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How to Stay Productive When You’re Freelancing


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One of the most challenging aspects of being self-employed is to remain productive at all times. After making the switch from permanent employment, contractors and freelancers may struggle with finding a routine and staying motivated no matter what.

As contractor accountants, we understand just how important this is, so we’re offering some tips on how the self-employed can avoid a drop in productivity when working for themselves, be it from home, the local café or an office.

Structure Your Day

It can be tempting to sleep in and stay in your pyjamas all day. However, even though you have this flexibility and don’t have to get out of the house at 7am or dress up for work, you should still find a way to structure your day. Having a clear routine can help you to dive straight into ‘work mode’, as does getting out of your pyjamas, which are associated with rest and sleep, and putting on work clothes.

It’s also important that you have a dedicated workspace. While freelancers have the chance to work from anywhere, this isn’t likely to put them in a productive mood. For example, your couch, no matter how comfy it is, is normally for lounging or watching TV, so it can be difficult to get into the right mindset if you try to work from there.

Instead, if you’re working from home, assign a specific space just for your freelance tasks, like an office or even a desk in your living room. The idea is to have a space you associate with work and that allows you to focus.

Put the Mobile Away

Nowadays, we do so much with our smartphones, from browsing the web and watching videos to paying our bills and playing games. While mobile phones are useful in our day-to-day, they can also be incredibly distracting. And whether working from home or from the local library, getting rid of distractions is crucial for all freelancers.

Instead of going down a social media rabbit hole, hide the phone to keep it out of your mind – if you can see it while trying to work, you’re dedicating mental resources to it which could be used on your tasks.

freelancer artist 

Have a Plan

Do you have clear objectives on what you want to accomplish in 3, 6 or 12 months? Create an action plan for both your short-term and your long-term goals, which will not only help you to gain clarity on what you really want to achieve but will also help you to keep motivated.

It’s equally important to choose realistic goals and to set realistic expectations for your freelancer career – if you create objectives that are too difficult to achieve in the timeframe you set yourself, you may fail at them, which will lead to a loss of motivation and productivity.

On the other hand, by splitting your goals into achievable – but still challenging – targets throughout your day, week or month, you are more likely to remain on top of your tasks.

Take Breaks

One of the perks of being a freelancer is that you can take as many breaks from work as you wish. However, many self-employed individuals opt to work late into the evening without breaks or even to work all weekend without taking a moment to themselves. It’s difficult to remain productive when you don’t rest your body and your brain.

Frequent breaks can improve your creativity, help you to stay healthy by preventing stress and combating fatigue and, of course, help you to stay productive. When you work for yourself, you can easily step away from your desk and go for a short walk or get some coffee.

Regular breaks will also keep you from focusing on personal or social tasks during work hours, so you can maintain a better work-life balance.

Stay Healthy

Physical activity is a key element of a healthy life, especially when you take into account the prolonged periods of time you spent sitting down. While each self-employed individual is different, it’s fair to say that a lot of work is done at a desk in today’s digital world – sitting down for hours on end can lead to health issues, including blood clots, so, working out can help you to feel rejuvenated and to stay healthy over time.

An additional benefit of exercising is the boost of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which can lead to improved problem-solving skills and creativity.

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Staying healthy also means looking after yourself while not at work, from sleeping and eating well to drinking plenty of water. Also, ergonomic furniture can prevent you from getting posture issues or problems like carpal tunnel syndrome.

As far as mental health goes, make sure you keep a clean and organised workspace. Clutter interferes with your productivity, so have a wastepaper basket nearby, store your files in the right places and keep tidy surroundings.

Put Boundaries in Place

For many freelancers just starting out, working from home is the most feasible option, especially as they don’t have to spend money renting an office. You also have the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones. However, despite the advantages, working from home can also have its downsides. For instance, you’re more likely to get distracted when you’re at home, from familial obligations to background noise.

