As a freelancer, you have the flexibility of establishing your own schedule and organizing your agenda according to your will. However, if you have been freelancing for a while, you have already realized that all this freedom comes at a price. Since you're often operating in various roles and working on many projects, remote work requires a great amount of discipline. And yes, that’s challenging.
But if you’re committed to living more freely and working on your terms, know that there is a way to organize your projects so you can have more clients and turn your career into a real source of income and satisfaction. Here’s how:
Split time and set priorities
The secret to balancing your personal and professional life in a routine is to divide your time and establish priorities. You’ll certainly be juggling multiple projects and tasks from different freelance clients at the same time, but knowing exactly which ones have a tight deadline or will require more hours of work.
Knowing how to define what is “urgent” and what is “important”, especially for long-term projects, is essential. Trello is a great tool that can help you separate your tasks by priorities. You can create columns such as 1-"Tasks to do", where you’ll write all of your tasks from various projects; 2- "Urgent tasks" things you need to have done by the end of your week, for example; "Important tasks", which aren’t urgent but will require significant time and effort; "Tasks of the day"; and "Tasks done" (few things are more satisfying than moving things to this column!)
Also, every day before you close your workday, set some time to establish what you will do the next day, according to your priorities, so by the time you sit down to work, you already know exactly what you need to do, leaving no room for procrastination.
One thing at a time
It would be amazing if we could do several things at the same time, even more as a freelancer. However, this is not a viable reality since, despite what you might think, our brains aren’t multitasking. Accept that it is necessary to do one thing at a time, and if you want to be productive and really get on with multiple projects, set this golden rule for yourself: finish what you started.
As freelancers, we can change our focus whenever it is convenient. Therefore, it is normal to leave the most difficult or complex task or project for later. But trust me, prioritizing what is most difficult and having the determination to only change tasks when you finish is an amazing strategy to stay motivated and disciplined daily.
Choose your projects wisely
While you don’t need to love every single freelance work you get, it is important to recognize what’s motivating you to say ‘yes’ to a project. That’s because if you believe in your client’s project, products, and services, you’ll feel more motivated and inspired about the work
Otherwise, if you feel that you’re simply collecting a check, it won’t be long until working on that project becomes monotonous, which will decrease your productivity and impact the delivery of other projects.
So, when considering prospective clients, you may want to ask some key questions such as:
- What about this project excites me/resonates with my work?
- How will this project open the door for additional opportunities in the future?
- Will it bring me more expertise, knowledge, and insights?
These bullet points will not only help you choose your projects wisely but also connect you with your “Why” (the intention and motivation that’s behind your acceptance), which is essential if you want to put yourself into action and be consistent with your work.
You may not know it, but every time we are interrupted on a task, it takes us about 25 minutes until we regain attention. That's why it is so important to turn off your cell phone notifications and set a time to answer messages and emails all at once. In the same way, avoiding social media can help a lot. You’ll see that your time will multiply and your effort will pay off.
You can use Toggl, an application that measures the time and how much you spend on each task, as well as Space which is an app designed to eliminate your phone addiction. This last one notifies you when you stay longer than you’ve planned on your phone and helps you not waste time browsing for hours on youtube or social media.
Finally, if you’re serious about eliminating all distractions possible, whenever you’re working on tasks that don’t require the internet, put your laptop on the module offline. This helps a lot.
Make time for rest
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of wanting to work more than you’re capable of. That might mean saying “no” to less meaningful and important projects so you can direct your time and energy to the more important ones and still have moments of rest and leisure away from the screen.
Getting more projects than you’re ready to handle is a mistake that new freelancers commonly make. But whether you’re starting or have a lot of experience, always remember that your long-term success will be directly connected to your ability to balance your work and your personal life.