If you are planning to go freelance, or already have done, one of the benefits of freelancing is it that you play by your rules, and you have genuine freedom to work when you want to, at least to a point. This marvellous feature can also be your undoing, and is at these times that you may find yourself wondering where all your time went when you have done very little freelance web designing when playing by your rules. Procrastination, and no structure make this a time when popping out, or playing air guitar very appealing.
To avoid this scenario that leads to a severe loss of finances and reputation, you have to make the structure and rules that are absent from an office environment. When you said you wanted to be your own boss, you were more on the money than you thought.
This article will give you some useful pointers to make the most of your time, and get the structure in place to work.
To that end, defining your working hours is a very good step in the right direction. So if you decide you are going to start work at 9am, get up, eat, shower and change and be at work on time. Though there is something sweet about working in your pyjamas, it does not set the right tone for a day at your desk.
When you are working for yourself, the temptation to skip breaks and keep working is high, the logic behind it is that the more you work the more you get paid. Skipping lunch is simply the way it is, and you have to work, work, and then work some more. Research has shown however, you are far more productive if you take short breaks throughout the day, and by setting aside sometime for food will keep your energy levels up and your productivity higher. Look at it this way, it is better to do thirty minutes high quality work, than an hour of distracted nonsense.
Once you have started getting to work on time, and you have a good working relationship with breaks, it is time to start thinking about how to plan your day. Not just your day, but long term goals too. It is always a good idea to plan long terms goals, as these help focus the shorter ones. The key is realism, you are not going to expand the company into a multimillion dollar enterprise by the end of the second month, but you may have completed the web design for your third client. This will naturally lead to your short term goals, like working on this project and that project. When working on these, try and be specific about tasks, so going to research CSS code, or look for Ajax examples should be used rather than do this and do that. It will help sharpen your focus.
So what next, well now you’re spending time on projects why not track how much time you are spending on each one. This is where it gets interesting as there is a number of good applications that can do this for you. This way you can better gauge how long similar projects are going to take. Is it a very good habit both now and in the future.
Also by timing tasks and projects you can better evaluate you performance. Often the results will surprise you. To help keep focus, create to do lists and see how far you get through them after a days work.
To help you stay focused, it is important that you work on one task at a time. Though multitasking has gone from being a buzz word to almost a doctrine, in terms of achieving something, the multitask ethic simply does not work as all you do is split your focus in half, and sometimes in half again. By focusing on one task, you not only get it done, you also do a good job.
It is important that you eliminate distractions when you are working too. There are several ideas you can introduce to do this. The first is to start using an RSS reader if you do not already. This way you will not waste time zooming around the web looking at your favourite blogs, as they will be coming to you. Also, by putting the feeds into folders you will not waste time looking at non work related feeds during your day.
Another good way to eliminate distractions is to check email and twitter twice a day, rather than having them open all day long. When they are, they will be a constant excuse not to do any work that requires any thought. By checking them twice a day, it leaves your time free so you can get on with what is, let’s face it, real work.
The same principle also applies to email. Most people have several different email accounts and you can bring them altogether by using Gmail. You can also keep them in folders so you do not get confused. It is by far a more efficient method than checking several different accounts to see what is what.
This is also a good idea for social media. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, all demand attention from you and keeping on top of them can be a real headache. By using social media aggregators, you can update them more easily, and stay on top of what is going on in your industry very easily. You can still use them to network for clients, and clients can still use them to keep in touch with you.
Setting up your work environment to suit you makes all the difference to the quality of your work. When you come to plan your space, make sure you have everything you need within arms reach, and that you do not have to get out of the chair. That being said, make sure the chair is comfortable, and that the mouse and keyboard is designed for this too. RSI, or back pain will certainly hamper productivity. Remember that searching for supplies or walking to the printer can waste a lot of your time.
As you no longer have to work in an environment where you were a slave to someone else’s rules, why not play your own music, or have the window open if it is a nice day. The working world no longer has to be mundane or unpleasant. Set the scene your way, and if you have your working environment as a pleasant one, then you will produce more work.
If you find yourself getting in a rut, or just not cutting it on a certain project for some reason, then remember you are not restricted to your office. Go to a coffee shop that has a wi-fi connection, have a latte and go again. It is as simple as that.
Freelancing can be a lonely world, so try and connect with other freelancers like you. It is always good to have someone to fire questions at, and share ideas. It is also good for sounding off at.
Also, it may well be worth outsourcing administrative and financial tasks. The money spent will easily be regained by the extra hours you’ll be able to do working.
We feel this just about covers freelancing, but if you have any ideas, why not share them?