Last year brought a lot of changes to our private and professional lives. Just a few years ago, working from home was a rarely heard term in the same manner as “digital nomad” but everything had changed.
More than one-third of the US workforce had freelanced during COVID. Some people may return back to a full-time job, but there is a notable amount of those who will want to retain their flexible schedule.
There is no doubt that work from home and freelancing are fantastic opportunities but they come with some difficulties.
When you are just starting out you are full of motivation. But motivation will not get you far. Fatigue, difficulties, repetitive tasks – that all is a part of freelancing and may be discouraging.
In this post, we will go over some tips on how to stay dedicated to freelancing and make the most of it!
Make a Plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail – I am sure you’ve heard that saying before. It applies to freelancing twice as much.
When you are on your own, time may slip through your fingers. It seemed that you work the whole day, but what did you actually complete?
Sitting and drawing number eight for 10 hours is also an activity, but does it bring you anywhere?
You must take charge of your time. This is best done with a clear schedule and marked down tasks that you need to complete.
In the beginning it might be enough to use a simple spreadsheet to keep all your tasks in check.
As you will progress, your tasks will have several phases, maybe you will start collaborating with somebody etc. The number of variables and combinations will increase – when that time arrives, consider using a tool that will help you wit that. CostOfIncome workflow management guide may help you to choose the right tool for you.
Embrace the Home Office
Part of the appeal of freelancing is the ability to work anywhere you choose. When starting out as a digital nomad, you might not see the value of a home office. Why shouldn’t you work in the sunshine, at a lunch counter, or while you travel?
While a day in a cafe with your laptop can be refreshing, eventually, you will need to find a dedicated workspace in your home. When you have to forage for a table to set your laptop and coffee, you waste time and energy every day you work.
Energy is key. When you feel like you can’t work at home, you won’t want to wake up and get to work. Think of the time you would spend finding a distraction-free environment or a secure internet connection. That time would be better spent actually working! Don’t sabotage your workflow by relying on chance to find a pop-up workspace. Establish a home base.
That doesn’t mean you have to trap yourself in a home-grown cubicle. Your workspace should be comfortable and inspiring. Somewhere you feel like spending lots of time working on your own terms.
That could be a desk full of succulent plants, or a bookshelf with your favorite novels. The sky’s the limit on decor choices. Just make sure your style isn’t so wild you can’t make a video call now and then.
Take Gigs You Love
As a freelancer, you are continually comparing jobs and clients to secure yourself good pay. There’s nothing wrong with following the money, but don’t forget to do what you love.
You became your own boss to chase your passion and embrace your own work style. When you feel your resolve flagging, remind yourself why you have taken the clients you have. A good mix of high paying clients and fun projects keep you waking up and logging the hours every day.
There will always be clients you take because the pay is right. You should take those clients, but not only those clients. Having a mix of large and small name clients in your workweek keeps the balance between paying the bills and working the job you love.
The same thought process applies to one-off assignments and regular clients. Longer engagements can mean steady work that you are familiar with, but it can also lead to boredom. When you start dreading each new assignment from a particular client, it’s time to move on.
Likewise, one-off assignments can be refreshing and exciting but don’t get bogged down. If you spend too much of your time hunting new gigs, you may start to feel exhausted. By having some of each, you ensure you have a steady income but the opportunity to work in multiple niches and build a terrific portfolio.
Build a network
When you are your own boss, you are responsible for your reputation. When pitching to clients, you have no formal resume and quarterly reviews to display, only the work you have done and the client’s review. That’s where networking comes in.
Don’t let the variable nature of freelancing get you down. Protect yourself from being anxious about your job security by building a robust professional network. If you have a good experience with a client, follow up on social media.
By connecting on Linkedin or Facebook, you solidify your relationship with that client. That could lead to additional work from someone you know you enjoy working with or visibility within their sphere. You never know who might be checking out your profiles!
When you take time to network, you make it that much easier to secure new contracts in the future from new and old contacts. That added security will prevent you from stagnating down the line. Keep yourself productive and keep your client list full by positioning yourself on social media.
It’s hard to stay on the ball with freelancing when you are scared of what could go wrong. Job security and professional ethics should be top priorities for any remote worker.
Part of the gig economy’s appeal is getting to take jobs outside your niche, with many new clients. Don’t let that freedom become a weakness. It’s hard to be excited about new jobs if you are always worrying if each client will pay what you are owed. Keep yourself and your income protected by drafting clear contracts before beginning any work.
Once work is completed, be sure to invoice promptly and thoroughly. The better record you can provide of work completed, the harder it will be for an unscrupulous client to leave you in the lurch.
Detail exactly what you will do, how long you expect it to take, and what the rate of pay will be. A prompt invoice ensures your client remembers what you did for them. They are much less likely to quibble if the job is fresh in their mind. By agreeing to these things in writing, you have legal recourse if a client tries to get free work from you.
Of course, you can’t take every sketchy client to court for every gig. That’s where third parties come in. Just as your clients expect to see a resume before they hire you, you should vet your clients through a remote work platform or by asking for references.
