Ah, the work-from-home life—you get to set your own schedule, work in yoga pants and sneak out early on Fridays to catch happy hour—but I’d be lying if I said freelancing doesn’t also have its setbacks.
One major issue?
When you work for a ton of different clients at once, staying on track can be tough. With last-minute fires to put out, daily deadlines to meet, and 27 different projects underway all at once, organization and proactivity is the key to staying focused (and sane) when you’re living that #freelancelife. Today, then, I’m breaking down the helpful freelancing tips I’ve picked up over my nine (and counting!) years as a copywriter for staying on track and on schedule.
Of all my freelancing tips, this one is the most impactful. When you have clients on retainer or clients you work for regularly, your to-do list for them can be never-ending. In other words, there will always be something to do, and it’s easy to let those ongoing tasks overshadow others. I make it a point to compartmentalize my work for retainer clients into a single day of the week (Client A gets Mondays, Client B gets Tuesdays, and Wed-Fri is reserved for one-time clients and projects). Without that schedule, I could easily end up writing for my retainer every working hour of every day. Compartmentalizing your work for your “heavy hitter” clients into specific days is such an important thing to do as a freelancer—otherwise, you’ll find yourself jumping from client to client every single day, and wasting time as your mind works to transition between projects.
One of the biggest productivity killers as a freelancer is our tendency to “ping-pong” from project to project. We sit down with the best intentions to focus solely on a single project that’s on deadline, but then we get a call from another client who needs our help, and then an email from another, and then a Facebook notification from the business page we manage….and suddenly it’s 4 p.m. and we’ve spent our day tackling one-off tasks instead of honing in on the project we intended to get done.
It’s proven (as in scientifically proven…by people in lab coats, I’m pretty sure) that our brains take time to transition from task to task—which means “ping-ponging” like this (aka playing mental whack-a-mole with every client request that pops up) wastes time as our brain works to transition from one project to a completely different one. After nine+ years of copywriting, I’ve learned to remind myself that the sky is not falling (I literally have a note tacked to my office wall that says that).
A client won’t die if you don’t respond to her email or call right away, and the Facebook notification can wait. I make it a point to turn my phone on silent and place it face down on my desk when I begin a website copywriting project. I also close out all of my other browser tabs and maximize my browser itself, so that the document I’m working on visually takes up my entire screen (that way I’m not distracted my random folders or icons on my desktop that remind me of everything else I have to get done).
I’m closing out my roundup of freelancing tips with my all-time favorite time-saving project-management tools. If you don’t already use one, I highly recommend looking into one of the below systems to help you stay organized, on track, and remain an ever-elite lifetime member of the “never missed a deadline” club.
Basecamp allows me to plan out editorial calendars easily.
I can attach photos, notes and Google Docs to each “task” I create in Basecamp.
Trello is great for tracking project status.
Projects are housed in “cards” that you can categorize as “Yet to Start” “In Progress” or “Complete” (as an example).
It was created based off of the notion of “digital stickies”—so, if you’re someone whose desk is littered with Post-It notes, it might be speak your language.
Asana is great for working in teams.
Collaboration and communication are easy on Asana, allowing everyone to stay on the same page when there are multiple cooks in the kitchen.