Freelancing can be extremely rewarding, both financially and in terms of personal satisfaction. You are your own boss, you enjoy the perks of remote working, you live like a king, and the world is your oyster, right?
Sure, but don’t ignore the other side of the coin: when you work as a freelancer – you need to be self-dependent. Learning how to be proactive and coming up with ways to raise your value on the market are possibly two of the most important things to keep in mind.
Let’s not forget time management, handling deadlines, tracking income, taking care of taxes, and of course – struggling with the everlasting problem of procrastination. These everyday challenges undeniably overlap, which can easily become overwhelming and affect your work. Productivity can easily get disrupted if you don’t make a clear schedule or you have a bad habit of doing everything last-minute because, hey – someone has to watch all those funny YouTube cat videos and compare Christmas lights prices on Amazon! Procrastination is a freelancer’s worst enemy and you’re completely on your own here.
Just kidding, technology’s got your back. According to data provided by Statista, there are around 2.2 million apps available for Android users and slightly less (around 2 million) for iOS users, and some of them are incredibly useful. Along with numerous apps and online tools you can use, you need to commit to gradually training your brain in order to rewire it and change your working habits. With strong personal will and the support of technology, you can become more rational with how you spend your time. Here are the best ways you can do so: in the end, your job depends on it.
Writing and managing to-do lists
A goal without a plan is just a wish.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator
While the Harvard Business Review categorically rejected the idea that to-do lists can be effective, we dare to disagree. Instead of fueling your procrastination by embracing the notion, we propose you analyze these conclusions, since they offer great insight on the possible problems with using to-do lists. This will enable you to become smarter when managing tasks. There are at least two reasons to consider doing so.
Firstly, you might have been missing out on the benefits of making to-do lists. Secondly, you might have been using them the wrong way all this time, which could have severely damaged your everyday productivity.
To-do lists are the old-school way of keeping track of your tasks and deadlines, but with one important asset that has been overlooked all too frequently: prioritizing. Luckily, it’s not 1995 anymore, so you don’t have to rely on paper and ink – although you can if you want to. Benefits of using technology lie in the fact that these tools are multifunctional, not just static lists that are purely informative and unstimulating. Check out the following three:
- Remember the Milk: This app was redesigned this year, offering a fresh user-friendly interface. It is a multi-feature app that allows you to organize your tasks into tabs and tags (e.g. “Personal”, “Study”, “Work”, etc.). It helps you prioritize, and the best part is that it has a reminder option, so you’ll never miss another deadline again. It’s available for all devices and platforms and you can sign up for free. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for an upgrade if you wish to use some of the new features (e.g. offline mode and subtasks).
- Toodledo: A great feature of this tool is the possibility of writing long notes attached to your tasks – just think how useful this can be when it comes to demanding clients and specific instructions. You can outline your projects, work within a team and assign tasks to members, as well as track the time spent on a project.
- Active Collab: Similar to Toodledo, Active Collab is much more than just a to-do list. It makes tracking progress easy and communicating with clients smooth, because everyone is involved in the process. It makes it much simpler to coordinate activities. Synced calendars help you stay on track, as well as e-mail reminders and notifications.
There’s hardly a better feeling than scratching a thing off of your list or looking at the amount of work you’ve managed to get done.
Be organized and perfect the way you communicate
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.Benjamin Franklin
You cannot keep calling your workspace a “creative chaos” forever. Whether you work from home or a co-working space, you need to tidy up. Cluttered space can suck out all your motivation without you even realizing it. Researchers from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute have discovered that a messy environment creates a messy mind, drawing your focus from what needs to be done and leaving your mind scattered.
In addition to organizing your physical space, you have to tidy up the virtual one, too. Is your desktop crowded with icons? How do you organize your projects? Are your folders optimally divided? The way you manage business correspondence is also important, not just for staying focused on the job but also for leaving a good impression and showcasing excellent interpersonal skills. Here are the tools you can consider:
- DropItToMe: How many times have you experienced the following situation: a friend asks for feedback regarding his latest portfolio, he says he’ll send it to you via Dropbox. But you don’t have an account there and you are too swamped with your own work to bother with registering. DropItTo.Me is a free service that offers the simplest way to receive files from Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and Google Drive – with just a few clicks. The sender doesn’t need to make an account or provide an email address. It’s great when dealing with clients that use different file hosting services.
- Slack: This is a rather useful chat application that ensures a more direct communication with your clients. It’s quick and efficient. With open and private chat channels, you are in control of what data can be seen and accessed by others.
- Bonsai: When you’re a freelancer, a major part of business communication is made up of negotiations about payment. Bonsai is a tool that allows you to work together with your client on making a contract that satisfies both sides. Both parties can sign it, which makes emailing and scanning signatures seem ancient history.
- FreshBooks: Keeping track of your income while minding your legal obligations can be a bit nerve-wrecking. With FreshBooks, the process of creating invoices is extremely simplified, as well as collecting payments. It’s truly useful if your knowledge of accounting isn’t something to brag about.
Embracing monotasking to increase productivity
How often do you work with thousands of irrelevant tabs open in your taskbar? One of the certain pitfalls of working as a freelancer is being prone to distractions and unnecessary multitasking. We frequently do several things simultaneously, thinking we are being more productive when in fact – it’s quite the opposite.
Monotasking has proven to be a much better way of handling tasks. Focusing on one thing at the time doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do a task right, but it surely increases your chances of doing so. The illusion of saving time can be broken with devotedly building time-management skills. You can check out some of the tools to help you:
- Timely: Have you ever wondered how in the world your day has flown by so fast and you haven’t done 50% of the things you’ve planned to do? Timely is a tool that works independently in the background while you do your work. It can help you get a fuller understanding of how you spend your time and minimize procrastination.
- Harvest: Another great time managing tool with full graph reports of your progress. What’s going to motivate you to get busy more, than seeing a sad curve on the graph, based on the data the app has analyzed? It also lets you send invoices and can be connected with other tech business tools.
- Toggl: This tool is a heaven for minimalists who don’t enjoy all-in-one apps. It’s like a really cool stopwatch with additional features. It provides you with an overview of your productivity and you can track time while you’re offline, which is a plus.
With only a few clicks, you can set up your unique upload page for files from your colleagues, clients, students, or anyone else.DropItTo.Me
In order to become more productive and savvy with your schedule, you can rely on these tools – but you need to make yourself work when the clock starts ticking. Procrastination is a habit that can be changed. Try forcing yourself to start even if you don’t feel like working: just think about the feeling of accomplishment when you’re done and remind yourself why you love your job.
Sometimes it’s good not only to focus on how to overcome a lack of motivation and poor productivity, but also map out the reasons why they’re there in the first place. Maybe you’re stuck in a skill rot, or your job isn’t satisfactory anymore? While being a 9-to-5 worker allows you the luxury of snoozing on your job occasionally when the boss isn’t looking – as a freelancer, you have to be at the top of your game 24/7. Consider these tips and tools as additional support: even if you’re not struggling with procrastination, there’s always room for improvement.