When you’re a freelancer, it seems that everyone has an opinion about how “free” and “flexible” your life is. And while freelancing can be highly flexible, you’re not just a freelancer, you’re a business owner.
You have clients that depend on you, deadlines to keep up with, and if you want to continue staying in business, growth goals to chase after.
When you’re pulled in many directions, the only way you can keep the balancing act together is by creating a productive work environment.
And that’s what we’re here to help with today.
Let’s take a look at 11 key ways you can make freelance work super productive.
1. Mind your work hours
Set yourself up for success by creating a set work schedule and sticking to it. Use dedicated apps to keep track of your work hours, schedule projects, and set deadline reminders.
During work time, keep your head down and focused on one key task or project at a time. Limit distractions and interruptions by turning off background apps and setting your phone on Do Not Disturb mode. If you’re in a noisy environment, use noise-canceling headphones to limit noise pollution.
We also recommend logging the average time it takes you to complete each project type so you can allocate relevant time estimates in your work calendar in the future.
2. Focus on your ideal client
Many freelancers waste time chasing people and projects they don’t align with just to make a buck. Not only is this detrimental to morale and productivity, but it can also cause unnecessary client conflict.
Instead of speaking to everyone, get a grip on the project themes you knock out of the park. Then create a data-driven ICP (ideal customer profile) for each theme.
An Ideal Customer Profile will help you identify your target audience’s key characteristics, buying habits, and preferences. With this information, you can tailor your work to meet their needs, which can help you create a more effective and targeted business model.
3. Reduce eye strain and screen fatigue
You might think that forcing yourself to work for hours on end without a break is productive, but if you’re harming your eyes or brain health, how productive can you be long-term?
When you’re freelancing, you’re likely working with multiple screens—your laptop, phone, and maybe even a dual monitor setup.
To prevent eye strain and screen fatigue, build in breaks to step away from your computer so you can give your eyes and brain some rest.
Eye strain caused by screens is called computer vision syndrome or CVS. In some studies, participants experienced some level of CVS after just two continuous hours of computer usage.
When possible, limit screen time to under two hours. When you’re in front of a screen, wear blue light glasses or use a filter like F.lux to warm up your screen.
4. Work during your peak energy hours
Everyone has an opinion about what an “ideal workday” looks like. But truly, you’re the only one who can make that call.
Your ideal work day is whatever helps you actually get work done. So, if you have more energy from 12pm–4pm, work then. Or, if you prefer to take care of work in the evenings, work then. Forcing yourself to work against your natural energy flow can cause unnecessary burnout and productivity lags.
5. Create a supportive office environment conducive to remote work
Create a dedicated workspace that’s comfortable, ergonomic, and private. Limit distractions by securing a private room at a coworking space, renting an office, or choosing a quiet area in your home.
You can also work at a local coffee shop or library if the ambiance is warm and quiet.
At the very least, make sure you have a comfortable chair with back support. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your wrists straight by adjusting your desk so that your arms are parallel to the surface. Keep your arms and elbows at a 90-degree angle.
6. Take care of your mental, physical, and emotional health
Your health affects your mood, ability to focus, and overall well-being. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize eating three healthy meals a day, getting enough sleep, and stretching and moving your body.
Don’t forget to schedule routine check-ups with your doctor and dentist, too, to make sure you’re health is on track. You can even schedule an appointment with an online doctor if you’re pressed for time!
7. Use tools to get ahead
Streamline your business by creating a system and process for everything you do. Secure tools that can help you automate these systems and save time.
For instance, if freelance writing is one of your tasks, consider using an AI Blog Writer to help beat writer’s block. While an AI writer isn’t a writer replacement, it’s a great tool to use for brainstorming or for when you feel stuck.
Other tools you might use to get ahead include:
- A Work Operating System (Work OS) for project management and submitting client deliverables
- A task manager for daily todos
- A calendar tool for meetings, appointments, and online bookings
- An email marketing tool to automate segmented email campaigns
- A social media scheduling tool to plan, create, and schedule social media content
8. Consider outsourcing redundant tasks or tasks you don’t specialize in
Whether you’re looking for jobs on the side to help pay for college or you’ve turned your hustle into a full-time business, consider outsourcing redundant tasks to virtual assistants or sub-contractors.
For instance, if you sell flower arrangements, consider outsourcing your flower delivery services so you can focus on running other important aspects of your business.
If you’d like to hire a team to help you scale your freelance business, you’ll need an HR system in place, too. In this case, consider outsourcing to an HR firm like Bambee or getting your hands on reliable HR software.
9. Plan your week ahead of time
Get ahead of the week by carving out time every Friday or Monday to plan your week carefully.
Be sure to schedule:
- Buffer time to prevent bottlenecks
- Uninterrupted time blocks to complete projects
- Free time
Pro-Tip: Schedule something fun to do during your time off. Looking forward to something can help you stay motivated and nurture a healthier work-life balance.
10. Celebrate your wins, big and small
Whether you finished a typical 10-hour project in six hours or you just secured a major client, don’t forget to celebrate your wins, no matter how significant or minor they may seem.
Celebrating your achievements and being proud of yourself gives you the courage and motivation to stay the course which can encourage better productivity.
Recognizing your wins can also encourage you to continue setting productivity goals and business milestones, keeping you on track toward business growth.
11. Prevent feast-and-famine cycles
Nothing curbs productivity more than living in a feast-and-famine cycle.
The good news? Since the movement of “quiet quitting” and “the great resignation,” there’s been a greater demand for freelancers than ever before.
In other words, there are plenty of clients you can secure to help you prevent steep increases and plummets in profitability.
But you’ll also have to prioritize other measures, such as:
- Focusing on building long-term relationships with soulmate clients
- Managing your cash flow with intention and strategy
- Creating a manageable business budget
- Securing clients on retainers and contracts
- Adding a termination clause preventing clients from canceling contracts without notice
- Creating a mutual value exchange
Build a more productive freelance business
While there’s more where this came from, these 11 tips can help you set yourself up for higher productivity and greater satisfaction in your freelance work.
So think about, what’s one action you can take today to become more productive? Pick one tip on our list to start with. Then choose another. And another.
Over time, you’ll build in healthy habits to keep you productive and on track, consistently.
That’s it for now, sumo-lings.
To your success!
PS: Need productivity tools? Stop overpaying for software and check out these AppSumo deals instead!
Jeremy is co-founder & CEO at uSERP, a digital PR and SEO agency working with brands like Monday, ActiveCampaign, Hotjar, and more. He also buys and builds SaaS companies like Wordable.io and writes for publications like Entrepreneur and Search Engine Journal.