Working freelance is a great way to make money doing something you love. Nine-to-fivers are often jealous of the freelancer, thinking it must be great to work your own hours, not realizing that freelancers work all of them. When you’re in charge of everything from job applications to client communications to invoicing to maintenance to — if you have some time — the actual work itself, it’s important to make the absolute most of your time.
That’s why we’re looking at how to freelance effectively.
Setting up a good work process and environment doesn’t just increase productivity, it’s critical for meeting deadlines, avoiding stress, or even making enough money to pay rent that month (see: avoiding stress and critical deadlines).
We’ve found a few tips and gadgets from smart freelancers. Because, being your own boss means making smart decisions.
Remember The Milk
There are hundreds of excellent productivity applications for iPhone, Android and iPad. The most important application for freelancers is a core “To Do” list; a single master list including every single thing that needs to be done, and when. When you’re in charge of everything, it’s all too easy to miss a step — not through laziness or carelessness, but simply because you’re working 24/7.
Remember The Milk is an excellent all-devices “To Do” list, letting you add items at your desk and check in on them during the day. You can list tasks by type, date due (very important for freelancers!) and share subsets with collaborators.
The “To Do” list also increases productivity by eliminating dead zones and brain freezes: when you don’t know what to do next, or don’t feel like working, just look at the list and get started on the next item. And ticking off tasks is uniquely enjoyable when you’re in charge.
Freelancing is often a result of doing what you truly want to do, or at least doing it in the way you want, and this is unlikely to involve breaking spines. Unless you’re freelancing as a pro wrestler. In which case wow, didn’t expect you to be reading this. There’s no point in escaping restrictive regulations and mismanaging bosses only to smash yourself by sitting on your ass all day.
That’s where the standing desk comes in. Many modern companies have realized that callousing your behind for eight hours a day is actually unhealthy, and deeply demotivational. A standing desk straightens your spine and increases your energy levels throughout the day. It’s easy to DIY up a desk, or even a strong box on your table to elevate your equipment when you feel like standing, but if you want to invest in expert equipment we’ve found some beautiful work spaces.
This cantilevered desk is custom-made to your specifications, allowing you to move two workspaces to any height. Sit, stand, and whichever position you work in you still have an extra desk to put reference material. There’s even an adjustable coffee mug – if this guy understood your work habits any better he’d have replaced you. There’s also the karmic bonus of helping another freelancer make his living while you make yours.
For the gadget-lover, the electric adjustable desk lets you change position whenever you want. Because sitting is still comfortable, and sometimes you don’t feel like standing through a YouTube video. Which is good, because it reminds you that that’s not work!
Whiteboards are an essential freelancing tool. You might have bad memories of office meetings where it was used as a tool to keep you in your seat for five hours longer than necessary, but used properly they’re everything from mindspaces to urgent action lists. They’re how freelancers know what they’re doing, and work out how they’ll do it.
Idea Paint takes that to the next level, and embraces how freelancers truly are free to work any way they want. A few buckets can convert an entire office into an imagination chamber — just standing up, walking around, and sketching designs can unlimber a brain broken by eight hours staring at a screen.
Being your own boss means you have to be strict: nobody’s stopping you spending the whole day on Wikipedia researching the history of Star Wars, but nobody’s paying your health insurance or guaranteeing a salary either. Lifehacker offer the excellent Quiet Hours app. Simply drag and drop all your distraction programs and tell it how long to keep them away from you.
This improves both work and play: not only will you focus on your work, but you’ll enjoy your e-mail and messaging much more when you’re done. Because when you wait for hours instead of seconds, there are actually new messages every time you check. It’s also free!
The most important thing for anyone who works for themselves: an external memory. Notepads are good but demand you stop what you’re doing to write things down, and on the go you don’t want to forget the urgent appointment (or amazing idea) you just had. Dictaphones are incredibly easy to find: every smartphone has several applications for recording your voice, because that’s kind of a phone’s job, while dedicated recorders can be found in stores. They’re especially cheap in discount electronics liquidation stores, mainly because of those apps we just mentioned.
But if you want some luxury, the Sony ICD-MX20DR9 does everything.
This pocket secretary comes with trainable Dragon speech recognition software, so you don’t have to sit down and endure your own voice as you type things out. Just upload the text to your computer, and get on with following the advice your wonderful, considerate, understanding and doubtless handsome boss has given you!
Image credit: alvarez / iStockphoto