More and more of us are adopting the freelance worker lifestyle. Whether through circumstance or choice, the number of people ditching traditional working arrangements is growing steadily year by year.
When you work freelance, the old proverb “time is money” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. Every second that you spend doing something other than direct client work becomes a missed opportunity to earn money. Whether you’re revamping your website, sending out your monthly invoices or calculating your VAT return, you’re doing so without earning anything.
As such, the need for efficiency within the freelance workforce far surpasses that of traditional working environments. In an office job, spending a day achieving very little because you aren’t in the mood will result in you earning just as much as if you had spent that day being ultra-productive. The same can’t be said for freelancing.
With this in mind, we thought it might be useful to share a few tips about how to be a more efficient freelancer. Everyone’s working style and patterns are different, but it’s fair to say that most people could take steps to enhance their efficiency. Here are a few easy to implement suggestions as to how to do so.
Suddenly becoming unresponsive in terms of client enquiries clearly wouldn’t be good, but regulating the times at which you communicate can be very beneficial when it comes to completing tasks that you have to focus on. Whether you’re writing a blog post or providing a localization service, being interrupted every couple of minutes means that your concentration will keep being broken. Each time you stop, you’ll need to re-engage your brain with the task at hand, which can be a real time drain.
To combat this, close down your email client, Skype, Slack, Messenger and anything else that hurls distractions your way – particularly social media sites! Focus on the task at hand fully and then catch up with your communications once you’ve finished. Software like Focus Writer and WriteMonkey can be a great help with this if you don’t have the discipline to cut out distractions on your own!
Just because you work on your own initiative as a freelancer, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a considered look at how to manage your workflow. Using online tools like Trello to organise your work can save a vast amount of time. These programs aren’t just for companies to use – you can shape them to suit your own requirements and help build a slick, efficient process for your freelance work-stream. Task lists and post-it notes have evolved with the advent of such online services, so be sure to use them to your advantage.
Similarly, make sure you’re using a useful program to schedule your social media posts. Have you ever logged on to Facebook in order to post something work-related, then realised 10 minutes later that you still haven’t done it? You can cut out the inadvertent time drain of social media by using a scheduling service – Buffer is a particularly good one to try.
Every freelancer will be familiar with certain shortcuts. Using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste in Microsoft Word are shortcuts that we’ve all grown up with, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Task yourself with learning one helpful shortcut per day and see how quickly your efficiency improves.
Of course, this doesn’t just mean learning shortcuts in programs like Word. Have you customized the taskbar on your desktop so that you can open software faster? Does your web browser’s taskbar contain folders of neatly organised links that you use regularly? Every small change like this that you can make will help you to work faster and more efficiently.
Our circadian rhythms drive the times of day that we feel energized and the times that we could quite happily nod off at our desks. Know your own rhythms and plan your work accordingly. Tuning in to your mind and body in this way can make you a much more efficient freelancer. Don’t schedule a complex task for the afternoon lull – complete it in the morning when you’re feeling fresh. Or vice versa if you find you’re sleepy in the mornings and full of energy in the afternoons.
Taking regular breaks can also help in this respect. Keeping your energy levels up by rewarding yourself with a snack break (healthy fruit, of course!) after every task, or dropping to the floor for 20 push-ups can keep your mind sharper and more focused, meaning that you can complete your work faster and potentially to a better standard.
What measures have you implemented to increase your efficiency? Have you noticed a difference in terms of your working hours and/or income? Leave a comment to share your experiences with your fellow freelancers.