So you’re thinking of going full-time freelancer? Are you dreaming of having a self-controlled professional freedom?
Then you might be feeling a bit funky about whether you are or aren’t capable of staying organized, disciplined and productive every day. Remember, there won’t be anyone telling you what to do. Which can be either awesome or dangerous.
But fear not, you are not alone!
At the end, it all comes down to a couple things you’re to teach yourself and make them your routine. (Yes, there is routine in Freelancing!)
It is mostly a matter of priorities, time management, and a lot of really hard work. But hey, it’ll be totally worth it!
These actions below will help you walk down the road towards a prosperous freelance business:
1. Complete One Task At a Time, Because Multitasking Will Be The End Of You
What? “I’ve heard my whole life that good workers are multi-tasking experts!” Well, yeah, if they work in customer service or hospitality.
If you ever tried to make your own work schedule, though, you know what I’m talking about.
One thing is to be able to juggle tasks that don’t require so much attention to details. Another is shifting your attention continually between high-demanding, mental tasks. That’s not called multi-tasking, but “task-switching”.
And that’s not a good thing to do when your time, more than ever, worths money.
I’ve always thought that doing zillion things at the same time was a prove that I can work fast and efficiently. But then, I was trained to work under pressure, with stringent deadlines and a high rotation of daily clients. That was back when I worked in tourism. Each work day was a “completed”, wrapped-up work day.
When I tried to apply the same work habits to blogging and designing, it showed to be disastrous. Because at the end of my days, my list of completed tasks was empty, and I invariably felt impotent and frustrated.
Science often says that multitasking highly demanding tasks is quite impossible.
Plus, according to this same linked study, “research indicates that when we task-switch, the very act of shifting our focus back and forth eventually drains us of 40% of our overall productivity.”
Therefore, to be more productive and feel good about yourself at the end of the day (which is a huge part of succeeding as a freelancer), you’ve got to finish one thing at a time.
2. Schedule Your Whole Life As If You Would Schedule a Work Day
Trust me on this: when you work from home, or actually from anywhere as a freelancer, the easiest thing is to procrastinate. Or to lose some precious two minutes here and there doing things you wouldn’t if you were working from an office. Like laundry. Or Netflix (oh just this one episode and then I’ll start (fill in with a super important task).
There’s nobody to watch over you. But see, YOU are watching, and you DO have a conscience. Not only you won’t get your work done, but you’ll feel utterly frustrated at the end.
Then you’ll say: “But isn’t that why someone would choose to work as a full-time freelancer? So they can have control of their schedule, work whenever they want AND also take breaks whenever they want?”
Aham, yeah, that is an excellent benefit of running a freelance practice. But come the end of the month, there won’t be someone to pay your salary anymore. Imagine the risks of being unproductive! If you’re not extremely disciplined, having full decision power over your schedule can also be a trap.
So as weird as it might sound, working for myself ended up being the best routine-builder decision I ever took. And it has been much more than rewarding! I still have time to do everything I want, feel great about my work, and most important: I have the freedom to decide WHEN I do it all. But for it all to fall in its place, there is a plan. And I stick to it. Every. Single. Day.
The one thing that helped me the most was, in fact, NOT working from home. I am an extremely undisciplined person and have always struggled to finish what I’d started. So I work from a Cafe. Or a workspace. Mostly because there’s nothing else to do than to work. But I know lots of people that can successfully concentrate and be productive working from home. And you can train yourself over time. Do whatever suits you better!
3. Block Out Your Working Hours
It doesn’t matter if you’ll be leaving your current 9-5 job for more freedom in your work schedule.
To block the exact hours you’ll devote to your job every day is a MUST.
But hey, which will be those hours will be completely up to you, and how cool is that? 🙂
And of course, you don’t have to work the same hours per day, or the same amount of time, not even the time that you’ll block needs to be continuous – as long as you plan a week schedule or even a day schedule, and stick to it. Set up the number of hours that you’ll need to work every week, and accommodate them according to your other plans. Why not?
