Are you ready to rock working remotely in 2019? I know you are! Whether you’ve just taken the plunge and started your work-at-home career, or you’ve been working from home for a while but need help leveling up, I’ve got some tips for you today. These tips will help you become more efficient, guard against burnout, and show you how to manage yourself better — so read on for my freelancing secrets to work the heck out of 2019 with a bigger and better freelance life.
Embrace Cloud Technology
One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you can choose to work wherever you want to — so long as you have the tools (and privacy) you need, of course! In order to keep your workspace portable, leverage the awesome power of the cloud.
There are lightweight apps out there for any purpose you could imagine that store all their data in the cloud, meaning you can easily access the tools you need for work via laptop or Chromebook — sometimes even a tablet — and share what you're working on with your clients just as easily. There's G Suite for all your word processing and spreadsheet needs, Dropbox for storing and sharing files with clients, Timeneye for project and time management, and so on.
There’s an App for That
Hack your time and become the best freelancer you can be by having an effective lineup of apps for your business. I recently covered 25 of the best apps for freelancers, which contains a breakdown of some of the top apps for organization, productivity, customer relationship management and more. You can use apps to track your time and send out invoices (Paymo), to communicate with clients (Slack), to stay on task and avoid time-wasting websites (RescueTime), for work sprints (Pomodoro) and more. Whatever you need assistance with, there’s an app that can help you - there are even apps that remind you to take a break (Break Timer) and to drink water (Plant Nanny).
Just make sure that you don’t go overboard and have too many apps you’re trying to use at once — weigh each new app on whether you specifically need a separate app for that purpose, and use multi-purpose apps where appropriate. This tactic will also help optimize the amount of money you’re spending on subscription fees — if any, as many apps have free versions — each month.
Create a Schedule That Works for You
If you’re going to excel as a freelancer, you need to create a schedule that works for you and not against you. If you know you’re not an 8 AM to 5 PM person, don’t try to force that schedule on yourself! Work from 10 AM to 7 AM if that’s better, or even 11 PM to 7 AM if you’re a night owl and your work allows you to keep those hours.
You can also break up your day however you need to — if you’re a stay-at-home mom, get the kids off to school first and then spend a block of time working. When school lets out, you can run around for after-school activities and errands, then do another time block once the kids are settled in on their own homework or some free time.
Scheduling flexibility is a beautiful thing, helping you stay efficient and energized — just make sure that you create a deliberate schedule and don’t run around without a plan, trying to catch as catch can.
Learn to Batch Process
Have you ever noticed that, when you try to do too many different things on a given day, you're more prone to hitting a wall or feeling burned out? It's a legit concern for freelancers especially, given all the ways we feel we have to multitask daily.
From pitching to invoicing and researching to writing (or programming, drawing, whatever you do) — we are busy, busy bees. It's important to manage our own potential fatigue, and a great way to do that is by learning to batch process. That's when you pick one stage of a job and you do that one task across all your clients at once. So when you're a freelance writer and you're pitching your next articles, that's all you're doing — putting together pitches for each client. This lets your brain stay focused on one type of thing; you avoid the inefficiency of having to change gears many times a day.
Batch processing can make you more efficient and help prevent burnout; you can read more about this process in Laura Pennington’s "What Is Batch Work?" over at Better Biz Academy.
Time blocking is closely related to batch processing — it means you choose one task, set a timer for that task, and then work only on that task until your timer's up. When time is up, take a break and move on — either to another time block to finish your task (repeat until you’re done), or to your next task. It’s okay for a project to take multiple days, and to work on different projects on the same day — the idea is that you deliberately structure your day and your focus for productivity. You also choose the length of your time block — you can do 25 minutes (as in the Pomodoro technique) or 40 minutes or more. The deliberate breaks help keep you sharp, too.
The time blocking technique lets you exercise your concentration, building up the skill to focus on the task at hand even when working from home with all of home's waiting distractions. It’s basically giving yourself a schedule to stick to, since you don’t have a manager to do it for you — you ARE the manager, after all, so give it a try.
