Does this sound familiar?
You sit down to work on a big project due tomorrow. Before you get started, you check your email. “What if the client sent me an update I need to know about?!” you think.
They didn’t, but you did get an email from an old coworker asking about your plans for the weekend.
“I wonder what they’re up to on Facebook …”
20 minutes later, your tummy’s growling and you know you can’t work on an empty stomach.
And on and on until the end of the day …
If you’ve ever done this, congratulations, you’re a certified freelancer!
Working for yourself can be hard.
The good news? You’re your own boss. 🙂
The bad news? You’re your own boss! 🙁
The only person that can hold you accountable is you.
Someone asked me the other day which is more important for succeeding in a business: motivation or discipline?
Well, that seems like a no-brainer. While motivation comes and goes, discipline is a conscious decision to get stuff done.
It’s fun to get motivated, to watch YouTube videos and get pumped up. And if you want some top-tier advice for lighting your freelancer fire, be sure to check out this article next.
But when the rubber meets the road, it’s up to you to be more than just motivated.
You have to produce. Whether you’re a copywriter, a paid traffic specialist, a graphic designer, or any other freelancer, the easier it is to produce (and produce efficiently), the better it is for your profit margin.
So how do you increase your output? How do you get more done in less time? How do you become one of the 54% of freelancers who actually make MORE in their first year freelancing than they did in their old soul-sucking day job?
It takes being intentional and taking a long, hard look at how you work at your maximum potential. The following 3 areas hold the keys to building a more productive, more profitable freelancing business.
Let’s get started!
1. Create Your Ideal Environment
This is going to look different for everyone, but there are 2 key things you can add to increase productivity in your home office (or look for in a coworking space):
Not only can plants reduce stress and improve air quality, they can even increase productivity!
Studies have found that plants in your office or working space can increase memory retention AND concentration. A study at Texas A&M University found that “… tasks performed while under the calming influence of nature are performed better and with greater accuracy, yielding a higher quality result.”
The best part?
You can get these benefits with just one plant!
And for those of you out there lacking a green thumb (like me) here’s a great guide to plants that don’t require a ton of skill (or TLC).
#2: Natural Light
You might be thinking, “Light? Really? How could that impact me?” According to Cohere, an “agency on a mission to build better cities,” it does so in several important ways.
The study found that office workers who had windows (and natural light) slept longer per night, had increased productivity, were found to be more creative and took fewer sick days!
What freelancer couldn’t use more sleep, more creativity and more productivity?!
If you work outside the home, try to find a space with lots of windows and natural light to both boost your mood and your output.
Stuck indoors with no windows? If you’re not lucky enough to have an office with a view, you can buy a “sun lamp” from online retailers that helps mimic the natural light you would get from the sun. (These can also help combat seasonal affective disorder in those dark winter months!)
2. Set the Mood
Whether you’re in your own home office or in a crowded coffee shop or coworking space, if you’re serious about going and a full-time freelancer, there’s ONE THING you must master:
How do you set the mood for laser focus AND deter Chatty Kathy from telling you all about her three new cats?
Even if you don’t listen to music, a big set of headphones tell the world you mean business and drone out unwanted noise.
And music (at least the right kind) has been shown to increase productivity as well. There’s actually a whole area of research called neuromusicology that studies how music affects our minds and bodies.
And what have researchers discovered?
Music affects everyone a little differently because the number of brain areas that are activated is different. However, there are a few general pieces of advice to getting the biggest productivity boost out of your music …
While lyrics can help with mind-numbingly boring work, most of the time you want instrumental tunes. That is, music without lyrics.
That’s because the lyrics (especially on songs you may not be familiar with) can interfere with your cognitive process as you work.
Ideally, you want music that is basically background noise.
Some people even use noise to help them focus. White noise (or brown, pink, etc.) is just “frequencies with equal intensities.” Think static on a television, but less jarring. More like rain on a tin roof.
I’m actually listening to rain as I write this. This can be used on its own or combined with music to get a great productivity boost.
Experiment until you find what gets you in the zone. If it helps tune out distractions, you’re on the right track.
3. Eliminate (Or Severely Limit) Distractions
As anyone with a cell phone knows, there are more distractions now than ever.
You probably have several different email accounts, social media platforms, friends and family, all just a quick grab away. Not to mention needy clients who may try to contact you at all hours of the day. That’s why the cell phone has got to go.
If you’re a freelancer, you know how hard it can be to really dig down and focus.
I used to keep my phone on my desk (you know, just in case).
Every time it would ring or buzz, I’d get pulled out of what I was doing to check it.
And it was always something that could have waited until later. Now I keep my phone in another room, keep my headphones on and stay focused.
Another giant timesink for freelancers can be email. If you’re constantly checking your email, or replying and waiting on responses, you waste a ton of valuable time in what I like to call “reactive” mode. Instead of proactively creating the space for the focus you need, you bounce from your inbox, to your work, back to the inbox and at the end of the day you’re exhausted.
Check your email as few times a day as possible.
I know, it sounds simple. But if your clients know you will get back to them within 24 hours, you can afford to wait until the evening to reply to them. Also, try not to start your day off with email, ESPECIALLY if you have other priorities to take care of. Do those first, then check your email.
It’s not always easy, but I try to check my email after an hour or two of work in the morning and once or twice towards the end of the day. I’ve found this is plenty to be able to answer questions and reply to issues, all while discouraging clients who see everything as an emergency.
There’s 3 key areas to focus on if you want to get more done in less time and boost your profit margins:
- Create your ideal work environment (think green and lots of natural light)
- Set the mood for focus (find a chill playlist you love … or try one of mine!)
- Eliminate those distractions (hold the phone!)
Looking for More Tips to Becoming a Full-Time Freelancer?
If you’d like to learn more about how to build your own 6-figure freelance business and live the ultimate freelancer lifestyle, check out this FREE training!