51% of freelancers say they’ll never go back to a traditional job. Well, duh. Working for the man sucks, but working for yourself can be just as tough sometimes, too. Sure, you can set your own hours, work in your pajamas, and drive around to different coffee joints and restaurants to help spark your inspiration when you’re tired of being stuck inside all day.
Best of all? You don’t have anybody telling you what to do or when to do it. Or, uh, is that really the best part? Honestly, that sounds ideal but also pretty freakin’ scary. After all, 61% of freelancers specialize in two to three skills, so you’ve got quite a bit going on all day long. Staying focused and productive is often the hardest part of being your own boss.
If you’re new to freelancing or have been a gig worker for years and are just finding it hard to stay productive in today’s age of digital overload, here are a few ways you can stay focused, followed by the best productivity tools for freelancers and gig workers.
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How to Stay Productive as a Freelancer
The key to achieving your goals and making more money is actually simple when it comes down to it. If you have a problem with productivity, then we’re going to start by offering you a pretty oversimplified approach. It might sound like a Boomer’s advice, such as “Well just stop buying avocado toast,” but hear us out. Start your day off with the five tasks first:
1) Get dressed
2) Get out of bed
3) Drink water
5) Eat breakfast
These five steps are so basic but they can be life-changing for many freelancers who struggle with staying productive all day long. Why? They give you time to set your intentions for the day, activate your mind and body, and fuel your body with the nutrition you need to stay focused (seriously, don’t skip breakfast!).
Other productivity tips for freelancers include the following:
- After following whatever morning routine works for you, sit down to write out a to-do list for the day. Put your most difficult tasks at the top so that you can tackle those first when you’ve got the most energy and brainpower.
- Eliminate distractions by leaving your phone in your bag or somewhere that’s not your workspace. If you need it to receive calls, have those calls rerouted to your laptop so that you aren’t tempted to pick up your phone to answer a text that leaves you scrolling through Instagram meme pages for hours after the call’s over.
- Take breaks every hour or so. Get up and stretch. Leave your laptop. Go outside if you can. Change your space up for about 10-15 minutes and then get back to work. If you need help remembering, set a simple timer!
- If you have trouble staying focused, break up large tasks into smaller ones. Cross them off your to-do list so that you can trick your brain into thinking you’re accomplishing more tasks than you are, which will help you feel more productive and rewarded.
The Best Productivity Apps for Gig Workers
Toggl Timer markets itself as a tool that helps you take the “stress out of time tracking, project-planning, and hiring.” Their goal is to help you track your work in a way that allows you to operate more efficiently. And, as a gig worker juggling a thousand gigs all at once, that’s exactly what you need.
Better yet, though, Toggl Timer is available as a Google Chrome extension. It’s free to install and use the basic features, which are grouped into three categories: plan, track, and hire. As a freelancer, you’ll probably only use the first two, but once you scale and grow, the hire plan is a great feature as well!
Use Toggl Timer to track the time you spend on client projects. Then, use it to also track the time you spend doing other tasks. The Autotracker will track every application or website you use for more than 10 seconds. Use it to see where you’re wasting time or use it to generate reports for clients so that they can see your workflow and processes.
If you need a bit more than just simple time tracking and reporting, try RescueTime, which will really lay it on you if you’re not being productive. Not really, but almost.
With RescueTime, activities are automatically categorized by productivity level. This helps you understand where you’re spending your time wisely and where you’re not. It’ll help you understand what times during the day you’re most productive and focused so that you can optimize your work patterns and schedules accordingly.
At the end of each work day or week, you can check on RescueTime’s helpful comments to see how you’re doing. It’s almost like having your own personal assistant or trainer there to help you stay accountable.
If you’re running around all day working on unique projects then you’ll probably need a place to organize thoughts that come to mind. Whether you’re on a client call and need to jot something down or simply want to keep track of creative ideas, Evernote is a great productivity tool to use.
You can write and save notes that’ll sync with your calendar. Then, you can add images to those notes, convert them into PDFs, and do so much more. The app also allows you to make helpful to-do lists. The best part? The app syncs across all your devices, so you’re never more than a tap away from everything you need to find exactly when you need to find it.
You’ve got lots of options when it comes to project management as a freelancer. From Asana and Jira to Monday, there are numerous different types of project management platforms out there that can help you plan, schedule, track, and execute projects while also collaborating with your clients.
However, for beginner freelancers, Trello seems to be the easiest to use. With Trello, you can create internal and external “boards.” Create internal boards to help yourself stay on top of client onboarding processes and internal processes. Then, use the external boards to share with your clients and show them where you’re at in the project process.
It’s helpful to create categories on each board that show the client whether an item is pending, in process, or completed. Simple things like that can dramatically improve your workflows as a freelancer and help you stay productive.
Travel frequently for work as a DJ or any other gig you’ve got? You’ll definitely need help keeping your travel plans organized. Also though, you’ll probably need help simply tracking those trips so that you can deduct them from your taxes!
TripIt is a great productivity tool for freelancers who travel as it allows you to check one place for all your travel details. Whenever you plan a trip, send the email confirmation straight to the app and it’ll help you create one master itinerary to use. Talk about a time saver.
IFTTT stands for “if this, then that.” And, it’s one of the most helpful productivity tools for busy freelancers. You basically create conditions of “if this, then that” which helps you automate all tasks. Want to accomplish more without actually doing more? Use this app.
For example, you can set a condition (called an Applet in the app) that automatically posts to Twitter every time you go live on Twitch. Or, you can set a condition that posts your blogs to LinkedIn every time you upload a new one. The settings are sometimes far out, too, making it easier to automate every part of your daily routine.
One of our favorite features of the app? You can set it to play a specific song or playlist when your connected coffee machine starts to brew the morning coffee. We’re talking real futuristic stuff here, folks.
How to Stay Productive with Your Freelance Finances
Staying productive as a freelancer isn’t always about managing your to-do list and reducing distractions. It’s also about staying organized and goal-oriented, which includes organizing your finances!
As a freelancer, there are certain tax rules you’ll have to follow. Tax rules for freelancers aren’t that ideal, and you can lose a lot of money if you’re not smart about the deductions you apply when you file your taxes. Remember, you’re basically running your own one-person business, and you’re going to be taxed as such!
As a one-person business, hustler, and doer, it’s important that you’re focusing on how to grow your freelancing and business efforts. To do that, you need to have cash on hand. Investing your profits in the stock market and other assets is a great way to take advantage of compound interest. With compound interest, you can watch your freelance cash grow exponentially over the years. Who doesn’t want that?
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