Freelancing, home-based office, remote working: whatever you call it, we all know it’s the next big transformation in the way we work. Stanford Business Review studied a limited rollout of home-based working for one Chinese travel agency, finding that this increased employee productivity by 13%, and improved work satisfaction. With over a third of the American workforce going freelance, the possibilities of remote working are clearly enormous for employer and employee alike.
But in our romanticized image of freelancing (a beachside digital nomad plugging away at a laptop in between cocktails), we often miss a fundamental fact: being a productive freelancer is a real challenge. And productivity is what ultimately affects your income, unlike when you had a fixed annual salary. You have to be organised, you have to be disciplined, and above all, you have to be accountable.
It’s All About Upholding the Life-Work Balance
Evidence suggests that a lot of freelancers are struggling to put up boundaries between their working and private lives. This is reflected in the findings of a 2017 UN report, which found that 41% of remote workers suffered from high levels of stress, compared with 25% of office employees. As well as creating your own schedule, a good rule is to clearly outline your regular working hours to potential clients and being prepared to put your foot down when you’re overstretched. If your work is high-quality, they’ll be willing to wait.
When it comes to work-life balance, it’s also important to think in terms of space. At the most basic level, you should try to avoid working in the same space that you relax in by creating a separate study. Hiring private offices could be a great way of enforcing the distinction between work and home. If you need a UK space to meet clients, and work with a small team, look into acquiring purpose-built London private offices.
Set Your Schedule
According to Buffer, the most popular reason for making the move to freelancing is the capacity for flexible scheduling, with 40% of remote workers making the move for this reason alone. Everyone has an optimum working time. Finding yours and fixing your schedule around it can make you much more productive. This doesn’t mean you have to work the same times every single day. But when you’re working, you’re working and mustn’t be tempted to slip into other habits of home life. This is why it’s important to schedule regular breaks. There’s any number of reasons you might end up struggling with your work-life balance as a freelancer. Working with multiple clients will probably mean you’ll end up with an irregular workstream. All too often, everyone wants something at once, and this can lead to long hours in order to keep up with demand and meet their expectations. This is clearly counter-productive and stressful. And when you’re stressed, you’re at your least productive.
Automation Can Set You Free
When you’re a freelancer, time really is money. The more efficient you are, the quicker your work is done, and the more projects you can take on. One great way to help you quickly clear your workstream and enjoy the fruits of your labor is to automate repetitive tasks such as invoicing and data backup. You should also design templates for common business documents: emails, letters, and quotes. Keeping these mundane tasks on the backburner will help you to free up time for your key business competencies. You may also like to look into using productivity apps to track the pace of your workflow.
Social media, news sites, YouTube: all these things are grist to the mill of the bored freelancer. Offline distractions can also be a pest: children, family, housemates. Then there are the physical distractions that come from your working environment: your creaky old desk chair with terrible lumbar support, your messy desk, the list is endless.
Again, it’s vital that you establish clear rules and boundaries about your workspace and your working hours both for yourself and others. When you’re freelancing, going offline can be a remarkably effective way of quickly finishing some work. Your workspace is your sanctuary. It’s up to you to keep it that way by keeping it professionally tidy, investing in ergonomic equipment and making sure those around you understand that when you’re working, you’re working!
Protect Your Time and Space
When it comes to maximizing your productivity as a freelancer, it’s all about creating a schedule, communicating clearly with your clients and giving yourself the best chance of getting work done quickly. At the root of all these things is protecting the time and space you need to get your work done, keeping yourself sane and growing your freelancing business.