Freelancers are in an interesting position. You are in charge of your time, and making the most of it is absolutely crucial to a successful freelancing career.
Unlike office jobs with dedicated work hours, freelance work requires a great deal self-motivation and personal accountability.
That being said, here are some of the most time-wasting, productivity-killing pitfalls to avoid when freelancing:
1. Distracting Websites
We all know that feeling, “I’m just going to open up Facebook for a quick second before I get to work.”
Before you know it, an hour’s gone by and you’ve not gotten shit done.
While taking a break to browse around the web for pleasure can be a helpful reprieve, the point is that it’s a break.
The most successful freelancers know that their time is valuable, and setting aside blocks of time for dedicated work is absolutely crucial.
Thankfully, even those lacking the most basic sense of self-control can force themselves to get things done with the right tools. There are a myriad of websites and apps like StayFocused or Cold Turkey are out there that block certain websites or even web browsing all together and allow you to set parameters to keep you on task.
You don’t have to go nuclear here and toss out your router. Just set aside dedicated blocks of time for work and periodic breaks to keep yourself sane.
A concept familiar to everyone. From putting off your third grade math homework to waiting till the last minute to get started on that proposal, the procrastination bug is infectious and everyone can catch it.
Some people tend to use the excuse, “But I work best under pressure!”
This may be true for some, but more often than not you’re sacrificing the quality of the work. Give yourself enough time to complete a project well, and you minimize your chances of making a critical mistake or missing a deadline.
If your desk is looking more like a warzone than a productive workspace, you’re likely suffering from some serious clutter issues.
Piles of books, folders, and a jillion other work items can add up quickly, so it’s best to keep on top of things before they detract from the effectiveness of your workspace. Now, I’m not saying you need a blank canvas every time you sit down to get things done, but there’s nothing that kills a productive streak quicker than rifling through every stack of crap on your desk to find the right document.
Don’t go all hyper-anal here — Drill Sergeant Hartman isn’t going to be wiping his finger across your desk looking for dust particles.
Just keep a bit of a system in place; keep important things nearby, and clear away all the crap that’s distracting you from the task at hand.
4. Unfinished Work
This one really goes hand in hand with procrastination. Even a quick to-do list can explode into an all-nighter if you let your unfinished work get out of hand.
There’s nothing wrong with walking away from something to switch gears and picking it back up later with a fresh set of eyes, but make sure you’re actually coming back to the task.
One way to keep yourself in check on this front is to prioritize.
Make a to-do list with some hierarchy: things that absolutely must be completed today sit at the very top, while projects that have some flexibility are lower priorities. This way, even when you’re switching between one project and another, you’ll always know which tasks require the most of your attention on that particular day.
5. Living in the Stone Age
You might have a particular way of going about things that simply works best for you; we all get a little set in our ways from time to time. But ignoring a technology or a service that could streamline your processes can really come back to bite you in the end.
You don’t see brokers waiting for the daily newspaper to keep on top of the stock market, right?
Keep informed about new technologies that pertain to your business, and don’t be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone if you think it can help your business.
As a freelancer, you’re in one of the most independent fields of work out there. All of this freedom comes with a higher degree of responsibility, however, and knowing what to look out for helps you avoid them all the better.