A freelance photographer during a menu shoot.

How to have a productive day as a freelancer

Posted on 4th January 2019 by

A freelance photographer during a menu shoot.

Freelancing can be a very liberating way to earn a living. Unlike other types of employment, it allows you to work to your own schedule and under terms you set. However, being a freelancer also requires a lot of discipline. To achieve your goals, finding ways to stay motivated and productive is essential.

From finding the right working environment to having a solid routine, below we list some of the most effective ways to make sure you stay focused on completing your obligations as a freelancer.

How to plan a productive day

The great thing about freelancing is the flexibility it can bring to your working life. You can set your own hours, take advantage of flexible workdays, and earn good money without being restricted by rules set by an employer. However, this flexibility comes with its own unique challenges. Typically, these relate to motivation, time-management and productivity. The tips below can help you overcome these challenges and ensure your days are as productive as possible.

Have a daily morning routine

What you do before you start working can make a big difference to your productivity. With this in mind, having a solid morning routine can help. From getting up at a set time and eating a healthy breakfast, to heading to the gym for an hour or walking the dog, having a set morning routine is a powerful thing. Whatever you like to do, the consistency a routine brings can relax your body and mind and prepare you for a day of hard work.

Make a daily to-do list

As a freelancer, it can be all too easy to lose sight of all the projects and deadlines you’re juggling. While a weekly work schedule can help, decisions regarding what work to do each day can slow you down if you don’t have a structure. For this reason, using daily to-do lists to map out goals and targets can really help. These handy lists can be created the night before a workday, and are designed to help you stay on track with your workload. Depending on the nature of your work, try to list two or three tasks you must complete the next day, as well as one or two ‘nice to have done’ tasks. These secondary jobs can be done if you are particularly productive and get more work completed than initially expected.

Remove distractions

The presence of distractions is the biggest cause of procrastination for freelancers. After all, it’s hard to focus if your workplace is filled with attention-diverting distractions and clutter. With this in mind, choose a work area that is distraction-free. If you’re working from home, select a streamlined space that is tidy, free from clutter and not in earshot of others. It is also a good idea to avoid social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram during working hours. These apps are designed to hold your attention, meaning they can all too easily take your focus off the task at hand. Finally, if you opt to work in a public space, stay clear of particularly noisy and busy areas.

Use a calendar and/or project management software

Some of your daily tasks can be completed in between meetings, replying to emails and social media updates. However, other tasks will require you to set aside a protected amount of time for you to complete. For example, if you have important client meetings, complicated design work to complete, or monthly reports to write. In order to ensure you ring fence enough time to complete these tasks properly, it’s a good idea to use a digital calendar or a project management tool such as Trello or Monday.com.

Focus on one task at a time

Although multitasking can be tempting for a freelancer, it’s generally a bad idea. It’s easy to tell yourself working on more than one task at a time will get you through your to-do list more quickly. However, the truth is focusing on more than one thing can cause you to procrastinate and lose concentration. So, try to prioritise your workload in order of urgency. Then, work through this list one task at a time.

Plan your breaks

As a freelancer you don’t have to work to the same rigid set hours you may have to in full-time employment. However, along with additional flexibility, this can have its downsides. For example, it can be easy to forget to take regular breaks. It’s well documented that without frequent breaks from staring at a computer monitor or focusing on a specific task, productivity can suffer and mental health can be affected. For this reason, it’s a good idea to schedule breaks into your freelance workday. This can be done in two ways. Firstly, you can use set times each day where you go make yourself a cup of tea, grab a bite to eat or even go for a walk. Alternatively, you can take ad hoc breaks, when a natural break between tasks can be found.

If you struggle to decide when to take a break, why not use the pomodoro method? This sees you work for 25 minutes (one ‘pomodoro’), followed by a 10 minute break. This pattern is then repeated over and over. Every four pomodoros, a longer 20-30 minute break can be taken. According to proponents of this method, this intense work/break schedule allows those who are usually easily distracted to focus and complete tasks more efficiently.


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