The shift from office working to home-based employment has risen to levels never before seen. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to let their employees work remotely, millions of people were hooked on the freedom it gave them.
With a taste of this independence, a new era in freelancing was born, and there has never been a better time to be part of the gig economy.
Freelancing as a serious business has a lot of moving parts, though. If you’re not business-savvy by nature, it’s going to take a bit to get your feet wet and your head above water.
The most crucial part of freelancing, besides knowing your trade, is the ability to stay organized. These nine tips will help you get and keep your day streamlined to boost your success.
1. Make Your Own Office
Part of the allure of freelancing is being able to work from anywhere. While this is definitely a perk, you still need a home base.
Set up an office area in your home where you can work your business, house your office supplies, and store your paperwork. Keep everything non-business related away from this space.
If you know you’ll travel a lot with your gig, make sure you have a ‘traveling office,’ too. Mini office supplies, your laptop, an extra power cord, and a laptop case are a good start!
2. Stay on Schedule
Some of the best parts of freelancing are also the easiest for us to sabotage. If you want to be successful, you must set and stick to a schedule.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself easily talked into sleeping in and taking time off because you just don’t feel like working. You might even end up going to the opposite extreme and becoming a workaholic.
The first few months of freelancing are spent juggling your new role and learning what it encompasses. Once you know what to expect, set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Like an office job, what isn’t finished at clock-out time stays unfinished until the next day.
3. Use Time Management Techniques
In between your appointments is the business end of freelancing. This is the time when you are supposed to be “working” by doing things like sorting your receipts, filing your tax papers, and completing the neverending list of other odds and ends that go with freelancing.
For most of us, this is the boring stuff. And it’s easy to get distracted instead of checking these tasks off our list.
To help you stay focused, find a time management technique that works for you and use it every day. Some common strategies include:
- The Pomodoro Technique, a good time management method for those who work best under a pressure/reward system
- The Eisenhower Matrix, perfect for people with dozens of responsibilities who have trouble sorting them into levels of urgency
- Kanban Board, for those who prefer visual and tactile to-do lists
Find a technique that works for you and use it to help you stay organized every day.
4. Invest in a CRM
The right customer resource management system will streamline every part of your day. Because of the prevalence of entrepreneurs and remote work, there are lots of these systems for you to choose from.
Whichever app you decide to go with, make sure it covers every aspect of your business. A basic CRM should have features that help you make your daily work simplified, like:
- A calendar feature that integrates with your default program
- A scheduling system that lets clients book appointments without interrupting your flow
- Website platforms to do everything from design your site to accept online payments securely
- Automated invoicing
- Email generation templates
If you’re going to invest in a CRM, make it one that lets you work smarter, not harder.
5. Keep Your Path to Your Goals Organized
Setting goals is the truest path to success. But when you have too many of them, or a lot of long-term goals without short-term milestones, it’s easy to get thrown off track.
When you sit down to envision your future, it’s a smart idea to set your ultimate target. Where do you want to be in five, ten, and twenty years? How will you plan for your retirement?
To prevent these goals from becoming pipe dreams, though, you need to create mini-targets along the way. Set a time weekly or monthly to check in on your progress and tweak your milestones as necessary.
6. Download an App Tracker
Have you ever found yourself wishing you had just one more hour in the day? A little bit more time would be all you needed to balance everything in your work and personal life.
Chances are, you do have that time. You’re just not using it effectively.
For one week, follow every activity you do by using a time tracking app. These run in the background on your phone and computer and study your daily behavior.
After a week or so, analyze the final results. You’ll quickly see which areas of your day you’re the most productive and which activities need to be more carefully policed.
7. Prepare Your Next Day Daily
At the end of your scheduled day, don’t drop everything and run. Give your future self an easy transition into the next morning by preparing ahead.
Take about ten minutes or so to look over your to-do list for that day, the following day, and the week ahead. Write a list of reminders and fill out your time management blocking plan for tomorrow.
Even if you’re exhausted and ready to be done with the day, make yourself do this small task. Your future self will appreciate it!
8. Set Up a Filing System
Part of freelancing is the fun you get to have honing and sharing your talent with others. But part of it is business-related.
When you have a foundational system to sort and store business files, this part of the job is much easier. Use your CRM or another cloud-based storage system to set up files, color-coordinated and labeled clearly, to house your documents.
Your filing system should include common templates you use often, tax receipts, business licenses, and other important documentation.
9. Set Work/Personal Life Boundaries
Working from home or freelancing means different things to everyone. For you, it probably means you’re always building your business and your talent. For your family and clients, it means you’re available on demand.
This perspective difference can cause a lot of issues if you don’t nip it in the bud right away.
Set boundaries so your clients know when you’re available and when they shouldn’t expect to hear from you. Make sure your friends and family know your business schedule.
Organization is the key to a productive and efficient freelancing business. But when it’s done right ahead of time, it’s an investment in time and resources that will pay for itself over and over again!