The freelance world is booming and growing.
In fact, freelancers are projected to make up almost 51% of the total U.S. workforce by 2027. That’s an astonishing increase of 27.5 million freelancers in just seven years.
But the freelance world is a lot different than the standard 9 to 5 world.
Only the most organized, focused, and efficient freelancers stand a chance at not just merely surviving but thriving.
So, how can freelancers learn to lasso those three skills to improve their workflow and efficiency?
Option one: They can learn from trial and error (and make tons of mistakes).
Option two: They can learn from other people’s mistakes.
If you prefer option two, I have just the article for you.
This article will share 13 tips freelancers can use to improve their workflow and efficiency in 2022.
1. Fall in love with business and productivity training
Staying on top of current productivity trends and best practices is a must as a freelancer.
To help put this in perspective, remind yourself that you’re not just a freelancer; you’re a business owner.
You haven’t been dubbed an “employee,” you pay your own taxes, and you’re not guaranteed any set amount of hours. Even if you’re the only person working at your business, you still have a business.
As a business owner, you need consistent training to sharpen your productivity skills.
There are loads of free resources to help you with that, but some of my favorites include:
- Anything by business coaches Marie Forleo and Jasmine Star
- Courses on platforms like Masterclass and Udemy Business
- Project management and productivity tips on the nTask blog — they share a lot of cool tips!
2. Avoid burnout by prioritizing work-life balance
While anyone is subject to feeling burned out at work, freelancers have to pay extra attention to avoiding burnout.
When someone works as an onsite employee, they usually have a clear divide between work life and home life — unless they’re a teacher or a salaried worker, of course.
That’s why avoiding burnout like the plague is crucial to your success as a freelancer.
There are tons of healthy work-life balance tips out there, but some of our favorites include:
- Use an ergonomic office chair to prevent neck and back pains
- Eat three healthy meals a day with two healthy snacks in between
- Drink eight glasses of water a day
- Prioritize time for self-care and winding down
- Exercise for 30 minutes to an hour a day (pick something you enjoy)
- Don’t use personal devices to communicate about work
- Carve out time to do at least one thing you enjoy every single day
- Take a weekend getaway, staycation, or vacation as often as you can
- Have a community and life outside of work
- Have a clear sign-off or “end work” time and stick to it
3. Hire an accountant to manage your finances
As freelancers get busier, they reach a point where keeping up with their financial responsibilities becomes a full-time job.
So unless you want to allocate hours to managing your business finances each week, we recommend hiring an accountant.
An accountant can manage your finances, uncover potential tax deductions, and pay your tax payments on time.
When on the hunt for a new accountant, look for one specializing in taxes and finances for freelancers, like Bench.
4. Use a productivity platform to manage projects
Gone are the days where you could manage tasks using sticky notes and a digital calendar. And with efficient productivity platforms on the market today, you wouldn’t want to anyway.
So what’s the big deal with productivity platforms?
Think of a productivity platform as an all-in-one space you can use to manage projects, approve work orders, and divvy out tasks. But not just that. Productivity platforms help you cut out endless hours communicating back and forth with stakeholders and team members.
Need to see if a project has been completed? You can set up alerts for completed freelance projects.
Need to ask your virtual assistant a question about a specific task? Simply @mention them on a task card and receive a notification when they reply in real-time.
One great productivity platform on the market is the nTask app.
You can also use a tool to help.
5. Automate as many tasks as you can
Adding automation to your daily workflow can shave off hundreds of work hours long-term.
After all, why do something a bot can do when you could spend that time finding clients or completing deliverables instead?
So whether it’s using marketing software to automate marketing tasks or setting up deadline alerts, automation takes workflow productivity to a whole new level.
Automate, automate, automate as many tasks as you can.
6. Gain clarity with a time tracking tool
You can’t make the most of your time if you’re unclear how much time you’re spending on daily tasks.
But with a time tracking tool, you know that Project A took four hours to complete, and Project B took six. You also know that Project C will take approximately five hours.
In other words, when you use a time tracking tool, you have the clarity you need to:
- Estimate a project’s timeline
- Calculate how much money you earn per project
- Calculate how much money you earn per hour
- Beat your average project rate
- Beat your average hourly rate
- Beat your average project time
- Delegate tasks and projects to current employees
- Hire employees to take on hours you’re unavailable for
- Track employee hours and pay
7. Work during your peak energy hours
The world wants to turn everyone into an early bird. And we’re betting you’ve heard the saying “the early bird gets the worm.”
But working early in the morning doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, some people feel so drained in the morning that working feels like an uphill battle.
