Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...

5 Great Habits of Successful Freelance Workers

One of the benefits of being a freelancer is that the shackles of time cease to exist. 

This not only means you can have the choice of an extra half-hour in bed whilst commuters scramble to catch planes, trains and automobiles, but the flipside is that it can also lead to toiling into the night, long after employees left their workplace for the day.

 You can also choose how to dress; few freelancers have a uniform and can therefore slob about in their casual clothes, their pyjamas or in the nude, if they like, though a robe by the door would be a good idea to avoid scaring the postman.

Lunch can take an hour, ten minutes – or, as with most freelancers, will also cease to exist as you race against deadlines.

The danger with so much freedom, however, is that the day can lose focus, as working hours meld together with no set pattern.  This can also lead to a lack of motivation –constantly choosing what to do and when can actually invite apathy. 

Some freelancers work better under some sort of structure.  If this sounds like you, here are some suggestions to get some order back into your working day.

1.  Dress as though you’re an employee.

This doesn’t necessarily mean to be suited and booted when working from your kitchen table, but that you have a ‘working wardrobe’ that’s a little smarter than your casual clothes. 

That way, when you get dressed in the morning, you are mentally preparing to work and distinguishing the hours that follow as productive time, not time for reading the paper or gardening in the sun.  I’ve also heard fellow freelancers say that dressing properly for work motivates them a little more too.

2.  Have set break times.

So that your working day has a beginning and an end, and so that it doesn’t stray or fragment, define a start time, a short mid-morning and mid-afternoon break and a proper lunch time.  If possible, take a short walk at lunch to clear your mind and restore energy.

3.  Clear distractions.

If you have Jeremy Kyle blaring out in the background, one ear is always hooked on the next seedy revelation and you won’t be fully engrossed in your work. 

If you want to watch it, record it for later or make it part of your break time.  Once your programme of choice is over, switch the television off altogether.  The same goes with your washing, dirty pots or even your dog snapping at your heels.  If these will be niggling you as you work, deal with them first. 

Sort the washing, wash the pots, take the dog for a brisk walk and tire him out.  Then you can concentrate on getting your work done.

4.  Be anti-social.

This isn’t a suggestion to go set your neighbours’ wheelie bins on fire, just simply to focus on the work in hand. 

This means turning off the constant activity of your social media and networking or the automatic ‘ping’ of a new message arriving in your inbox.  Check these once an hour if you can’t stop away from them for longer, but only devote five minutes on changing and reading updates or sending replies; after this, get back to work!  

Being anti-social also covers those visits from ‘stay at home mum friends’ or the ‘ladies that lunch’ and even the ‘brother-in-law nipping round to borrow your stepladders’.  Just because you work from home doesn’t mean that they should be able to sap your time – after all, would they have sat and nattered at the end of your workspace when you were an employee? 

Dropping in can be a nice surprise but if it becomes a regular thing and your work starts to suffer, tell them you’re unavailable or lock the door!

5.  Remember that everything has an ‘off’ switch. 

Yes, we’ve already turned Jeremy Kyle off, but what I mean here is that, ideally, work should still finish at a reasonable hour. 

There may be the odd evening where you need to work past 5pm but if you’re working past bedtime most evenings – after working all day – then something needs to change.  Perhaps you should think about taking on staff to help your workload; if your budget doesn’t allow this after you’ve put in so many hours, perhaps your pricing is out of kilter? 

No one is expected to work for nothing; your spare time is just as precious as non-freelancers’ and the quality of work you provide will be affected if you don’t allow for R & R.

Freelancers enjoy the flexibility that comes with working solo, but you can get too much of a good thing.  Having some boundaries can actually help you get more work done. 

What about you?  Have you any great habits that you’ve developed to improve the quality of your freelance work?  Let us know!

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Written by Editor on July 4, 2011 and filed in Frazzled Freelancer, Freelance Jobs, Freelancers, Opinion , , ,

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