Working at home can sometimes feel like a constant battle between the necessity to earn a living and the temptations to procrastinate.
It is for this reason that many people prefer to stay in full-time employment, since they don’t have to be responsible for themselves, and they can enjoy a consistent income.
Being your own boss, whether you’re a programmer, web designer, writer, or something else, means you have to be responsible and disciplined. In other words, you have to treat it like any other job, otherwise, you’ll ultimately fail.
The reality is different from the absurd stereotypical image of someone lying on a tropical beach with a laptop computer.
Following are 10 hacks that will help boost your freelancer productivity:
1. Have a schedule
One of the most common reasons for being drawn to a life of freelancing is the flexibility to work when and where you want. However, without any kind of schedule, you’ll be much more likely to end up working the bare minimum. If you only work when you’re in the mood to, you’re not likely to get far.
On the other hand, you don’t necessarily need to work from 9-to-5 every day, as you would in a typical job. Fortunately, working at home usually does allow you to set your own schedule, so choose a time of day when you tend to be most productive, formulate a timetable, and stick to it. It’s also wise to assign yourself less time to a task than you would normally need since you’ll be under pressure to work harder and faster.
2. Eliminate distractions
For many, perhaps the worst productivity killers are social media, news websites, YouTube, and other favorite resources for those tempted to procrastinate. In fact, many websites, such as Facebook, have been banned in the workplace for that reason. These weapons of mass distraction can quickly obliterate your productivity and have a disastrous effect on your income.
However, not all common distractions concern those on the web. Having the TV on in the background, listening to music, or having irrelevant programs open can quickly become a drain on your productivity. If you have children or pets, they might also be craving your attention. It is essential to keep your time and place of work as separate as possible from home and family life and establish some strict rules around it.
3. Have frequent breaks
Finding the optimal compromise between work and play is essential for the success of any freelance venture, and your breaks should be accounted for in the aforementioned schedule. For most people, frequent, short breaks tend to work best, while breaks that are too long can cause you to lose your focus.
Overworking to the extent that you feel burnt out can greatly compromise the quality of your work. A break that involves nothing more than having a quick coffee or a 10-minute walk around the block is often all you need to recharge. Other freelancers prefer to take longer breaks at lunchtime for an hour or more to enjoy some time out of the house or taking care of other chores. However, different things work for different people, so you’ll have to think about what’s best for you.
4. Brainstorm regularly
Brainstorming is how any successful entrepreneur starts their career. This powerful ability helps you to recall what you know about a particular subject and fuel you with inspiration during those inevitable times when you find yourself struggling to get motivated. Whether it’s something as simple as writing a blog post or as complex as starting a new business from scratch, brainstorming should play a role at the beginning of every project large and small.
There are many brainstorming methods you can try. For a start, keeping a notebook with you at all times will give you the opportunity to write down your thoughts as and when they come to you. That way, when you’re lacking inspiration sometime, later on, you’ll have some material to guide you.
5. Avoid multitasking
Contrary to popular belief, multitasking does not lead to increased productivity and a better quality of work. In fact, it’s rather like being a Jack of all trades and master of none. If you’re trying to carry out two tasks at once, particularly complicated and important ones, the quality of your work will plummet. After all, you only have one attention span, and giving your attention to two or more tasks at once will lead only to frustration, confusion, and a greatly increased chance of making mistakes.
On a related note, multitasking tends to lead to increasing the number of distractions, such as those mentioned previously. Instead, you should eliminate everything that’s not helping you with your current task so you can focus yourself more thoroughly.
6. Automate common tasks
If you’re working on tasks that can be partially or fully automated, you’re doing nothing more than wasting your time and distracting yourself from core areas of your business. For example, all data backup and synchronization options can and should be automated so that you barely even have to think about them.
Another thing that can save you a lot of time, depending on your particular line of work, is to create templates for commonly recreated documents, such as business emails, letters, invoices, or quotes. There are also programs, such as Rescue Time, that can track your activities across multiple Internet-enabled devices to provide some useful insights into your productivity.
7. Don’t neglect ergonomics
If you think that being an online freelancer means you can regularly sit on the couch with a laptop in front of the TV while working, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Although there will be times when you may have to improvise, you should have a primary place of work in which you prioritize ergonomics.
Aside from leading to a more comfortable and productive working environment, good ergonomics are also essential for your health. In particular, you should never skimp on your home office chair, and always make sure you have something that offers good lumbar support, an adjustable height, and solid armrests. With much talk recently about how sitting for extended periods is bad for your health, you may also want to consider investing in a standing desk.
8. Get a larger monitor
Everyone knows that slow and unreliable computers hamper productivity, but many people overlook the importance of the most critical component of all. The monitor you use has perhaps the single biggest influence on productivity of all. With a larger monitor, and even more importantly, a higher resolution, you won’t have to cycle between open applications constantly.
For example, if you’re writing a blog post, you’ll be able to keep your word processor open on one side of the screen while having your research open on the other. For graphic designers and web designers, a large screen is crucial and something that simply cannot be matched using a laptop or tablet computer.
9. Set activity goals
Perhaps the biggest drawback of being self-employed is that financial returns tend to be inconsistent. As a freelancer, you never know when the work might just dry up. Nonetheless, you can reduce the chances of this happening by setting yourself activity goals rather than financial goals. This way, you won’t be so disappointed if you find yourself having a bad month on occasion.
No matter your line of work, you can never have too many strings to your bow, so make sure you set aside a small amount of time every week or month to actively seek out new clients. If you’re running a blog, you should commit to posting a minimum number of times per week. The financial rewards will come in time, but only if you’re committed.
10. Equate tasks with rewards
On a similar note to the above, equating individual tasks to financial rewards can also help to motivate you and, thus boost your productivity. In other words, you should assign a monetary value to each type of task to which it is relevant. For example, you might need to write 10 blog posts per week to take care of your regular bills, and anything after that might be considered disposable income.
Another way to start is to determine a realistic figure for what you want to earn each year, divide that up by weeks and then by day, taking into account any holidays you want to include. If you want to earn $50,000 per year, for example, you’ll need to earn $192 per day, but that’s a much easier figure to imagine than the former.
It’s often difficult to get motivated to work on tasks that don’t offer a direct financial reward, such as marketing yourself to reach out to new clients. While this factor might not concern productivity as such, it is where a lot of self-employed people fail.
Additionally, having too little work can decrease your productivity even further, so you should always dedicate some time to marketing your skills and your business. For the most part, improving your productivity means getting into good habits and eliminating any bad ones you’ve built up over time. By combining willpower with help from some technology, you’ll be better equipped to supercharge your freelance career.
Guest author: Vairo Kremanis is an online entrepreneur and founder of WPWarfare.com. His passion is content marketing, blogging, and WordPress in general, which is why he dedicates every spare minute he has to writing, hoping to share an arsenal of practical and useful information with others.