I have spoken to a number of friends and colleagues who have considered the freelance life, but have been nervous about taking the leap. From getting bored on your own to handling your finance, it can all feel a little daunting, therefore I have written up some tips which I thought might help anyone considering this line of work.
1) Project Manage The Hell Out Of Your Day
It is very easy to lose focus on the key tasks when working from home, especially if you have multiple clients. For this reason, I use Trello, the project management system, to detail each task I have to complete, with a set deadline and checklist. This can also be shared with others involved in the task, allowing greater transparency of workload.
Beyond this, you could also build out a Gantt chart to really manage your time efficiently, which can be easily created on Excel.
2) Get Dressed Up
I don’t mean put on a suit and then sit on the sofa, but you always feel more professional and motivated than when you are sat in your PJ’s. Besides, you never know when someone might need to Skype! Mainly though, this is a trick so that you feel like you are in an office, as you should treat your home that way when working in the house.
3) Use A Shared Office
I won’t lie, it can become tiresome and lonely when sat at home all day, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I like to use co-working space in order to get out of the house and chat to others but remain motivated. Plus, this takes you away from those easy distractions like watching the TV or spending an unnecessarily long time making lunch (or starting on your next meal).
4) Get Started Early
Everyone works differently, but I find my brain is most active in the mornings and I start to slow down as the day goes on. We all have a slight low point at some point in the afternoon, some straight after lunch, others as they lead up to 5:30pm. If you get started early, you can stop at a decent time and you don’t have to worry about commute time, instead focusing on getting the work done so the rest of the day is for you.
5) Create A Dedicated Workspace
Sure the sofa looks comfy, but you need to set a place of work. This is another trick of creating an office environment at home, but it genuinely works. Setup a desk space and make sure you have everything to hand, so you don’t need to walk around and waste time finding items.
6) Ban Yourself From Social Media
With nobody around you to see your screen, you have free reign to check your social media accounts whenever you want. The only thing stopping you is yourself. If you ban yourself from going on them at all until lunch or once the work is done, this will ensure you don’t keep switching between work and Facebook to check your latest messages.
7) Make Sure You Move Around
It has been shown our brains will lose concentration after around 40 minutes sat down. You don’t have to go for a marathon, but I try to stand up and walk around the room for a minute every 40 minutes. This will also help your eyes to recover from staring at a screen for so long. You can download apps that will alarm every forty minutes and give you a basic task like doing starjumps (I’m weird, that sounds great to me).
8) Meet Other People When You Can
It can be a lonely life freelancing, but only if you let it become that way. Arrange to meet friends for lunch, especially as you could visit near their work knowing you can fit your own workload around your schedule. I sometimes like to pack in 1.5 days of work into one heavy day, so the next day I’m free from lunch time, meaning I can travel to meet a mate and then have the afternoon off to relax.
9) Invest In Decent Equipment
I mentioned creating an office setup, such as having a desk, but my next tip would be to spend extra and make sure it is a comfortable environment. You are going to be spending a lot of time on that chair, so make sure it is comfy, is good for your back and is fit for purpose. I treated myself to a Tassimo coffee machine and it made a huge difference to my mood when working at home.
10) Consider Music Carefully
It’s easy to play the radio and move on, but sometimes if the presenters are talking on an interesting subject you can get drawn in and lose concentration. At the same time, if the music is a bit heavy, you might not focus on the work at hand. I’m not a fan of classical music, but I actually play it quite often when working, as it is undoubtedly relaxing and fills the quietness of the room without distracting me at all.
11) Communicate The Days & Hours You Will Be Working With Clients
Clients often expect you to be at the end of a phone or answering emails instantly whenever it suits them. But the reality is they aren’t your only client and you have a schedule. Unless the task is important, you don’t want to be answering messages when part way through a task, as this will distract you and waste time. I find letting them know days and times I will be working on their projects helps as it stops them from sending constant emails when I’m busy.
12) Prepare Meals Beforehand
I tend to cook a giant stir-fry, so that it will cover a couple of meals the next day. That way there is no prep time and a very short cooking time, meaning I’m quicker to get back to my tasks and I can spend my lunch break recovering from eating (sometimes it takes me a while to get back into work mode again after eating).
I hope these tips have helped! It’s not always easy to go freelance full time, but these tips should help you to stay motivated and focussed.