Whereas some believe that the hardest part of a freelancer’s life is choosing which pajamas to wear to their comfortable work place a few meters from the bed (or choosing an outfit that’s not pajamas to go work somewhere else), the actual struggle is something more dismissive. Time management.
If you’re questioning whether that is the biggest struggle, rest assure that it is. The freelance life offers you the relieving flexibility incomparable to the classic office 9-to-5. Of course, there’s the slight anxiety of not knowing when the next paycheck will come in, but the key to sorting that is being productive when you’re juggling dozens of tasks.
As you can see, it comes back a full circle because you have to know how to manage your time right to be your most productive self. Being productive is directly tied to organization skills. Here are 7 little and not so little things you can do to improve this aspect of your freelance life:
How to organize freelance work – simply get organized about your days
Obvious organization tip #1: Have a daily schedule and track your tasks
As you’ve guessed it, the tip at the top of this page is to keep a daily schedule. To make this short, there are 2 schools of thought in regards to organization for freelancers. And either one determines what kind of a millenial you are.
1. My laptop is my life
You use your laptop for absolutely everything including organizing your day around your neat calendar and making notes to keep track of your brainwaves. You might also use all the latest online services that help you do this. The fallback of this method is that if you lose your laptop, you lose all your organizational superpowers and probably a part of your soul.
2. I prefer pen on paper
You have your little neat organizer to not only keep track of important thoughts, but doodle and sometimes organize your way with visuals. You get to mix work, fun, and creativity and guard this collection of papers with your life (because pen on paper never fails). The other thing is that it still hurts just as much if you misplace it or it gets stolen.
Jokes aside, there’s an element of truth in the fact that you either go full digital and your laptop becomes your life, or you like the old school method of watching ink absorb into paper as you construct neat letters and feel good about the final result. This organization tip for freelancers will go a long way once you find a system that works for you, be it your laptop or the classic pen on paper method.
Serious tip #2: The secret to keeping a daily schedule
You won’t like this, but you’ve got to fix your sleep schedule before applying the rest of the tips for freelancers. The reason why this is so important, is that you won’t see the merit of a daily schedule if you can’t wake up on time to complete your tasks for the first part of the day.
This is also the healthy solution – waking up at a reasonable hour and planning your day accordingly, knowing you can complete all your tasks all day everyday. If you don’t have a somewhat regular sleep schedule, your whole schedule shifts and you become discouraged in the process. Pay attention to this important factor, because for many it’s the answer to most of their organizational problems.
Relieving tip #3: Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Yes, we’re talking about your workload. Common amongst the ambitious dreamers, juggling more tasks than humanly possible will ruin some (if not all) of your chances at staying organized. It’s much harder to focus on tasks when you have about 5 others you have to complete the same day.
The thought of working overtime is not a pleasant one, and you just have to be realistic with yourself. Organize how you work and answer to whether you really need all the extra tasks in your day. The fallback of juggling to so much work is that there’s no way to get organized if you’re swamped to the point where you’re stressed and overwhelmed. Be realistic with your time and abilities.
Clever tip #4: Be strategic about the main job
A clever move for freelancers is to have a source of steady income that you can rely on every month. Instead of doing a million things to have them add up to be your main income, focus on putting your efforts to having a few jobs that cover all the basics. This way, you’re not stressing every month about the finances because you know you have your main jobs or clients you can rely on.
You need a reliable source of income and this can be a matter of having 1 or 2 clients that need jobs done on a frequent basis. As long as this is reassuring, you can go about being more selective about where the rest of your ‘free’ time goes. Again, it’ll help you stay organized and most certainly provide a peace of mind. Many say this is the main tip for freelancers if you aspire to a more comfortable arangement with the work load.
Determined tip #5: Learn to say ‘no’
As an extension of the previous tip, sometimes you’ve got to learn to say ‘no’ to projects and there’s a very important reason for it. If you’re jumping at every opportunity, job, and task flying your way, eventually you’re going to have to turn down offers (and some of them can be better opportunities!).
Splitting your efforts between several jobs makes your life more difficult and of course makes it impossible to add something new and more exciting to your calendar. Now imagine you were selective with your jobs, every lost and mediocre opportunity is a new time frame in your calendar that you can use to do something you enjoy.
The most important tip #6: Set aside ‘me’ time
Work is great, especially when you enjoy what you do with the luxury of working anywhere in your apartment, city or around the world. Something that can be easily overlooked is simply some time for yourself – to relax, to do the things you enjoy outside of work. This helps with organization because you have some room to think and regroup before diving into work.
It’s important to divert your attention to your other interests because you’ll find it easier to cope with stressful days when you know you have something to look forward to that doesn’t include the pressure of making ends meet. Just as important as it is to set aside a fraction of your day to yourself (and people you enjoy being around), take little breaks in between tasks to simply enjoy the wonderful 24 hours that slip by often unnoticed.
Stressful tip #7: Keeping close track of finances
The pressure of generating income to sustain yourself also contributes to your overall productivity and ability to organize. Take finance matters into your own hands and have a very neat spreadsheet about your income. Maintaining this kind of document is much easier than having to stress about this detail at the end of every month.
No HRs or financial department? Not a problem. Simply keep your finances up to date on a regular basis, and at least this part of the organization process is always in place and available if need be (which is the taxes period).
They also say you should have a quarterly or yearly action plan, but it’s hard to say if it’s applicable to people that just want to enjoy everyday and make the most of their freelance life. If you’re the kind that needs to plan ahead, then you can get extra organized with your action plan. If it’s not for you, these tips will be sufficient to get you through the nearest time crunch.
Almost forgot – learn to name your folders and keep them neat for the sake of organization. You’re one step away from finding the sweet spot of a productive and organized freelance life.