Either you’ll have someone tell you that freelancers have the time of their life by making money and living a fantastic life beyond work, or you’ll have another-somebody narrate his own awful experience where he couldn’t manage the amount of work he got.
Set aside your confusion and just know this: what freelancers really do and how they spend their time depends on the situation they put themselves in.
The good news is that freelancers CAN actually manage their work, make a decent living, and have a fabulous life all at the same time if they do it just right! And what is “just right”, you ask? It means you get your work done in the most productive and optimal manner possible.
Here are some tips that will help you figure out what the most “productive” and “optimal manner” in the world of freelance really means.
Set A Schedule
Treat your freelance work just like you would treat a 9-5 gig. Have a fixed schedule to follow everyday with consistency. The key part is to be consistent with that schedule. Enjoying the freedom of not having a boss around or someone to tell you what to do can be terrific. However, if you enjoy it too much, your freelance career is sure to hit a dead end with not enough clients and just a few pennies in earnings.
Your daily routine should be specific in terms of timings and daily tasks (i.e. 9 am breakfast, 10am check emails, 10:15 begin work, and so on).
Discover Your Optimal Hour(s)
The number one success tip which I found the most useful (when I myself was a freelancer in-the-making) was to discover the time in which I feel I am MOST productive. Call it the ultra-optimal hour(s). This is the time when you feel your brain is bursting with ideas and you just can’t put a stop to it. You feel fresh and ready to create a gazillion designs. For many people, these are the earliest hours in the day. For others, it could be during midday, or even late night. Harness your creativity spark during that ultra-optimal time and build your schedule (tip 1) around it.
Tired of the phone ringing, your friends constantly texting you, or that attractive blue Facebook bookmark? You’ll never get your work done on time with so many distractions. Unfortunately for freelancers, with all the pros brought in by the digital media the cons came along as well. Shun social media when working. Politely excuse yourself and turn off your cell phone or at least put it on silent mode. Shut the door to prevent noisy distractions. Then just focus, focus, focus! The specific hours you have set for your work and your work ONLY should be followed unwaveringly. Set aside a separate time for your emails, IMS, or social networking and NEVER let those distractions snatch away your precious work hours.
Experiment With both Your Pjs and Your Suit
Many bloggers tend to favor the “treat your home like an office” belief. That means you get up early in the morning, put on a suit and a tie (I’m serious!), comb your hair, carry a coffee mug with you, and sit on clean office-like desk politely and maybe put on some fake glasses (no, just kidding about the last part). I guess the idea behind it is to treat your profession like a profession with some serious attitude. So if you act professional, you will feel professional.
However, I would agree to disagree on this subject. Evidently, that is something that might work well for ex 9-5ers. But that doesn’t mean it works for everyone including the people who have never been a part of an office environment. Part of the reason why freelancers decide to stick with their freelance business is because of the flexibility it offers (in terms of dress, timing, etc). You have to be comfortable while you work and that comfort is what gets your ideas spinning around in your head. You are ready to write, design, draw, or code in your most comfortable position. While the suit-and-tie method may work for many people, the pjs may work best for some others.
A great way to know for sure is simply by experimenting with your environment and dressing styles. Realize your best and most productive stance and then stick to it!
Alright, I know this may sound absurd because it is pretty ironic. However, several studies indicate how a break is essential for workers to recharge their brain for, well –more work. Check out this article by NY times on the subject. Now I don’t mean you take a break for half of your working time and work the rest, and call it a day! That won’t get you anywhere. The best way to do this is by taking structured breaks. They can’t be spontaneous and out of nowhere! You can try to fix them into your schedule (tip 1).
Some people decide to get up and move around for five minutes after every hour which is also a great method. Find out what works best for you.
Be in Shape
Believe me, this is one is imperative to your success. Whether you’re a writer, a designer, or a coder, your power lies in the full and proper functionality of your brain. Unlike some other regular routinely work where you can actually slack off a bit on days when you aren’t feeling all pumped up and active, freelance work doesn’t put up with that attitude. Not being a fit and healthy individual is sure to sink your freelance career down the drain with lackluster work.
First, you have to make sure you get a good amount of sleep. Productivity levels are drastically reduced due to lack of sleep. Research indicates that most adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep every day. Another research shows that people with poor diets are about 15% less productive compared to those who eat healthy. So, you better get rid of the junk food breaks and soda cans from the fridge if you want to go a long way with your productivity levels.
Undoubtedly, a decent amount of exercise also counts in the health department (and this one is bit deficient when it comes to freelancing). Work on your ergonomics and stimulate your brain with regular exercises. Researchers claim that it does enhance overall productivity in a worker.