Before I found my amazing job as a QA Coordinator for Trendline Interactive here in Austin, I spent quite a bit of time freelancing as a copy editor and just generally trying to make the most of my unemployment. During that time, I crafted a lot of skills that ended up being hugely beneficial for my super detail-oriented job. Perhaps one of the main things I learned was that a really important piece of freelancing is staying organized and managing your time well, two of my favorite things! While I’m thrilled by the idea of color-coded calendars, checklists, and label makers, I know this is not true of everyone. So for anyone who feels lost in this area, here’s how I attempted to adult as a Funemployed Freelancer.
- Planners and calendars were (and still are) my best friends. Let me just say, you don’t have to shell out cash for anything fancy; you can keep track of your life with any planner. The key is how you use it. Be as detailed as you can, and write as much down as you can. If physically writing things isn’t your style, Google Calendar is a life saver and it’s a thousand times more awesome (and prettier) than iCalendar. I like to make sure that everything in my planner and calendar is categorized and easy to see by color coding (because I’m Type-A like that) but as long as your entries are there and detailed, (“Lunch with Jessy at Russo’s at noon” is better than “pizza date with sis”) you should be ok. I could write an entire post on the best ways to use planners and calendars but I’ll save that for a later date.
- Similar to keeping a planner or calendar to keep track of life, I kept a journal specifically for my business/blog. This notebook included freelancing tips, contact information, resources to look into, and blog entry ideas. I kept a thin moleskin in my purse and write down any resources as I came across them and keep track of the things I’d accomplished as well as the things I wanted to achieve. It also allowed me to plan out every blog post. I gave each post a page where I wrote the subject, the day and date of posting, and bullet points, thoughts, ideas, or research on the topic. This helped me keep track of what I’d already written about and allowed me the freedom to write ahead in my spare time for instances where I was out of town or had other things going on. A digital way of doing this is Evernote, where you can have multiple notebooks with different ideas, images, documents or whatever you might need. You can also share notes with other users which can be especially helpful for collaborative work.
- Just like planners, I’m also a huge fan of routine. Keeping a general structure and schedule for my day allowed me to stay on top of all the things I wanted to get done and protected me from staying in bed watching Netflix all day. For a lot of freelancers, however, routine is the exact opposite of what they want for their day-to-day. My suggestion is to make sure you’re working at your most effective time of day. For me, I write and think best from about 9am to 2pm and anything outside of that window is a lot more of a struggle. If you’re an afternoon person, make sure to allow yourself time to work in the afternoon; if you’re a night person, do work then. Whenever you can create the highest quality work, schedule around that.
- The last thing I’ll share is that I’m most productive when I can alternate tasks and take short breaks. Doing this keeps boredom and frustration at bay while also getting things done. Not sure how to fix that really strange sentence? Move on to writing that blog post you’ve been meaning to get to. Got writer’s block? Go clean the bathroom before your roommates strangle you with the nasty hair clogging the drain. You can always come back to everything later. Don’t forget to take short breaks in the process, also. Take the dog for a walk, go for a run, listen to some awesome music, call your mom, or let yourself open YouTube for a bit. Just don’t let it derail you. You’re working from home – take advantage of that!
Setting your own schedule can be a blessing and a curse but with a few simple tricks, staying organized and managing your time well can become easy-peas. Do you have any tips for staying productive at home? Do you think these tips can be just as helpful in your standard 9-5? Any suggestions for what NOT to do? Please let me know in the comments below!