Five Ways to Stay Organized and Productive as a Freelancer
Freelancing is a great career option that offers freedom and flexibility. But staying motivated as well as organized can be a challenge. Here are some helpful tips for staying on track and maintaining your productivity.
1. Plan Your Day
When you can work your own hours, sticking to a productive schedule can sometimes be difficult. Deciding which tasks to do and when sounds relatively straight-forward, however in practice, it’s often not so simple. Freelance work can seem to swing between very quiet and extremely busy, which can either sap your motivation or leave you feeling so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to begin.
Having a plan for each day can mitigate this issue. Choosing ahead of time how your day will look—which tasks you intend to achieve and when you will do them—can save you a good deal of stress and help you stay focused. Writing the plan down, using a calendar or diary, and checking off tasks as you go will further boost your productivity.
2. Set Goals
Even the best-laid plans mean little without being certain of what you wish to achieve at the end. Goal-setting is central to staying focused. However, be mindful of the types of goals you set. Ask yourself, “Are they smart?” SMART goals look like this: specific, measured, achievable, relevant and timed.
If your goals are vague rather than measurable, and unrealistic with no set deadline in place, you’re far less likely to achieve them. Not achieving goals can be crushing for motivation, whereas achieving them has the opposite effect. So set yourself small, SMART goals to achieve throughout each day as part of your overall plan and you’ll see a great improvement in your productivity.
3. Keep Accurate Records
Strong recordkeeping is essential for any business, including freelancers. While it’s often a less enjoyable side of freelancing, it’s an essential one. Maintaining a system of information about your work—paid and unpaid jobs, pending tasks and client details—is absolutely critical to ensure your freelancing career runs as smoothly as possible.
While it’s no secret that accurate and detailed recordkeeping helps you stay more organized, what you may not know is that it can also help you to stay productive. Seeing tangible evidence of what you’ve achieved has been shown to aid in motivation levels. In addition, having a to-do list can steady your focus and remind you that you have work to do.
4. Know Your Tools
No matter what your line of freelance work is, every freelancer needs tools. Whether handy tools (hammers, shovels, drills), vehicles (cars, trucks, boats), computer software (anti-virus, word processing) or apps (mileage tracker, accounting), no profession is without its essential aids. Take the time to educate yourself on the relevant tools for your job, and how to assess factors like efficiency, quality and reliability. The right tools can make your life far easier, whereas the wrong ones can make things much more difficult.
Confidence in the efficient and correct application of tools can massively increase your productivity. Knowing what, when and how to use them can make immediate and noticeable improvements to how you work and run your business. Take the time to learn these—it’s well worth it!
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Even if you have all the above in place, taking on too much work can be devastating for your motivation and productivity. Some freelancers fear saying no because they want to obtain as much work as possible in order to pay the bills and earn a positive reputation. But saying yes to everything is not necessarily the answer.
Always remember that it’s perfectly acceptable to say no if you feel you do not have the necessary skills, time, resources or even motivation to complete a job as a freelancer. Saying no upfront is far better than saying yes and taking a productivity hit as a result.