Productivity is just as important for freelancers as it is for people who work in traditional office environments, the only difference is that there is no one to hold the freelancer accountable, other than themselves. As a freelancer, if you waste the day away and accomplish nothing, no one will be there to scold you. However, if you do that too many times you won’t get projects done on time and your clients will drop you and your business will start to fail. It takes time and work to build a good reputation for yourself as a reliable freelancer, but it will only take one or two missed deadlines to lose that reputation. Staying on schedule is one of the most important things a freelancer can do to keep their business healthy. So far in our Building Routines for Success series, we’ve looked at simple routines that solopreneurs can do on a yearly, monthly and weekly basis to ensure their business runs smoothly. Now, in the final post of the series, we’re going to help you build a daily routine to keep your work-from-home freelancing business on track. This post will be a little different from the former three posts because we recognize that on a day-to-day basis everyone works differently and what might work for some people, such as having a rigid schedule, might not work for everyone. Freelancers like freedom, right? This post will help you design a daily routine that’ll work for you and help your business succeed.
Things to Ask Yourself When Designing your Daily Routine:
- What is it that I need to accomplish everyday?
When you answer this question, include your work-related duties as well as your personal and home-related duties so you can see the whole picture of what needs to be done in a day.
- How many hours do I need to spend on work-related tasks?
You need to know how long it takes you to do the necessary work each day to finish your projects on time, as well as the time it takes you to respond to emails, prepare invoices, promote your business on social media and deal with accounting and any other business-related tasks. The hours you need to spend working might vary a bit everyday; when you’re building your routine give yourself a generous estimate of time - the maximum of hours you need to work each day to stay on track. That way you’ll be able to build your routine around the most hours you need to work on any given day so you don’t end-up having days where you runout of time and start falling behind on your work.
- Are there parts of my day that are inflexible timewise?
For example, if you have to get your kids to school then pick them up at a certain time, then you’ll have to build your daily routine around those inflexible times.
- Can I work without a rigid schedule?
Are you the type of person who needs to set specific hours of work-time in order to be successful? Or are you the type of person who can promise themselves to work 5 hours a day and then do it without having to follow rigidly scheduled work-hours? Be really honest here - if you know you’re the type to leave things to the last minute and do a rush job, then perhaps a more rigid schedule will ensure you produce better work for your clients.
- What kind of self-care do I need to stay mentally and physically healthy each day?
The notion of “self-care” might seem a little hippy-dippy to some, but as a solopreneur you are running your business on your own and cannot afford to lose to time to illness or burnout. Taking care of yourself is also taking care of your business.
- What time of day am I most alert and able to be productive?
As a freelancer you can set you own schedule, so if you’re a morning person you can plan to do most of your work-related duties in the morning, but if you’re not, why fight biology? If you’re a night-owl, plan to work more in the evening. Aside from any inflexible time requirements, you can choose to work when your brain functioning is at its peak. For example, if you know it takes you 3 hours to get warmed up in the morning, plan to spend that time on non-mentally taxing tasks, like self-care or home-related duties, that way you’re still checking things off your to-do list and then getting work done for clients later in the day when you’re at your best. Again, it’s important to be honest with yourself, if you think you’re a night owl and plan to work in the evening but find yourself not getting around to it or trying to power-through it when you're exhausted, you’d better change your schedule asap before you start missing deadlines.
Depending on your answers to these questions you will find yourself building a daily routine that works for you. That might mean you have a set work time of 9am, when you sit down at a specific workplace, work for clients for 3 hours, break for lunch, then work for an hour on business-related tasks such as marketing and accounting, an hour of correspondence time, followed by 2 more hours of work for clients. If that type of traditional work schedule suits you, then use it! However, there’s no shame in it if your schedule looks completely different - get kids off to school, use the morning for self-care and home upkeep, have lunch, work on projects for clients until the kids come home, do some marketing and correspondence while the kids do homework, stop for dinner and family time, and get a couple more hours of work done for clients in the evening after the kids are asleep.
Whatever schedule suits your lifestyle is best - as long as you are getting your work done, meeting deadlines and keeping your clients happy. If you’re not, then you need to find out where your time management is failing and fix the problem, return to the questions above and be brutally honest when you answer them to see if there’s a part of your schedule that needs tweaking.
Things you should do at the start of every workday:
- check your calendar for upcoming deadlines, tasks, and appointments so nothing sneaks up on you
- check on what projects are due today, if any and be sure that they are sent off to the appropriate person
- see if any correspondence that came in overnight needs immediate attention - if not, address it at your scheduled time for correspondence
- prioritize today’s tasks
Things you should do at the end of every workday:
- review your calendar for tomorrow’s schedule and this week’s upcoming deadlines
- review today’s finished tasks - how are you doing on this week’s schedule? Are things going as planned? Are you ahead of schedule? Are you falling behind - if so, how can you make up for lost time, should you work more today or is there room in tomorrow’s schedule?
- make sure that all emails and invoices that needed to be sent off today were sent
- organize your workspace/prepare to start tomorrow’s work so that everything is ready for you when you want to get started the next day
Time management is an important skill that freelancers need to have in order to accomplish everything that needs to be done in a day - there is no supervisor around to tell you when to get to work or move on to the next task, you need to do that for yourself. Whether you benefit most from a routine that is set-in-stone or one with a bit of flexibility built in, building a daily routine can help you succeed by keeping you on track. If you are struggling to stay on top of all your projects for clients and all of the other things needed to be done to keep your business running smoothly, be sure to check out the other three parts of our four part series on Building Routines for Success on the SageGroupy blog. If you have any tips or hints about time management that weren’t covered in our series, please leave us a comment to help other freelancers out and be sure to keep your SageGroupy profile up-to-date because clients are looking for reliable freelancers like you. For more productivity tips check out or post on 6 productivity tips for freelancers.