The freelance life is coveted by many creatives. Flexible hours, freedom to work when and where it’s most convenient for you, and the ability to be your own boss are just some of the attractive things about leaving the corporate world behind and becoming a freelance professional.
But like anything that has its benefits, there are also areas of weakness. And in the freelance world, one of those areas relates to the ability to stay focused considering the loosely structured nature of being an independent contractor.
Below are my top three tips to help you maintain focus as a freelancer so you can be as productive as possible in your role.
Create an “office”
As a freelancer, chances are you do not go into a dedicated office space on the daily. That said, it’s important to designate a place for you to get your creative groove on. For some people, this can be a spare bedroom that’s converted into a home office. For others, it could be the counter in your kitchen. But wherever you park yourself to sit down and work should remain as consistent as possible to get you in a productive frame of mind.
Why? Because just like we associate our beds with sleep, you want to associate your workspace with productivity. And while coffee shop squatting cuts down on the internet bill and makes for great people watching, it’s frankly not the optimal spot to take conference calls or print out decks, and thus productivity can suffer. If you aren’t comfortable working from home, consider looking into a shared workspace such as WeWork.
Set yourself up properly
Just because you are a freelance designer does not mean you don’t require the same tools as those who work in-house or in an agency setting. For example, fast, reliable internet is a must. Same with up-to-date software, a direct line, conferencing abilities, a business card, and more. These items legitimize your business in the eyes of potential customers and make your work day easier.
If you are concerned about the cost of these items, look into your options before just totally writing them off or digging yourself into debt. For example, if you are a student, you can get a student license for the Adobe Creative Suite. If you don’t have a cell phone, consider getting a Google phone line through Google Voice. And you can also hold conference calls with FreeConferenceCall.com.
Set schedules and boundaries
Chances are you’ve chosen the freelance path for greater flexibility in your life. This makes going to the doctor in the middle of the day just as easy as running to the grocery store for milk. However, if you get in the habit of stopping what you’re doing to run little errands, it can make picking up where you left off difficult. So, just like a traditional nine-to-fiver, it’s important to schedule your day in whatever program you use (G Cal, Outlook, etc.). Block time for calls, brainstorming, research, etc. And most importantly, be sure to start and stop at roughly the same time every day. Because while starting work at noon sounds attractive, it just isn’t the time table the rest of the world (i.e., your clients) are most likely use to.
The more you stick to your schedule, the more you’ll get yourself into a productive pattern and teach others that you are just as serious about your work as anyone else.
As you already know, there are many reasons to love the freelance design life. But it is rather easy to lose focus and struggle staying on top of your productivity. What is your top tip for staying focused as a freelancer?