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Five ways to improve freelance productivity

Working freelance or on a contract-by-contract basis is becoming increasingly popular, especially in highly-skilled jobs that can be completed remotely.

Working freelance or on a contract-by-contract basis is becoming increasingly popular, especially in highly-skilled jobs that can be completed remotely. Freelancers enjoy the freedom of setting their own schedule, while businesses benefit from the flexibility of only paying a person when they need their input. 

Despite those advantages, working freelance is not without its pitfalls. Becoming distracted and struggling to complete tasks are two of the most common issues. Here is a deep dive into some of the problems affecting freelancers and their ‘employers’ around the world and how to resolve them for increased productivity. 

Understanding the Factors Affecting Freelancer Productivity

Flexibility and freedom are the main benefits of becoming a freelancer. While those may be coveted by many professionals who have set out on their own, these two advantages can come at a cost. Especially when they’re first starting out, few freelancers enjoy the security of a regular income or benefits such as healthcare and a pension. 

This insecurity can make it hard to focus on building their career and following a productive schedule for the day, let alone a longer period. By being less productive, freelancers achieve less income, and a vicious cycle starts. 

Other common factors that impact the productivity of freelancers include their attitude toward their work, the space they work in, and the tools they use. Going freelance does not necessarily mean working less. In the beginning especially, many freelancers will find themselves putting in longer hours than their employed counterparts. The difference is that you are now working for yourself rather than someone else’s business, and that additional hour will have an immediate impact on your income. 

Never underestimate the importance of your workspace. It is a common misconception that all freelancers do is hang out in coffee shops doing a bit of work here and there. Just like having a suitable office space impacts productivity, so does your freelance workspace. 

No matter what type of work you do, compare yourself to a tradesman for a moment. Would you choose to take on a carpentry job without access to the right tools? No. The same goes for freelancers in any other field. Making sure that you can access the tools you need to complete a job effectively is critical to being productive. 

Five tips to improve the productivity of freelancers

Whether you are hiring freelancers, considering moving from being employed to freelancing, or have been freelancing for a while, take a look at these tips to help increase your productivity. 

1. Choose the Right Workspace

We mentioned the importance of having the right workspace above. While it may be a misconception that all freelancers spend much of their time in coffee shops, it is certainly true that not all freelancers work from home. 

Some professionals find it easier to concentrate and focus when they are surrounded by like-minded people, for example in a co-working space. For others, having strangers around them creates the very distractions they are trying to avoid. If you are unsure in which category you fall, experiment with different spaces until you find the one that works best for you. 

If you choose to work from home, it is important to create a dedicated workspace. There is nothing wrong with working from the kitchen table for a limited amount of time. But if you’re serious about your freelance work, a space dedicated to work will give you the separation you need from your personal life. 

2. Set Aside Time for Networking

How can freelancers build their client base? Ideally, this client base grows over time based on word of mouth and other recommendations. 

Relying on this natural progression only, however, can be dangerous and lead to wasted time, especially for new freelancers. Setting aside a dedicated number of hours every week for networking allows new freelancers to build their contacts and accelerate the process of getting hired. 

Why set aside a dedicated amount of time? Taking this approach helps in two ways. One, it ensures that freelancers actually devote those hours to building their contacts, and two, it is equally important to avoid getting carried away and spending entire days searching social networks, for example. 

3. Plan your Day Strategically

Planning your day strategically picks up where our last point left off. Strategic scheduling means more than writing a to-do list. Rather than listing tasks randomly, try prioritizing them and putting them in the order in which you would like to complete them. 

Be realistic about the number of hours in the day, and remember to schedule breaks. No one can concentrate for ten hours on end and deliver work of the same quality. Stepping away from your desk or taking a walk around the block near your co-working space is not wasteful. It is an investment in your concentration and productivity levels for the rest of the day. 

4. Invest in Productivity Tools

Speaking of investments, are you using the right tools? At a minimum, most freelancers will need a basic scheduling platform. For some, Google Calendar may be enough. If you are considering freelance writing or proofreading, you will most likely need access to editing tools

Do not shy away from upgrading to the professional versions of your productivity tools. You will reap the rewards often within weeks. 

5. Remove Distractions

Freelancers can only work productively if they are not constantly being pulled into different directions. If your house is full of other people during your working hours, ask them to respect your work. Turn off social media notifications and other distractions to help you stay focused on the task in front of you. If you have scheduled regular breaks, you will not have to wait too long to check your phone again. 

Empowering freelancers for increased productivity and success

Businesses that regularly hire freelancers have several ways of contributing to their productivity. Start by providing succinct, yet complete briefs for projects. The best briefs allow freelancers to complete the task to your specifications without the need for plenty of additional questions. 

If you hire a large number of freelancers, consider offering productivity workshops and coaching sessions. The freelancers will benefit from those, and so will your business. Remember to ask your freelancers for feedback about your performance. Could you present your requirements differently? What would make it easier for your team of freelancers to fulfill your expectations? 

As someone hiring freelancers, you are looking to achieve a balance that avoids micro-managing while still offering support. It may take some time to achieve that balance, but you will see your freelancers’ productivity skyrocket when you find it.

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