In other words, if you force yourself to work during your low energy hours, you set yourself up for possible:
- Work exhaustion
- Missed project deadlines
- Long work hours
- Poor work-life balance
But when you work during your peak or high energy hours, you can kill a project in three hours instead of six. You feel energized and invigorated instead of exhausted. You’ll feel focused, excited, and “inflow” instead of miserable and moody.
So whether you thrive in the afternoons, evenings, or mornings, it doesn’t matter. Honoring your peak energy hours means you’ll be more creative, focused, and energized when you work.
There’s that productivity magic we’ve been talking about.
8. Stick to a schedule as much as possible
Time blocking isn’t just something you do to get projects done. It’s also a powerful way to prioritize work-life balance, make the most of your time, and stay organized.
When designing your schedule, always start with your peak energy hours in mind. Then, refer to your time clock software to check the average time you spend on any given project.
This way, you can be as strategic as possible when blocking out time on your schedule.
For instance, let’s say your peak energy hours are from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and it takes you about five hours to finish a project. In this case, you might decide to start work between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. and finish work by 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m.
Or, if you’d like to leave yourself a little more wiggle room, you might decide to start work at 3 p.m. and finish around 8 p.m.
9. Focus on work you do best
It’s tempting to accept every job that comes your way, especially when you’re first starting out. And sometimes, you may have to in order to increase your cash flow.
But as a general rule of thumb, focusing on the work you do best makes you happier and more efficient.
If you’re well-versed in permaculture, writing permaculture articles should be a breeze for you. But if you take on a series of fintech articles when you absolutely loathe fintech, you’ll struggle to complete the project efficiently.
So whenever possible, only accept projects that either entice you, you’re well-versed in, or you’re willing to learn about.
10. Be realistic about time commitments and projects you can take on
Being realistic about what you can give should be a top priority for every freelancer.
When you’re unrealistic about what projects you can complete, you do not only risk disappointing clients, you also risk playing catch-up forever. And we can tell you, being in a never-ending catch-up cycle feels like death.
In other words, once you drop one ball, it’s easier to drop every ball after that.
By being realistic about what you can take on, you stay out of never-ending catch-up land, please your stakeholders, and get more done in a shorter time.
This is just another reason why you need a time tracking tool.
11. Utilize templates, shortcuts, and efficient processes
It’s hard to work smarter when you don’t have shortcuts, templates, and efficient processes to see you through.
While it’s easier to design these after you’ve gained some experience, staying creative can help you spot opportunities to cut corners.
To do this, take out a sheet of paper and map out all of your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
Then, look for as many patterns as you can.
For instance, do you send meeting recaps at the end of every meeting? If so, why not design a customizable meeting template you can fill in every time you need to write a recap? Or why not publish your meetings so your team can see key takeaways immediately?
Are you juggling multiple to-do lists, task reminders, and project briefs? Why not merge all of them together into one easy-to-manage Kanban board?
12. Budget for months of plenty and months of want
Freelancing income can be a rollercoaster ride. Some months you’re bragging to your mom and friends about how much work is flying in. The next month you’re spreading peanut butter on toast, counting the days till you get paid again.
While it’s normal to experience a fluctuation in income, that doesn’t mean you have to rely on peanut butter toast to see you through.
A more efficient way to handle this is to set aside money during your months of plenty to hold you over during your months of want.
So if you make $4,000 one month and you only need $2,500 for living expenses, set aside $1,500 for months of want. That way, when future you only earns $1,000 one month, you’ll have your trusted savings account there to make up the difference.
13. Hire people that know more than you
As your business grows, consider building a team or starting an agency to take on more work and increase your bottom line.
When searching for your dream team, look for people that are smarter than you. And if possible, look for people that specialize in tasks your business needs, but you don’t want to dedicate your own time too.
I recommend using an assessment tool to craft the perfect questionnaire to send potential dream team members. With an assessment, you can get a better understanding of their talent, skills, and personality.
Being surrounded by a team of people that know more than you may sound intimidating. But imagine how much creative genius, expertise, and valuable skills your business can gain.
If you’re ready to grow your business, consider trying to outsource hiring so you can still focus on your business. Then, double-check the candidates your HR rep recommends, bring them in for an interview, and start working your magic together.
Only the most organized, focused, and efficient freelancers stand a chance at thriving.
Luckily, we just shared 13 tips to help you achieve all three skills in no time. And we can’t wait to see how your business transforms for the better because of it.
Craving more project management and productivity tips? Check out the nTask blog and read to your heart’s content.
Post By: Hailey Lucas
SEO & Digital PR Consultant at Appointlet
Hailey built a 6+ figure freelance business in less than 6 months while working <15 hours per week and traveling the world as a digital nomad. Now, it’s her mission to help other freelancers who value financial, time, and location freedom accomplish the same. To learn more, check out haileylucas.com.