How to Manage Your Day as a Freelancer & Solopreneur
As a freelancer and solopreneur, your day is run by you.
You decide when you begin work, when you end work, when you take your breaks, and what you do during your day. Without a boss to peer over your shoulder or a firm schedule to keep you on track, you have a lot of flexibility. With that flexibility, however, comes greater responsibility. We want you to succeed as a freelancer on goLance so we have created this simple guide on managing your day as a freelancer and solopreneur.
Define the Beginning of Your Work Day
This step is one of the most important steps that you can take in creating a working schedule as a freelancer and solopreneur. When you begin your day, you need an action that defines the start of your day. Because freelance work can be so unpredictable, you need a concrete action that lets your mind and your body know that the work day is about to begin. There have been a myriad of studies that support this reasoning including a study that shows making your bed in the morning can lead to other good habits. Furthermore, science shows us that the power of synaptic pruning also known as “habit stacking is one of the best ways to create new habits.
If you want to create a focused state of mind and a willing-to-work mind, then you want to define the beginning of your work day. There are many different possibilities for defining the beginning of your work day, but here are a few suggestions that we recommend:
- A Brisk Walk Around the Block: For freelancers who work from home and live on a block or work in various coffee shops located on blocks, take a brisk walk around the block before coming back inside to work. This quick walk will take no more than five to fifteen minutes, but it will both energize and focus your mind. It will also set into motion the
- Ten Minutes of Meditation (or Visualization): Even if you hate meditation, this action can still help you settle into your work day. Instead of meditating (if you are opposed), try closing your eyes and visualizing your work day. Run through your projects in your head and loosely structure your day while you relax. To keep stress from intruding, set your watch or smartphone to countdown from 10 minutes so that you hear a “beep!” when your time is up. This allows you to close your eyes and focus on meditating or visualizing without worrying about the time.
- Read a Trade Newspaper or Industry Blog: This is a great way to jumpstart your work day because it gives you insight into what is happening in your field. It also helps prep your mind for the coming work as you start to think about the issues, ideas, and concepts presented in the newspaper, magazine, or blog. For this to work as a definitive action however, it will be important that you make the action specific. For example, choose to read one blog article or two trade newspaper articles each morning. If you want to read an entire newspaper, an entire magazine or multiple blog posts, you can as long as you remember that it is important to keep the action consistent. Therefore if you read an entire newspaper, an entire magazine or multiple blog posts, then you should do so every morning before work.
Create a System Comprised of Apps & Old-Fashioned Tools
Even the most creative freelancers need to have a system in place to approach work if they want to be as productive as possible. We find that our freelancers who do have a system in place are more likely to receive positive feedback from clients and meet client deadlines.
There are no rules when it comes to creating your own system for your freelance work. You can use as many different apps as you want from Evernote to Todoist and Postbox. Mix in Toggl, Harvest or TSheets. Maybe you want to use Quickbooks, Calcbot or Mint. Perhaps you want to use Pages, Excel or Chrome. Are you a fan of legal pads, day planners, and fancy fountain pens? Our point? It doesn’t matter what you use, but it does matter how you use…what you use.
We favor simple complexity when it comes to creating a system. Choose the best apps and old-fashioned tools for what you do and then always, always, always use them. In order for your system to work, you need to be able to trust your system and rely on it. If you cannot trust your system, then you will not be able to capture all of your to-dos, tasks, next actions and project needs. Sound familiar? We agree with some of the aspects of David Allen’s GTD method.
Set and Follow Priorities
Your priorities are yet another area of your work that must be managed. Priorities will become increasingly important as your workflow grows and you find that it becomes more and more difficult to manage your time wisely. You should always plan time to work on projects by looking at the deadlines of all projects and the priority level of each project. How you use the deadline and priority level is up to you, but knowing both makes it easier to get things done on time and to manage your day.
Experiment with Scheduling
We see freelancers every day who think that they know what type of scheduling works best for them when in reality….these freelancers have no idea what type of schedule works best for them. The key to finding out whether or not you should begin work at 5am, 1pm or 5pm is to experiment with scheduling. Whether you are a seasoned freelancer or a newbie, if you have never experimented with your schedule then you should start.
When you experiment, choose a certain schedule for the week such a working from 10am to 6pm or working from 5am to 10am and then 4pm to 6pm. Then follow that schedule for an entire week. Keep a journal and track your productivity as well as your mood. After a few weeks, you should already have a better idea of when you are your most productive and what schedule is most conducive to your lifestyle.
If you are a night person, do not automatically assume that you will work better in the evenings. You might enjoy your night time too much to be productive and might find that you spend more time watching YouTube videos than designing your client’s new logo. Experiment and find the time that actually gives you the best results.
Focus on Deliverables
The freelance career path can be as daunting as it is rewarding. One of the most important aspects of a successful freelancer career is the ability to focus on deliverables and hit deliverables. If you cannot complete the work in the way that the client is expecting, then the client will become both frustrated and dissatisfied.
In order to focus on deliverables and hit deliverables, you need to first know what they are. Too many beginning freelancers are so hungry for work that they dive straight in without first taking the time to speak with the client or email about the parameters of the project. Before you begin any work, spend time discussing the different parts of the project as well as the deadlines associated with each.
Learn How to Fuel Correctly
As a freelancer you use your body more than you think. While you may focus on different areas such as the hands and the mind, you do use your body. Studies have shown that specific diets can make your brain smarter and can enhance your overall mood. To manage your day as a freelancer and solopreneur effectively, learn how to fuel your body and your mind with powerful nutritious foods. You don’t have to give up the junk food if you can’t (or don’t want to), but you can and should add healthy nutritious foods to your diet to increase your brain power and productivity.
Keep Sleep a Priority
The days can be long as a freelancer and the nights can be even longer. While you do have the flexibility to live your life on your terms, you may find that you now work at odd hours and have difficulty hitting the sack. The truth is that it’s important to get rest and your new flexible lifestlye should keep sleep as a priority.
It is recommended that adults (ages 18 to 64) get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, with the caveat that some people may need closer to 6 hours or 10-11 hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Try to keep a similar bedtime pattern each night for optimal sleep health. If you fail to get enough sleep each night, expect to perform worse on client projects. Not getting enough sleep each night has been scientifically proven to make you less intelligent (dumb), more depressed (sad), and more forgetful (goodbye memory).
If you follow these guidelines, we guarantee that you will not only have more control over your work, but it will be better and you will be smarter.