Efficiency as a freelancer can make or break your success. Although we all know that wasted time is wasted money, particularly for those of us working as freelancers, one of our first challenges is realizing the points where we are actually inefficient. Then, and only then, can we spend time fine-tuning some key efficiency strategies that will result in happier clients, more manageable deadlines, time for more projects, higher pay, more free time to spend with family and friends, and less stress. Improving our effectiveness as freelancers is bound to be an on-going journey, but let’s start now with some basics that can help save you time and increase your earning potential.
Plan Your Time
Whether you’re able to plan an entire week’s worth of work in advance or prefer to prioritize tasks on a more adaptable daily schedule, a plan will save you from those distracting moments of trying to figure out what to work on next. I prefer more flexible daily work plans, but they are often more organized and less stress inducing if I’ve already laid out the next day’s plan the night before. In this case, I still have the freedom to make decisions throughout the next day, but I already have a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished before my morning coffee finishes brewing. If you don’t already utilize one, keep a detailed notebook or a planning app right away.
Develop Good Time Management Habits
I would say two of the worst time management habits among freelancers in general are procrastination and poor organization. These practices are super common and seem to be so much easier than their corresponding good habits. In actuality, they are not easier. With the development of good habits, time management can become like second nature and procrastination and poor organization will actually require effort.
So flip the dial on these bad habits. Start by making it a habit to plan and set goals at the end of your workday for your next workday. Once this becomes routine, give it at least a committed and consistent two weeks, your freelancer efficiency will benefit greatly from your good time management habit
Track Your Time
Many freelancers enjoy that their jobs don’t require time cards and clocking in and out. I certainly do too, but when you are working to assess your efficiency and working to improve your efficiency, you’re going in absolutely blind if you don’t understand where your time is going. For the analog types, just write down what you’re doing and for what length of time. It’s not very sophisticated, but I’m sure you’ll encounter some surprises.
You can also utilize a free time tracking software as a great start to learning about your weaknesses and what takes up the most of your time. With this knowledge in hand, evaluate yourself critically and build your next daily work plan in a way that will aim at improving these areas. Using them may be a little inconvenient at first but time tracking apps can help you a lot in focusing on the most important tasks and getting rid of any distractions that set you back in work.
Practice Stress Management
Although very few of us remember to take small breaks every hour (it’s a part of every productive people’s schedule), this simple practice can improve daily performance tenfold. Preferably these breaks should not be spent behind the computer. Considering your overall health, make the effort to get adequate exercise in order to release your stress. Otherwise, find your go-to activity for helping you overcome stress. If you find peace in playing the harmonica or watering your herb garden, these are all valid practices. It’s just good to know that you have a stress management plan to fall back on when you really need to cope with the pressure of a particularly challenging client. It’s also good to practice stress management daily to help ward off potential stressors.
There are many more things to be done to boost your efficiency, but they vary by industry and individually. Start with these tips and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at all the wasted minutes and hours after you’ve tracked your time. Make sure that you can get an adequate assessment of your current efficiency struggles then you have a manageable starting point from which to ask fellow freelancers for advice.