How to Freelance: 5 Habits for a Better Career
5 lesser-known tips on how to freelance:
Let’s face it, most blogs that are even remotely related to freelancing have pretty much exhausted the number of times they can write the same list over and over again. It seems like everyone gives you the same advice: ‘Keep a schedule, work in your own space, keep away from distractions.” Those tips are great, but they will only take you so far.
So this will be all about how to freelance effectively by using some tips that don’t get quite as much attention.
1: Consolidate your management apps
I’ve written one blog on this topic before. There are so many apps and websites that are tailored to freelancing that it can be hard to pick out which ones really benefit you. In the end, people like me
(people who like shiny new stuff) end up with a laundry list of software and apps they use. But by trying to use all of these freelancing apps they end up wasting copious amounts of time.
So that is my first tip on this list. Take a look at the software, apps and web services that you are currently using and look for ways to narrow down the list to maybe just five or six services. This will help you stay organized and keep your workflow simple.
2: Keep a to-do list, and routinely ignore it
Yup. Ignore the to-do list. Before the schedule-Nazis come to murder me in my sleep, allow me to explain.
Freelancers have a lot going on in their heads. As a freelancer, you are worried about the next job, the current job, paying the bills and many, many other things. Learning how to freelance involves managing your time wisely, so having a to-do list can help you to stay on track throughout the day and actually get your tasks accomplished.
Go ahead and write down everything you want to get done that day. You can even put the items in order of importance. But don’t try to hold to a rigid time slot for each task.
If you have only half an hour allotted to finish up a project and it ends up taking two hours, it will royally mess up your schedule. At that point, you have to re-evaluate your day and more often than not the to-do list will go out the window and you will just wing it.
Instead, write down everything you would LIKE to get done and take it one task at a time. When you finish a task, cross it off and look at how much time you have and which task will fit into that amount of time. Accomplish the next task, rinse and repeat. This way, you can shift your schedule on the fly and spend your time more efficiently.
This method will keep you productive and positive. Even if you do not accomplish everything on your list for that day, you can always transfer those items to the next day’s list.
3: Keep a set office space – but don’t use it
Having an office is a huge tip that is way too overemphasized in my opinion. While it is important to have a set workspace where you can go to really buckle down and get things done, I find that it is not very important to actually use it.
I have an office that I use only for work. I never go in there to relax or play video games or talk on the phone with my girlfriend. In part this is because of the sweet tax write off you can get for a home office, but that’s beside the point.
I only use my office when I absolutely need to have complete focus and get something done FAST. A big part of learning how to freelance successfully is learning how to trick your mind into thinking you have a boss hanging over your head, which is something you’ll have to learn rather quickly if you want to be able to pay the rent.
That’s not to say that you don’t need to focus on your work the rest of the time. However I find that it is more important to be comfortable and enjoy your work than it is to be completely focused. If I try to force myself to focus on a task my performance is inherently worse than if I was just sitting on the couch sipping coffee and chipping away at it.
Most days you will find me working either on the couch or in my big comfy chair. In these environments I can relax and really pour myself into my work. But when I need to really focus, really do something quickly and do it right, I go into my office. In there, it’s all business.
The reason I do this is that I’ve conditioned my mind to associate the office with really important work. If I go into the office to work, my mind automatically knows that it must be important and I’m automatically in a better mindset to perform better on it and get it done faster.
On the flipside, when I’m working from the couch I can just relax and work for long stretches at a time because I’m not forcing it. It just comes naturally. Therefore I enjoy the work more, and tend to perform better on everyday tasks.
4: Get into a ‘commute’ routine
This is one tip that I have only recently started to use but I can tell you that the results are phenomenal.
For most 9-to-5 workers, their commute to work is pretty boring and routine. They get in the car, sit in traffic for a while, and then they walk into their office. Though they may not realize it, this routine puts them into a mindset that prepares them for work.
Since freelancers don’t exactly have a commute, we often lack the ability to put ourselves into that work mindset. When you’re working from the couch, this can make it more difficult to actually get work done.
So instead of just telling myself it’s time to work and hoping for the best, I stick to a set morning routine that I associate with work. Having this routine essentially replaces my commute. It goes pretty much like this:
- Wake up at 6, go for a jog
- Get home, listen to a business podcast while doing yesterday’s dishes
- Shower and get dressed (usually nice jeans and a button down, casual work clothes. This contributes to the work mindset.)
- Cook breakfast while listening to another business or marketing podcast
- Eat breakfast and watch business/financial news on Watchup
- Give myself a little pep talk while writing out my to-do list
- Do all the things for all the money!
Some of this may seem a little bit odd for those of you who are new to freelancing. For example most people don’t want to get up at 6 a.m. if they’re freelancing. Believe me I love sleeping in, and once every week or two I take a day to step away from my schedule and just enjoy the freedom of not having a ‘real’ job.
What I’ve found is that getting up at that time and going through that routine gets me in the right mindset to be productive. It gets me thinking about business. It gets me thinking about what I need to get done that day to make my business grow. It helps me think of new ideas and make the most of the time I have.
Your ‘commute’ will likely be different from mine (although you’re welcome to try mine if you like). Maybe you’ll get up at noon, get some Taco Bell and sit in bed while you work. It doesn’t matter what the commute is. It’s more important that you have one. To learn how to freelance successfully, you need to learn what works for you. Figure out what gets your mind ready for work, and then stick to it.
5: Keep an ‘idea book’ handy
Ever been sidetracked by an awesome idea that came to you while you were working? If you’re anything like me you probably assumed you would forget ir if you didn’t do it right that moment and promptly abandoned the task you were working on.
To avoid this, I keep a little notebook around where I write down ideas and thoughts that come to me
while I’m working. I keep it in a little leather wallet type thing that also holds mileage records for work, my to-do list, and receipts for business expenses I’ll write off. This little tool kit goes with me everywhere.
Having this little notebook helps me to keep my good ideas saved and ready for future use. It also helps me stay focused on my current task and helps ensure that I don’t go off on a tangent working on something new when I should be working on a project that’s due tomorrow.
Here’s a link to one of the few articles on how to freelance that actually gives some useful tips.
So there you have it! 5 lesser-known tips on how to freelance successfully. I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips. Do you have anything specific you use to help you freelance better? Let me know in the comments!