Freelance Files: Freelance Hacks

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Freelancing can be great. You get to work wherever you feel most comfortable, you can set your own hours & no one will judge you too harshly for working in a pair of leggings you frankly should have thrown away years ago (too suspiciously specific?) but haven’t because they are your “productivity pants” & you get your best WFH (working from home to the uninitiated) days in them.

But there can be & is such a thing as having too much freedom when you freelance or work remotely. It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by your workload; saying yes to everything might sound great at the time (insert dollar sign emoji here) & the smug amongst us love being the ‘envy’ of their peers by announcing to anyone who will listen that they are totally inundated with projects, however this declaration in itself can be a symptom of something sinister?

The truth is, Freelancers (including remote workers) will find it inevitable that they will feel a higher rate of pressure. When you freelance, you’re a Polymath; a Marketing Department, Sales Director & Head of Accounts, not including the work you actually specialise do.

In order to alleviate that pressure, I’ve collated some tips, tricks & solutions to help make Freelance Life work for you, not the other way around (productivity pants optional).

 

Get Dressed!

I know that you are not a child, but I have put this first for a reason. It’s the first thing you should do!
Whilst the thrill working in your pyjamas maybe strong, I urge you & all other freelancers to resist!

To put it succinctly; you’re brain will think your ready for bed if you are dressed for it. When you’ve a deadline the thrill of being in your PJs will wear off fast, when you can’t summon the energy to answer an email for the fourth day in a row.

Whilst I may (or may not) be in possession of productivity pants, they aren’t my pyjamas. The action of dressing for the day works wonders for my productivity; whether I am staying indoors or going to meeting somewhere that is not my flat (the horror!). When you dress for the day, the psychological intention of dressing is a huge boost to your productivity & it will make you feel so much better!

Multi - Tasking is a Myth

Initially used to describe computer processing & we all know (as much as your phone is glued to your hand) we are not computers. Even if your mum says she is the exception, she is mistaken (sorry, mum).
Busy (read: burntout), people fall victim to this falsehood, often trying to multitask, not finishing anything or having the final project riddled with inaccuracies.
Neuroscience has discovered that our brains aren’t taking on tasks simultaneously, it just switches quickly.

When you switch from reading emails to updating a data report or writing a proposal to scanning twitter; your brain is stalling & restarting. Every time.
This obviously isn’t great for your poor brain, as Psychology Today says “That start/stop/start process is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs [you] time (even very small micro seconds)” making you inefficient & draining your energy. Not great if you’ve a deadline to hit.


So how Do you combat the multitasking myth?

It’s quite simple. Work on one project at a time.
A good way to help stop you feeling overwhelmed would be to break up your time using our Productivity Timers or the Pomodoro Technique. The Brain can only focus for around 45 minutes before your decision making & cognitive skills start to wane. When you give your brain a break, it will help help boost your attention, motivation & encouraging your productivity & creativity (that’s the reason why most TV shows are around 45 minutes long (not including ads)).

 
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Tidy Up Time!

No, tidy up time is not just for the little ones or your niblings. Having a clear space to work actually helps you to be more productive & feel at ease, 52% of surveyed workers said so in fact (not just your judgemental co-worker). When your workspace is disorganised or covered in yesterday’s lunch you start to resent the space you occupy to work; 49% of workers felt that a messy & untidy desk had an effect on the way they felt about going to work each day.

Try to start or end your day by clearing the detritus off of your desk, coffee shop table or studio, anywhere you have set up shop to work for the day. It’s a great marker to indicate you are starting or ending your day (incredibly important if you set your own hours) & having a cleaner desk can help improve your mood whilst working, 31% of the survey respondents said having a messy workspace increased their stress.

 

Record your moments of genius

We have all had it, you could be in the shower, when you are out walking the dog or stuck on the Piccadilly Line commuting. These “ah-ha ‘moments” (psychologists call them) often happen when you least expect it; or are daydreaming. In order to record them, be prepared. Have a notebook, pen or pencil with you so you can jot them down giving you the opportunity to reflect on them later. (Recording digitally isn’t as effective as writing, as outlined by this LSE study)

Unlike popular theory (or what your teacher used to chastise you for), daydreaming can & is good for you!
Common assumptions states that the brain takes a rest when we switch off, but it doesn’t. Your brain switches to a “Default Network” allowing the brain to digest information, making new connections, triggering those moments of genius!

Invest in a notebook & pen that will soon be as much a part of your routine as patting yourself down for your keys & phone before you leave the house & give yourself a break; daydream a little!

 

Be Assertive!

We all know that assertiveness can be hard work when you freelance; sometimes you are at the mercy of a client & your top priority is to say “yes“ so your bills get paid that month.
You can easily find yourself conversing in a subliminally submissive tone, to ensure you secure the contract. Conversing can be sometimes be a conundrum. Roman Useinov, a freelance Software Developer for Toptal States “It’s especially important that you understand how to communicate effectively in written form. It’s easy for the intended tone of a message to be misconstrued.“

Your self confidence is key, there is a reason you are an expert in your field. Own it.
If you know a project cannot be delivered within the time frame being offered by the client, say so & say why. Your honestly will not only allow you to maintain a healthy workload level, but will reinforce why they have chosen to speak to you the expert to help fulfil their needs.

This however, does not give you licence to start being the saltiest freelancer. Make sure your decisions & queries you raise are mutually beneficial & aren’t petty.

 
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Eat the Frog!

This so important. When you are freelance or regularly WFH & getting dressed for the day is a necessity, tackling the hardest projects first will help you feel like you are in control of your day. Your brain is fresh, you aren’t tired or flagging & you haven’t been zapped by other tasks you’ve completed. This will leave you with more time to daydream, be creative & most importantly, be productive.

The term comes from this quote from Mark Twain “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it First Thing in the Morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the BIGGEST one first.” Meaning if you can get through your day the worst is behind you & that is incredibly freeing!
This, much like getting dressed should become a routine, meaning each morning starts of with a win & who doesn’t want a winning routine?

 

 

Like I said, freelancing can & is really great.
These are just a few tips that could help make freelance work easier & less isolating. Yes, the pressure can be high; but the rewards can be even greater (even if you are a Polymath!).

These are just a few tips that I & others have found to help with our Freelance Lives to help it work for us, not the other way around. Why not let us know of some tips you’ve found to help you work.
I am always open to new suggestions, but I am not quite ready to get rid of those productivity pants just yet…


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