In case you hadn’t already realised, taking your career freelance means that you now have a whole bunch of things to do that someone (your company office manager, your company accountant, your boss, etc.) used to do for you. Before you go running back to your 9 to 5, remember: running your own business is challenging, but exciting, and all it takes is a little organisation from the outset to help manage your new and unfamiliar workload. Here are a few tips…
Schedule like a boss
Yey! You’re freelance! You have so much free time to finally get in shape and start cooking healthy meals and learn French and catch up with everyone that you haven’t seen in weeks and…oh wait, it’s 2 months in and you have no clients. What happened? Enter: scheduling.
No doubt you will have been working to some kind of schedule in your last job, and the same should go for your freelance work too. You don’t need to work 9 to 5 like you used to, you can take a Wednesday afternoon off for yoga if you like, but make sure you set aside dedicated work hours so that you can tick off some tasks and actually, you know, work. Your work week is now entirely dictated by you, and that’s a good thing, but it can also be a very dangerous thing. Create a schedule for your working week, and stick to it.
Create your space
You now have the freedom to work from anywhere, and while many people with the location independent dream head straight for the nearest beach, the majority of freelancers are working from home, a local café, a library or maybe even a coworking space. Coworking spaces are great if you prefer the office environment, but when you’re first starting out, you may want to save that money instead. If you’re working from home, I recommend creating a dedicated space in your house reserved for work and nothing else. When you sit there, you work. When you leave there, you do other stuff. This will help your brain distinguish your office hours, and it’s always fun to go buy a cactus or three for your new desk.
Master the to-do list
To-do lists are desk porn. No? Just me? I need them to get through each day, and I don’t think I’ve spent a single day since becoming freelance without a to-do list in front of me. If I haven’t written my list the night before, I wake up in the morning and wander around my house just tidying up, eating snacks, surfing the web, and more pointless pursuits.
My biggest to-do list tips are: number 1, always write your list the night before so you can get straight up and start work, number 2, if you don’t like paper lists then get an online tool (I like Wunderlist) to help you instead, and number 3, choose no more that six genuinely important tasks to focus on each day, and number them in order of priority. Any more than six will see you getting distracted and not giving each the attention it deserves. Also, if any of those six tasks aren’t finished, they hop straight on over to the next day and become a higher priority.
Don’t get distracted
Easier said than done, I know. When you’re at your desk and you think Spike needs watering (the cactus, of course) simply make a note on your list to do it later. If you see an email pop into your inbox with an interesting offer inside, simply archive it and come back to it at a more appropriate time. Work hours are for working. After your work hours end, go crazy.
Streamline your processes
If you’re just starting out, you’re arguably in the best position as you get to make sure your processes are solid from the get-go. Think about how you will be interacting with clients (do you need email templates?), how you will be sending work to clients (do you need a shared drive?), how you will be invoicing (do you need to create a standard invoice, or different kinds?).
Once you know the most effective ways to run your business you can begin to look for simple tools to help you, and make things easy on yourself from the outset. I do most of my work and edits on Google Drive. It’s the most efficient way for me to share work with clients, and has worked really well for me so far. No magical technology, no expensive pieces of software, just good old Google. Don’t make it complicated if it doesn’t have to be.
Get your accountability partner involved
An accountability partner is simply someone who you can trust to keep you on track and working towards a goal. When you’re first starting out with your freelance business, you may be setting yourself goals like, 1. Get the website ready by the end of the month, 2. Email twenty potential clients this week, 3. Collect at least three testimonials from people I’ve worked with in the past, and so on.
If you’re in a position to meet up with your accountability partner (this could be just a friend or family member who supports your mission and wants to give you genuine advice) then regular meetings with them and having them keep you working towards your goals can be a really positive thing for your productivity.
Remember that finished is better than perfect
When you’re working on a creative project for a client, finally handing it over can be so daunting. What if they don’t like it? Should I have spent more time on it? What are they going to say about it? You’ll probably have these thoughts every time you hand something over, but have confidence in your work and be proud to submit it for approval or further feedback. Don’t get caught up trying to make it perfect; there’s no such thing, and you’ll end up working on it for way more hours than you’re getting paid to. Protect your time, and set a clear end goal for each project.
Photo by Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash Jeff Sheldon