Try pitching to clients through a freelancer-friendly third party. That way, you can rely on that trusted third party to pay you for every hour worked, even if the client violates a contract. Some third parties take a flat fee or a percent commission. Make sure you understand the payment structure before you take a gig through a third party.
Keep Work During Work Hours
You might think setting your own hours means you can work when you feel like it on any given day. Even though you control your schedule, you still need to have a schedule. By setting office hours and sticking to them, you prevent freelancer burnout.
That doesn’t mean you need to have a regular 9-5 schedule, either. Part of the reason you became a freelancer was to get out of the office job life! That said, if you don’t define when you work, that means you don’t define when you don’t work. Without set office hours, you might feel compelled to take client calls and answer emails at all hours.
Being responsive to your clients is a good thing, but you must set limits. If you lose sight of the ‘freedom’ in freelancing, it’s a sign you are making yourself too available. Likewise, you might feel compelled to start working on a new project as soon as you get it, no matter the time of day. Make sure you define ahead of time when your work hours will be each week and stick to it.
If you catch yourself zoning out or slacking, take a break! Remember, there is no time clock and no supervisor in your home office. If your energy is flagging, it’s time to rest. When you feel your attention slipping, try switching gears. Grab some coffee, check your social media timeline or listen to a song. Whatever recharges you.
Take ten minutes or two hours, whatever you feel is right. When you feel ready to return to work, you will be more productive than if you slog through an energy slump.
Create rules and follow them
When freelancing stops feeling free, it’s hard to stay committed to the hustle. If you start feeling like just another employee, take a look at your personal code of conduct to ensure your values are being respected.
Maybe certain types of projects don’t appeal to you or fit well in your skillset. Lay down the rule that you don’t accept certain kinds of projects. You will save yourself from deliberating when you receive an offer that doesn’t fit your skills. While it can be challenging to reject work as a freelancer, you will thank yourself for sticking to your principles. You should decline gigs that fall outside your skillset.
Whenever you are looking at a proposal, ask yourself if the job follows all your rules and is in line with your you will be more productive conditions.
If you break your own rules and feel the strain of burn out, you have only yourself to blame. Create rules that uphold your values to make sure you don’t burn out while freelancing.
Take care of your body
If you haven’t heard by now, your body is a temple. Protect your health and your productivity by treating it like one.
When you make your own schedule, you might not think of your day in terms of two fifteen-minute breaks and lunch, like you used to. When working from home or on the go, it’s even more important that you remember to stay hydrated and eat healthy, nourishing food throughout the day. Snacking throughout the day improves your metabolism and increases your energy level.
If you find yourself feeling tired or grumpy, make sure you are getting up to stretch. Avoid sitting for long periods of time by walking to your home equivalent of the water cooler and touching your toes now and then. Simple changes like taking phone calls while pacing or eating lunch away from your desk can help get you out of your chair and moving. Just standing up and walking across the room increases your oxygenation and gives you the boost of energy you need to work your hardest.
Of course, you probably spend a ton of time at your desk no matter what. That’s why it’s so important to be comfortable in your workspace. Make sure the height of your chair, desk, and computer monitor is optimal for your back and neck. It should go without saying that you don’t feel like working on anything if you are uncomfortable doing it.
Pay attention to the details like light level and keyboard placement. Even a tiny issue can feel like a big deal after 40 hours. It’s like The Princess and the Pea, Office Edition.
If you wear corrective lenses, ask your optometrist about blue filter coating for your glasses. Blue coating filters the backlight of the many screens in your life to protect you from eye strain and headaches. Even if you don’t wear glasses, protective light filter lenses are recommended for anyone who has more than four hours of screen time per day.
Designate a work machine
You may not think you need a designated work computer. The trouble is, when your work and play happen on the same machine, the line between work time and playtime gets fuzzy. If you find yourself getting distracted while you should be working, it could be that your computer puts a little too much fun in reach.
The opposite can also be a problem. When you listen to pings all night from your Trello board and email, you might resent your clients for interrupting your free time. Help enforce quiet hours by unplugging from professional communication.
By having a designated work computer, you can keep yourself logged in to professional accounts only. Likewise, don’t log in to your business accounts on your non-professional electronics. The last thing you need is for a client to see you haven’t answered their email because you are playing Call of Duty.
Having a work computer is good for more than work-life balance. It’s also the best way to keep your files secure. The reality of digital work is that malfunctions happen. It should go without saying that you should back up your essential work files on external drives or in the cloud.
A home office is more than just a desk and a PC. Even if you don’t need them all the time, a printer and scanner come in handy often. Save yourself the hassle of a trip to Kinkos by creating a dedicated space for work and work tools. Depending on your niche, a fax machine, dedicated work cell phone, or a landline telephone may also be appropriate. Make sure you have the tools you need to work efficiently from home.
Freelancing is not easy. The main challenge is to keep yourself motivated and productive. While in the corporate world you have various people doing many tasks supporting each other – with freelancing you are the main (and only) hero of the show.
Aristotle once said: “Through discipline, comes freedom.” this saying is a perfect fit for all the existing or aspiring freelancers reading this post.