The life of a freelancer is often a complicated, stressful thing. There’s always so much to be done, and somehow so little time — and unlike other conventional jobs, this time everything falls on you. How are you supposed to handle it all without burning out?
Our advice? Try out these life hacks to not only ensure that you’re making the most of your time, but to save your own sanity while you’re at it.
1. Create a morning routine that has nothing to do with work
When you aren’t required to commute to an office every morning, it’s tempting to sleep in till the last moment and start working the moment you wake up. But while you might savor those extra minutes of snoozing, this is actually one of the worst things you can do for your productivity — instead of feeling well-rested, you’re more likely to be tired and lagging all day. Instead focus on creating a morning routine that gets you out of bed before absolutely necessary and that gets the juices flowing. Make your morning coffee, take a walk, maybe even work on some personal projects before you’ve got to start getting professional — whatever works best for you.
2. Workout while working
When you’re quite literally your own boss, it’s easy to put a lot of your personal life on the back burner while focusing on work — and for many freelancers, working out is one of the first things to go. But just because you’re focusing on your professional life doesn’t mean you have to completely let your physical health go to the wayside. Invest in a standing desk (or even a treadmill desk if you have the funds) or keep some basic exercise equipment on hand to work with while brainstorming or waiting for something to load online. Personally, I like to take a few minutes to dance every hour or so — not only is it a fun way to get in your daily steps, but it also keeps me energized throughout the workday.
3. Create a separate working space
What a lot of people don’t realize about working from home is that while it may seem convenient, it’s also incredibly distracting. After all, your home is usually a place of relaxation and rest (and probably some gnarly Netflix binges), not of work and productivity, which makes getting things done a struggle at times. The best way to handle this? Create a workspace that’s separate from the rest of your home area. Maybe that means turning an extra room into an office; if you live in a loft or smaller living space, maybe it just means hanging up a tapestry to separate your desk area from the rest of your living area so you aren’t tempted to lay in bed or lounge on your couch. You’d be surprised at how you’re mentally able to separate work from home if you’re able to physically do it as well.
4. Keep files to help you prioritize work
When you don’t have a boss or manager telling you exactly when you need certain things done, it can be a struggle to figure out when to work on what. While it may be tempting to jump straight into the most pleasurable work activity, that’s not necessarily the most productive way to handle your workday. Instead, separate your work into three different files: one for time sensitive material, one for things that need to get done soon (like by the end of the week) but not immediately, and things you want to get done but don’t need by a certain time. When you start your workday, always go to the time sensitive file first so you’re getting the most important things out of the way immediately, then focus on projects that give you more leeway.
5. Keep track of the time you work
No, seriously. It may seem weird to keep a timer on while working, but it’s important to know how much time you actually take to complete each task — and to realize how much of that time you actually spend slacking off and procrastinating. Websites and apps like Toggl will help you keep track of your productivity and help you meet your deadlines on time. It may seem like just a little thing, but at the end of the day, the little things matter.
6. Create templates for routine paperwork
This is a huge time saver for freelancers. While you probably can’t create a template for your everyday work, you can create them for documents such as pitches, proposals, or invoices. It might also be helpful to keep a file of email templates for when working with clients — it will make the process a lot less stressful if you have a few tried-and-true responses for common occurrences.
7. Use social media blinders
It’s probably unsurprisingly that one of the most distracting parts of freelancing is social media. Who hasn’t gotten online to Google something and instead found themselves on Twitter? While social media can be an important tool for your job, it can easily become your downfall when you’re struggling to be productive. My advice? Turn your phone onto airplane mode and download website blocking apps such as Freedom to limit what you can access while working. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done if you don’t fall down the social media rabbit home every hour or so.
8. Get out of the house whenever you can
When you aren’t required to work at an office, it’s easy to get stuck in a routine where you work from home. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s difficult to remain creative while you’re stuck in the same environment day in and day out, alone. Try working at coffee shops or libraries every now and then, especially in places that require you to interact with other humans. You’d be surprised how much inspiration you’ll get by simply changing your environment.
9. Create a routine that encourages breaks
So much of freelancing hinges on your ability to create a routine that works well for you. While it may be tempting to schedule yourself big blocks of time exclusively for working, you’ll actually be less productive than you’d be if you were to schedule breaks throughout your workday. Give yourself the time to step away from your work and clear your head before jumping in again. Don’t be afraid to press pause on your projects when you’re having trouble problem solving or staying focused — just make sure you go back to them once you’ve had some time to yourself.
10. Take time off (even if you don’t want to)
When your entire livelihood depends on how much work you put in each day, taking time off can seem daunting. It’s easy to skip vacation or put off anything that might require taking a day off when you’re worrying about money or deadlines, but it’s also extremely unhealthy. Plan time off in advance and actually go through with it — your body and mind need time off to remain healthy and ensure that you don’t get burned out too quickly. Take that trip to Europe, spend a few days with your relatives, take an entire day off for that doctor’s appointment — give yourself the time to reenergize and recuperate.