Let’s face it, as a freelancer you’re Chief Executive, Marketing Manager and Office Cleaner. Having to do it all can make it difficult to stay focused. There are ways though to become a freelance ninja and really rock your business (and life) as a result.
Before you even start with any aspect of your work – be it work for a client, your own promotion or getting paid – the first step that you need to take is to get organized. And now that you work for yourself, the only person responsible for ensuring each day is a streamlined success machine (or something like that anyway) is you.
Top Tool to Get More Organized: Use Trello to plan and organise projects. I use it for every aspect of my planning. From marketing and promotions, to product launches, such as my ebooks, and to help me to plan out future blog posts for my own sites as well as for clients. And it’s not just good for freelancers working alone. In fact, Trello really comes into its own if you’re working as part of a team, as you can use it to assign tasks to others, assigning specific roles or tasks to individuals in the team. It’s a great tool for project planning, creating checklists, and scheduling deadlines.
I’ve said it before but cash is king, but if you’re an introverted freelancer (and there’s a lot of us out there who choose the freelance life) then asking clients for payment in return for your services is often a freelancer’s idea of hell. So what to do if you hate asking clients to pay you?
Top Tool for Getting Paid: One way around this is to use an online accounting package like FreeAgent, Freshbooks or Wave. Not only do they help you to manage your accounts, you can also use them to send out invoices, keep track of payments, and fill out your tax returns. But the real beauty of these packages for the shy freelancers among us is that they can be used to set up invoices to go out automatically on specific dates, as well as reminders. Set up when you’re due to be paid along with how long after your payment due date a reminder should go out and never have to chase an unpaid invoice again. You will have to make sure that you regularly upload your business bank statements to your online account (otherwise how will the system know your invoice has gone unpaid?) but other than that, you can set it up and let it do its thing.
None of these packages are free – but they’re certainly cheaper than an accountant. And when it comes to chasing payment, you could say they’re priceless.
Promote Your Brand (Consistently)
Marketing and promotion is one aspect of your freelance business you perhaps hadn’t considered would take up all that much time – but you’d be wrong! You need to spend around 20 hours per week on your marketing to make sure that you’re continuing to get your brand out there and make new connections with potential new clients – or indeed, to make connections with former clients who may be missing your fabulous skills!
20 hours! I hear you cry (and as a fellow freelancer, I feel your pain). While social media is only one way to promote your business, it’s an effective one (read this to find out how I won a $22k client on Twitter) and one of the easiest promotional channels to simplify as there is an element of automation that can help you out (although for goodness sake DON’T over automate. Read my tips on improving your social media presence here if you’re a newbie).
Top Tool for Brand Promotion (and social media maven type behaviour): Hootsuite is a one-stop shop for scheduling all of your social media messages in advance. While you’ll still need to check in with social media on a daily basis to make sure you’re answering queries and responding to requests, scheduling upfront can create a backbone for your social media activity, freeing up more of your time for client work – which can only be a good thing.
I love the variety that freelancing brings. Different clients. Different types of work. No two days being the same. However, the flip side of that can be jumping from one thing to another and finding it hard to focus on one task at a time.
Top Tool for Staying Focused: If you’re really struggling to stay productive, Focus Booster is designed to help you stay on track. Based on the Pomodoro technique, where activities are broken down into 25 minute intervals, Focus Booster shows you how long you’re spending on activities, when you should take a break, and helps you to manage distractions. Why not try it out for free and see how much more productive you become?
So, there you go, a few quick tips – and 4 of my favorite tools – for staying productive. Any recommendations you have – or tools that you love to use? Or do you have any tips that I’ve helped keep your own productivity on track?