Freelancing is often seen as a glorious lifestyle with infinite flexibility, total independence, a lack of micromanaging bosses, and no hard and fast rules. Of course, it takes all of two seconds on the job to take in the reality that freelancing is actually a lot of work.
That’s not to say that the freelance life doesn’t have its perks — it definitely does, but those benefits are offset by the fact that you have to take care of everything yourself. You have to make the big decisions, manage your schedule, find a steady stream of work, and stay motivated to keep moving, all while tracking your finances to make sure you never end up underwater. After all, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
If you’re a freelancer struggling to motivate, consider these tips to help you reign in that procrastinating spirit and focus on the tasks at hand.
1. Prioritize Your Projects
It all starts with learning how to prioritize. For example, if you’re a graphic artist who happens to love Iron Man and you’ve been hired to, one, create a map of the world’s coffee bean growing nations by tomorrow and, two, create an ad for the next Marvel movie by the end of the week, you have to have the self-control to get the geographic java project done first.
It sounds obvious, and maybe a little bit ridiculous, but when you’re juggling multiple clients, it can be easy to simply take on whatever work is in front of you. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help bring some sanity and order to your workload.
One popular option is to adopt the managerial productivity hack known as the I-MI-NI-D-E Method. It runs something like this:
- “I”: Important projects come first.
- “MI”: Mildly Important projects that can be temporarily delayed come next, followed by…
- “NI”: Projects that are Not Important at the moment.
- “D”: Projects that can be delegated or passed back to the client.
- “E”: Projects that can be eliminated.
By regularly running your workload through the I-MI-NI-D-E Method, you can organize your tasks while remaining focused and on time.
2. Use A Workflow App
If you find that you struggle with the sheer number of projects that are constantly coming and going, you may want to try to put everything into a workflow app. Workflow platforms like Trello and Asana are popular for larger companies to use, for example, as they organize remote workers and their assignments, but they can also be quite useful on a personal level as well.
Try creating a board and sections assigned to things like “To do this week,” “To do today,” and “Completed projects.” Then, as work comes in, you can create a card and put it in the appropriate column for a wider vision of what’s expected of you for the week.
Many workflow apps also offer checklists, due date options, and even a space for extra notes within each card. You can also easily rearrange your projects depending on their priority and then slide them over to the “Complete” column once they’re submitted.
3. Track Your Time
If you’re struggling with productivity, it can be helpful to experiment with tracking your time to see how you’re spending your days. Working from home can make your personal and work lives blend together so seamlessly at times that it can be difficult to see how unproductive you really are.
There are many different ways to track your work time. For instance, you can:
- Track your hours with a good old-fashioned pen and paper.
- Manually record each half or quarter-hour on a spreadsheet.
- Use a time tracking app.
You may want to go the extra mile and set up with an accountability partner as well. Submit your time tracking results to them and discuss how you can increase your productivity without encouraging burnout.
4. Take Proper Breaks
Sometimes the best way to get more done is to take more breaks. It sounds counterproductive (quite literally) but it isn’t a joke. In fact, studies have shown that two hours is about as long as you should focus on a particular project before taking a break. If you’re feeling pinched for time, you don’t necessarily have to stop working, but at least take a break from that project specifically. Switching tasks on a regular basis can do wonders when it comes to boosting productivity.
If switching every two hours doesn’t sound like a good solution, consider trying the Pomodoro Technique. This proven break formula encourages working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. After doing this four times in a row (so, for two hours total), you take a longer 15 or 20-minute break. This can help create a sense of focus and urgency that can help your productivity skyrocket.
5. Consider Your Space
If you’re more content in your workspace, you’ll likely be more productive, as well. Especially when you work from home it can be easy to overlook things like how your office space is set up, and working from a crowded or messy location can have a serious effect on your overall focus.
Here are a few suggestions for your freelancing workspace:
- Find a space that is dedicated to working.
- Clear all unnecessary clutter from that space.
- Set your space up to be inviting and comfortable.
- Remove all elements of your personal life that could be distracting.
Whether you’re interacting with coworkers in a traditional office setting or emailing clients as a freelancer working from a coffee shop, it’s essential to make sure that everyone working on a project is on the same page at all times. If you don’t ensure that everyone is aware of the meaning of what you’re doing, you’re going to have a hard time staying on track and being as productive as you need to be.
Remote work, in particular, can make it hard to understand what other’s meanings and expectations are. This is why it’s critical for your overall productivity that you always remain in steady, open, and honest communication with your clients.
7. Boosting Productivity Like a Pro
There are many ways to boost productivity as a freelancer. You can get down to the nitty-gritty by timing your workdays or prioritizing and organizing your projects. Just as importantly, you can make sure that you’re communicating with clients, maintaining a good workspace at home, and taking breaks when you need them.
However you choose to increase your productivity, it’s important that you take your situation by the reigns and being implementing changes yourself. There’s no boss or coworker that is going to come by your side and tell you what to do. After all, if you’re a freelancer, the buck stops with you.
So take stock of your surroundings, figure out the most effective changes, and start to implement them today.