One of the good perks of being a freelancer is being able to adjust your working schedule around the other stuff you want to do. But again, as long as you STICK TO THE PLAN.
4. A To-Do List Should Be Your Best Friend
One of the mistakes that will undoubtedly hurt your business will be to miss deadlines.
Once your client pool builds up a bit, you’ll need to really organize yourself so you can set priorities.
Because a customer who speaks well of your work might bring you another client or two in the future. But a customer who speaks poorly about you, my friend, can drag you deeply.
Again, in freelancing business, time is money. You don’t want to be losing your whole day just trying to figure out where to start from. Therefore, get some tools to help you out!
- Pomodoro timer apps are a great help for time (and breaks) management
- Evernote is an essential tool to help you list your goals, pin inspiration, make to-do lists, set a schedule and even share it all with a partner.
Using Evernote, you can create a notebook for each client, for instance. Then create notes on each open task, deadlines and any other relevant you or someone working with you will need.
You can also create a notebook for you own business’ tasks, as invoices you need to send, or follow-up emails you must write.
Just keep all your information in one place, and do it preferably somewhere you can access from anywhere you might be.
5. Work From a Tidy Environment
Look around you. Is your home ready to be the headquarter of you new professional powerhouse?
Because working from a neat, clutter-free environment can be much easier on the brain.
You will feel much more ready, and you’ll certainly boost your productivity if you put together a home office that you’ll love to work from. In time, you can even have clients for briefing meetings, and your workspace can certainly do miracles for your professional image.
Having a separate home office, or a place in your home specifically designated as your workspace will help you increase your focus.
6. Build a Community
We all have people we look up to. Designers, artists and illustrators that do such an amazing job that we catch ourselves wondering “damn, why didn’t I think of it before?”. And you know what? To have people whose work you admire, and to have aesthetic references is completely necessary if you aim to be a great designer.
Now imagine if you could get to be acquainted with all these people whose work you admire? Well, luckily, everyone nowadays is pretty much accessible through social media, or even contact forms on their sites.
Equally important is to keep a designer’s little community, for there will be times where you’ll be overloaded with workflow and/or a tight deadline. And as you won’t have a boss to say: “Get me some help!”, you’ll need people whose work you trust, to take over for you. The same will happen when they will be the ones needing help – you will also get work from other places than your own clients. It’s a win-win!
7. Find Yourself a Good Accountant
Again – you don’t want to lose time figuring out paraphernalia you don’t have to. You don’t have to master the art of bookkeeping. Hire an accountant and download a free template mockup for your invoices. You can also throw a little something to a bookkeeping system online like FreshBooks. But in our humble opinion, if you’ll start with only one or two invoices per month, you’ll be better just by having an Excel worksheet weekly updated.
8. Passive Income Can Also Generate Revenue
Consider working along Design Marketplaces. They allow designers to sell their illustrations, patterns, fonts, and all kinds of artwork to a broad audience. Sites like Design Cuts, Creative Market, Design Crowd really help with work exposure.
Therefore, many artists make a living out of Design Marketplaces opportunities, like Lisa, who sells her illustration work at Design Cuts. Or Angelina, who managed to develop a reliable source of income also working alongside Design Cuts: “Unlike the other marketplace, Design Cuts has allowed me to enjoy a steady and consistent income like what I had in my first months of selling”, she says.
9. Remember To Pinch Yourself From Time To Time, So That You Keep In Mind How Lucky You Are
Well done! You took a hard path, but a thoroughly rewarding one as well.
There are many people who would love to be able to live the freelancing life and have more control of where they’ll put their energy and valuable work into. And please, don’t forget how important your routine is in keeping this awesome lifestyle possible.
Therefore even when you are not feeling like it, get up, dress up and show up. And try to remind yourself every day of how fortunate you are to have this occupation. And how quickly you could put in danger everything that you worked for so hard, by missing deadlines or failing to deliver the best results possible just because you finished it at the last minute.
Go for it, and nail it!