, and Asana are all popular choices for freelancers. Project management software might sound like an extra expense, but it can more than pay for itself with increased productivity.
Keep your work area minimalistic and uncluttered
The fewer distractions in your workspace, the easier it will be to focus on projects. How many times have you spent 10 minutes searching for something among the clutter? If there’s nothing but open space on your desk, then there’s nowhere for papers or files to hide. You won’t have to worry about accidentally throwing away something important again! Less clutter means less brain clutter too.
Choose a Work Spot Without Distractions
Further boost your productivity by choosing a distraction-free work spot. The location of your office or workstation can make a big difference in how much you get done and how satisfied you feel at the end of the day. Choose a desk with plenty of surface area for all your stuff, so your workspace won’t feel cramped or cluttered.
Some questions to ask:
- Is this location quiet and distraction-free?
- Is there enough comfortable seating and space for me and my equipment (e.g., laptop or tablet)?
- Do I have good lighting? Too much glare could leave you with eye strain at the end of the day.
Create shortcuts for every task
Get more done with less time by creating shortcuts. If you write or design social media posts, use writing templates or social media templates, so you don’t start with a blank page or screen. Starting from scratch takes time and creates added stress.
Another way to streamline your work is to set up keyboard shortcuts. If there’s something you do repeatedly on your computer, create a shortcut for it. For example, if you use Word or Excel a lot, create keyboard shortcuts to quickly insert commonly used words or phrases. Or, if there’s an online form you fill out every week, set up a macro that automatically fills in the data when you open the form in your browser. These small time savers add up.
Automating as much of your freelance business as possible will save you time, money, and stress. Use tools like Zapier, IFTTT, and Google Sheets to automate otherwise tedious tasks. These tools allow you to connect two different apps or programs. When an action occurs on one side, it automatically triggers another action on the other.
For example, if you have a task management app like Trello and a form builder like Formstack (or any other form building software), Zapier will automatically send new submissions from your form builder into Trello without you having to manually copy/paste them yourself every time a new submission comes in.
Hire a virtual assistant
Virtual assistants, or VAs, can make running your business more profitable. These versatile professionals can do things like book appointments or manage social media accounts while you focus on what makes money – usually not answering phone calls or texting people! This will help you focus on the things that matter most and save time in your daily activities, so you can get more done in less time!
Learn to say no
One of the most important ways to save time is to learn to say no. It’s easy to think you have to say yes to please people, but what happens when you say yes to every request? When you nod your head to every request, what happens? You either rush through your work or do it ineffectively because you are trying to tackle too much. Keep these tips in mind:
- Be clear about what you can and cannot do
- Don’t take on more than you can handle
- Don’t feel bad about saying no
- Don’t multitask
There is no such thing as multitasking. Multitasking has been proven ineffective, even detrimental. You can’t do two things effectively at once (even if you think you’re good at it), and the more you try to multitask, the less productive your work will be. You won’t get your best performance when you do three or four things simultaneously. Plus, it can send your stress level through the roof! Plan and focus on one project at a time.
Work time is work time – no exceptions. Schedule breaks, but don’t let outside distractions interfere with work time. It’s easy for your workday to get out of control. You might spend all day checking email or social media or chatting with friends instead of focusing on the task at hand. But when you’re self-employed, it’s up to you to ensure that you spend your time wisely and productively. Have a plan and a routine and stick with it but include scheduled breaks to give your brain a rest.
Freelancing can be rewarding if you manage your time well and don’t let distractions and time wasters get in your way of success. Now you know how to better manage your time as a freelancer.