I’ve been freelancing full time for about six weeks now, and I’ve been successful thus far, I would say. Other than working more hours than I ever did for a company, I’m pretty happy. Of course, if I weren’t so greedy I’m sure I wouldn’t have to work 60 hours a week. To try to get my hours back down to the “normal” 40, or even better, to 35 as one company I worked for implemented, I’ve had to employ some strategies. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
I’m more productive in the morning. I’m a night owl, but I find that my brain doesn’t work as fast at night so I try to get up by 7:00 to start writing by 7:30. Of course, as the weeks have gone on, that 7:00 has slipped to 7:30 and sometimes 8:00. That’s not good. I do my best and most productive work before noon, or before I take my lunch, which is generally noonish. In the afternoons, I’m just sluggish from lunch and my brain feels like it’s exploded into a bunch of tiny pieces, which means that to get anything done takes twice as long because I have to find the pieces before I can use them.
For other freelancers, this means find the time that works for you, even if it isn’t 8-4 or 9-5. Work when you feel most energetic and when your brain is “turned on” – not when your spouse or friends tell you you should be working.
Take breaks. My back hurts. My neck hurts. I have to consciously tell myself to get up every hour or two from the desk to stretch and just move my legs. Taking mini-brain breaks works wonders. It also helps out my sleeping legs! I read in a magazine that you should take a 5-minute break every hour. I tried that and it just disrupts me. Instead I take a 5-minute break to walk around every two hours or so. It’s never two hours on the dot – just whenever I finish a task I can take a break.
I found a good blog article on the Freelance Switch Web site: http://freelanceswitch.com/working/practical-freelancing-tips-to-get-%20your-creative-juices-flowing/ that has some good tips on how freelancers can manage their time to be most creative. One of the tips given by Raj Dash is to not read other people’s work until you’ve spent some time writing. That doesn’t work for me. I like to read some news tidbits from MSN’s Web page (my browser’s homepage) before I start my day. I also read emails, and freelance job boards before I start working for the day.
That leads me to, keep looking for work. Some freelancers, I’ve read, are obsessive about looking for new work, new opportunities every day. I’m one of those. I feel like I’m missing out if I haven’t searched the job boards each day. One of my faves is FreelanceWritingGigs.com. The two hostesses of this blog search Craigslist and other freelance job boards for the best jobs (read: the ones that pay more than $1 for 250 words). It really cuts down on my time looking at Craigslist so I can get some writing done.
What other good tips do you have for being productive? Share them. I could use them, especially since I’m just about to check my email again after finishing this sentence.