So, if you choose to work from home, you should implement boundaries that can help you to keep your work hours safe. Roommates, children or partners may not understand that you’re still working even if you’re home, so you may want to share your calendar with them to ensure that you don’t run into this issue. This way, they know whether they can interrupt you or not.

You will probably have to manage expectations as well; let your family know that, unless it’s an emergency, you can’t be interrupted during work hours. You can also have a dedicated office space that is out of bounds while you’re working and avoid replying to text messages or non-work emails during that time.

Experiment with Co-Working Spaces

Many freelancers can feel lonely and isolated when they make the change from permanent employment. After all, they’re used to chatting with co-workers and to having people around. For this reason, some choose to work in public spaces such as cafés and libraries when they become freelancers.

You may also want to consider co-working spaces. They provide a reprieve from the solitude of working from home and don’t offer the same distractions as a coffee shop, such as background conversations. These spaces will ensure you get out of the house and can help to boost your productivity.

For example, co-working spaces provide the perfect space for networking opportunities – they’re communal and collaborative, and you’re often surrounded by like-minded individuals who work in a variety of industries and fields.

They also improve discipline, since you will not have access to a TV or your fridge; therefore, by being surrounded by other professionals, you are more likely to keep focused on your work, not on leisure activities. And, instead of feeling lonely at home, opting for a co-working space can give you a sense of community.

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Talk to People

We don’t mean just in a work context. On the contrary, while professional networking is key, don’t forget to socialise by spending time with your loved ones as well. Likewise, it can be easy to become a hermit when working from home, so make sure that you’re meeting people, hitting the gym, grabbing tea or coffee, going out for dinner, or just going out to the pub with friends.

Socialising will keep you from feeling isolated and will help you to brush up on social skills, especially if you spend the day alone at home without speaking to anyone.

Start Saying No

As a freelancer, you’re the one responsible for keeping an eye on your profit and expenses, which means you also need to decide whether taking on a specific gig is the right thing for you. Perhaps you can’t afford to take on a job for a low rate, no matter how much you like the client, or maybe you are too busy to accept new projects.

No matter the reason, it’s important that you understand when saying no to new clients or jobs is the best thing for your freelance career. You’ll have more time and resources to invest in your current gigs, ensuring you remain productive instead of spreading yourself thin.

When Are You Most Productive?

Everyone is different, so your most productive hours will probably differ from other people’s. This is good news for freelancers, since you can choose to work when is most convenient for you instead of being stuck on a 9-to-5 routine. Perhaps you’re more of a morning person or maybe you prefer to work in the evenings – by figuring out the time of day you find it easier to focus, you can improve your productivity levels.

For example, if you are more creative in the mornings, do the bulk of your work after waking up and leave the afternoon for admin tasks, such as checking and replying to emails.

Know When To Call It a Day

It’s easy to work long hours when you don’t have a fixed hour to finish your work for the day. When you’re employed, you know when to wrap it all up and go home for the day, so this is something that should carry from your employment days.

Create a schedule that works for you by setting a specific hour to start work, by choosing when you should go on break and, also, by selecting the best time to stop working. If you wish to work 40 hours a week, split your days to reflect this and avoid doing ‘overtime’ if you can avoid it.

In addition, what this does is ensure you remain focused on the task at hand because you know you only have a finite number of hours in a workday to get it done (or started). This can help you to keep procrastination at bay and manage your time better. This means you’ll get more done without having to sacrifice personal time.

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Let Us Do Your Accounting

When trying to stay productive, the last thing you want is to take time from your work to do your accounts. What’s more, handling the financial side of your business can be stressful in addition to being time-consuming, as there are many things to consider and you need to ensure you’re filling all paperwork correctly and on time.

Gorilla have been providing accounting for contractors for many years and we work within many specialist sectors as well. We’ll take care of your finances while freeing you up to focus on your business, so get in touch today to learn more about what we can do for you. In the meantime, why not check out our contractor tax calculator to figure out your take-home pay? 


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