Train Your Family & Friends
When you're working from home, it's harder to maintain that crucial separation between time at work and time off work. That's why you should consider getting dressed every day like you're going to work, even though you're freelancing from home — and why you should have a specific end to your work day when you stop checking your work emails. You don't want play time bleeding into your work life, and you don't want your work life eating up all your time either.
It can be hard enough learning to maintain this separation for ourselves, and even harder if we don't have the support and cooperation of our families and friends. So, when you kickstart your remote career? It's time to train your friends and family, too! Make sure they understand that, when you're up and dressed and in your office — even if your office is a corner of the dining room — you're AT WORK. No distractions allowed, except for emergencies.
Keep your routine consistent and clearly communicate with friends and family: you'll have them trained to support your schedule in no time. You can also train them to ensure you take breaks, so you don’t miss out on quality bonding time either.
Make Communication a Priority
There's little more frustrating than that one client who won't give you a clear description of exactly what they want you to do for them — whether that's writing a blog post or creating a website or doing market research. There's also little more frustrating for clients than having an uncommunicative freelancer who doesn't keep them in the loop on a project's progress.
Why not dedicate yourself in 2019 to eradicating this frustration? It’ll level up your freelancer game. Become a stellar communicator and make communication a priority. Have a transparent work process in place so your clients are clear on what you're doing at any given time, and send them regular updates. Make sure you don’t go overboard and swamp them with emails and messages, though! Use a balanced approach.
When you start a new gig, ask that your clients be equally communicative about their needs. Clients having trouble with that part? Develop a form or set of questions to help them get their thoughts and expectations for a project quantified on paper. This formal outlining will better everyone's experience, manage expectations, and ensure there’s no scope creep in the job.
Get the Right Equipment
While you can get by with subpar equipment when you start freelancing, you'll want to get the right equipment for your industry as soon as you can. It really will make all the difference in how hard you have to work — that means, for a transcriptionist, you're probably going to want to get a foot pedal in addition to a good pair of headphones. Your efficiency as a transcriptionist will go up and so will your earning potential.
As a writer, you may want to invest in a decent laptop, an ergonomic keyboard, or a Microsoft Word subscription (depending on what program your clients prefer). For digital artists, getting the right equipment may mean investing in a drawing tablet from Wacom. Whatever the right equipment for your industry is, you know what will help you become a better freelancer — so make a plan and get it.
Get Your Exercise
While it sounds like living the dream to work from home, being cooped up in the house all day is not optimal — and neither is a sedentary lifestyle chained to our desks or couches. Embrace the flexibility that comes with being a freelancer, and use it to get your daily exercise!
If you don't need to take notes and some background noise is okay, do client calls while you take a walk around the neighborhood. Do some business-related reading on a stationary bike, or just get up and do a little yoga or walk around your house when you're on break between time blocks. It’s also important for your eyes to take regular breaks from staring at computer screen, and using the Pomodoro technique to work in focused bursts then remember to stand up every 25 minutes is ideal. Try to get some sunlight whenever you take a break or move around, too — you don't want your vitamin D levels to tank and take your mood with them.
When it comes to getting things done, never underestimate the power of bribing yourself. You can even call it self-care because it is. Set your goals at the start of each week, and assign something nice for when you accomplish those goals — it can be a dessert if you'd like, or even more screen time on your social media stream of choice. For finishing major projects, consider picking up that romance novel you've been eyeing or some new music to energize your work(outs). As your own manager, recognizing your accomplishments is a key component in keeping up your morale — so manage yourself well to maximize your efficiency later, and reward yourself!
Feeling confident in supercharging the rest of 2019? Great! Get out there and be productive, then come back on one of your scheduled breaks and tell us which tip is your favorite.
- Top Tips For Working Remotely In 2019 - February 7, 2019
- Hot Virtual Assistant Service Ideas for 2017 and Beyond - August 8, 2017