When I made the jump from my 9 to 5 job to full-time photographer and freelancer, I was ecstatic to have the freedom that came with the entrepreneurial life. Little did I know that there are unique pros and cons to a freelancer’s schedule. The freedom in your day-to-day is empowering, but can also unravel all the routines and habits that keep you productive.
Ask any freelancer or business owner, they have all had days and weeks where they’ve lost track of time and have been unproductive. It is a huge responsibility to be 100% in charge of your time, and we all need help to keep us on track.
Here are some tips to keep you in a healthy, productive work cycle.
1. Create a Routine for Yourself
Productivity lies in the routine! Without a routine, it will feel like you don’t know what to do with all the time on your hands. Set yourself up for success with a morning and night routine.
It could be a workout and your favorite coffee in the morning before you sit at your workstation. You could end your nights with prepping your lunch, writing a to-do list, and choosing an outfit for the next day.
After a while, this will become clockwork and give you the structure you need to use your time wisely.
2. Give Yourself a Time Limit
Much like clocking in and out of work, freelancers need time limits for their workdays. Without a way to track the time you’re putting in, you may think you’re working more than you actually are.
You can commit to working certain hours at a time or use one of the many online time tracking tools available. Office Time, Time Panther, and Clockodo are just some of the great tools available to you online.
3. Have a 3-Month, 6-Month, and 1-Year Action Plan
This is your vision. What do you want to accomplish this year? Write down your goals. Ask yourself: “How can I accomplish these goals?”
Write down the action plans that you will need in order to achieve your short-term and long-term goals.
4. Set Realistic Expectations for your Workweek
Once you have your 3-Month Goals, you can divide these into smaller weekly chunks. Give yourself realistic goals per day and follow through.
Don’t overbook yourself.
5. End of the day Check-in
Take the time to check in with yourself and see how you did. Did you accomplish what you set out on your to-do list? If not, what stopped you? This is crucial because we learn about our plans when we analyze them and can modify them as we go.
Are you packing too much in one day? Do you need to re-evaluate your expectations? Are you distracted and unfocused throughout the day?
What are the elements that are contributing to your distraction? How can you either eliminate or shift these to a later time when you have completed the important tasks on your to-do list? How can you set up your workspace so you stay efficient and productive?
Check out this great Productivity Planner by Intelligent Change: “Accomplishing your goals, dreams, and big wins begins with focusing on your most important tasks, not the busy work that makes days slip away. Built from proven productivity principles throughout history, the Productivity Planner has been designed to help you beat procrastination and get more important work done.”
6. Write down a Vision or Business Plan
Sometimes you need to remind yourself why you chose to go down this path. We all have trying days and will have many more along the way. This can be a couple of sentences or a paragraph, keep it short. This is to remind you of the big picture of why you’re doing this.
I find it best to keep this by your office or workstation. You could write it on a whiteboard or on a sticky note on the edge of your screen. Keep it somewhere you can see easily and frequently.
7. Find your Community
Finding people with similar goals is vital to keeping you motivated. They will keep you hungry and in healthy competition. Some members of your community might also be going through the same ups and downs you are.
Staying connected with like-minded people is a great way to keep yourself accountable and inspired.
8. If no one is Biting, Create your own Work
Work begets work!
Keep yourself busy with personal projects even in the slow times. Keeping busy is a great time to pursue concepts or projects you have wanted to do, as well as keeping your spirits up. I have found this is a great way to keep a positive attitude and motivation.
9. Filing System
Create a system for yourself and you will thank yourself later. Freelancers have to keep track of A LOT of documents. Take the time to organize them, so finding them will be a no-brainer.
Important documents include receipts, invoices, contracts, model release forms, emails, client accounts, tax forms, business legal documents, etc. Have a physical folder system and a digital folder system as a backup.
Separate them by year, then subcategories such as receipts for gas, food, meetings, business trips, etc. Setting up a system for your email is vitally important as well.
The key is to be able to find what you’re looking for immediately.
10. Work-Life Balance
Allow yourself your personal time!
Getting away from your work is as important as staying productive and organized. In many cases, time away from your work will give you a new perspective or a solution for a problem you hadn’t thought of.
Do you have any tips that help you stay organized and productive?