This is a Guest Post by Kevin Whipps
(you can learn more about Kevin at the end of this post)
When I first started out as a freelancer, I had dreams of waking up at noon, getting my work done by 2:00, and spending the rest of my days playing in fields of daisies. When that didn’t quite pan out, I started to realize that many of the things that people consider to be an advantage as a freelancer are really hindrances, and can really stop productivity in its tracks. Because of that, I developed a system that works well for me, and could work well for others as well.
1. Discover Your Productivity Window
Everyone has a time frame in which they are more productive than others. For myself, I find that early in the morning and late in the evening are my sweet spots for getting things done. Between 1 and 5 is a horrible time, and never really works out. As a result, I adjusted my schedule accordingly, and now I tend to either meet with clients or work on other projects in the afternoon.
2. Set an alarm and stick with it
Once I figured out that my problem was consistency, I decided to set my alarm for the same time I did every morning when I had to commute across town. It worked, but it meant I was starting my day at 9 am. Since that wasn’t quite early enough for me, I tried waking up at 5 am, but that was way too early and I ended up overdosing on Red Bull later in the day. The sweet spot for me has become 6 am, and that means I’m ready to go by 8. By lunchtime, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, which sometimes can push me through that crappy afternoon drop.
3. Establish an office area and make it perfect
Before I quit my day job, my wife and I spent a month fixing up my new office so that I would be able to work in peace. We put down new wood floors, ordered up a second monitor, mounted pictures to the wall, and made sure everything was perfect. At times though, I wanted to work on the couch or in the bed, just to mix it up a bit. For those moments, I purchased a portable lap desk that works pretty well. It’s not perfect, but it keeps my computer off of my lap and makes me more comfortable. Whether it’s on the sofa or in a dedicated room, make it work right from day 1.
4. Treat the “office” like any other place of business
Yes, it’s nice to be able to work all day in pajamas, but to really get my head in the game, I had to shower and get dressed every day like I was going to a job. This puts me in the mindset that I need to get in, but also allows me freedom to get up and go somewhere if need be. I live in Arizona, where flip-flops and t-shirts are considered business casual. As a result, I wake up, put on a pair of shorts or jeans, and top it off with a white undershirt. This way, if I need to go to a meeting, I put on some flip-flops and a polo shirt and I’m golden. Otherwise, a quick trip to the store just requires a t-shirt. Works for me.
5. Wash, Rinse, Repeat
Being a freelancer means having the flexibility of making a schedule personal and functional. For me, that means working 8 am to 10 pm, with liberal breaks in between for errands and meals. But sometimes, I need to take a Monday to run the kiddo to a doctor, or hang out with a client. In those cases, I rotate my schedule to the weekend. For example, this Sunday, I have an interview to do in the middle of the day. Because of that, I’m taking off Monday so I can have some personal time. Always block out a day or two a week for yourself, no matter what.
Ultimately, this all comes down to finding a system that works for each person. These tips help me out, and maybe they’ll do a lot for you as well.
About the Author
Kevin Whipps is a writer and photographer based in the Phoenix, Arizona area. For the past 10 years, Kevin has been writing for various print and web publications, while carving out a name for himself in the industry. Although he writes about a wide variety of topics, he tends to focus on the automobile and tech industries. He is also the editor of Splashpress Media’s Apple Gazette.
Shannon LaFreniere says
Keeping a schedule is essential even on the ground floor of your writing career. I am just starting to venture into freelance writing and it forces you to be self-motivated in how you manage your time. I have a full-time job and freelancing is a passion that compells me to write for the sole purpose of artistic expression. If you are truly a writer, it is not something you turn on and off, but it must be fostered and developed as discipline and organization will pay off in the end.
I look forward to any tips that are posted on this site for beginning freelance writers who are not savvy in freelance submission lingo. Any help would be appreciated.
Audra Krell says
Great ideas here Kevin, very helpful. You forgot to mention how hard it is to play in the daisies when it’s 114 degrees. I write from home in Scottsdale, so I know what you are talking about. I’ve always been a big believer in getting dressed for success from home. It doesn’t get any easier in AZ with the shorts/polo shirt thing. If a writer can’t get dressed to that level, freelancing may not be the right career. I have a great office but it’s a mess. I like your number 3 tip, I really need to work harder at making it perfect to help my productivity. Now that I think about it, I would never leave my office looking like this if I worked in building with other people. so why do I do it here?
P.S. Jones says
This is one of the greatest misconceptions that nonfreelancers have: Freelancers don’t have to put in long hours, take early mornings or keep office hours. Sure, once you’re doing well, built a reputation and have a stable of repeat clients. But in the beginning, you will get up early, go to bed late and keep a regular work schedule. For Type As like me, a work schedule and having a dedicated workspace makes you feel stable and productive. Not saying that I don’t take off an odd Wednesday for the hell of it. But I find that when I treat my work like a business, I get more use out of it.