Staying organized as a freelancer is one of my most significant challenges. Seeing as I am studying at the same time, it often feels nigh on impossible.
However, that doesn’t mean staying organized as a freelancer is beyond the realms of impossibility altogether. Using a few simple tips, you can beat evils such as procrastination, burnout, and taking on more than you can handle.
Staying organized as a freelancer is easier when you plan your week in advance
While some may advocate planning each day as it comes, I believe that staying organized as a freelancer requires you to prepare your week in advance. In my mind, the simplest way to achieve this is by dedicating a little time to work-week prep each Sunday evening.
I highly recommend devoting an hour to doing this each week. No more and no less. If you don’t complete the hour, you’re not likely to fill your week sufficiently. On the other hand, spending more than an hour on this activity may lead to you overloading yourself.
Sit down, take a look at your list of clients and when all of your work is due in, Decide which day you’ll work on each project and how much time you’ll give it. Time-restricting yourself is essential for several reasons. I won’t delve into them too much here, but according to the authors of Declutter Your Mind, giving yourself some time pressure means you’re less likely to procrastinate.
As I’ll explain below, you should also leave room for maneuver. One of the best freelancing tips I practice is flexibility. From finding a client you need to break up with, to negotiating with a freelancing client, there are lots of ways your time can disappear. So, make sure you schedule some hours for such tasks.
Leave some flexible hours for when things ‘go wrong’
According to the freelancing site Upwork, freelancers will soon take over the world. Okay, we’re not about to start forming a dictatorship. However, the number of us vs. those who work in ‘real’ jobs is rising rapidly.
One of the most beautiful parts of this existence is that you can be flexible. At the same time, the field you’re working in will need you to remain malleable too. While it’s unlikely that something will go wrong every day, you should plan for alterations each week.
One of the most important aspects of staying organized as a freelancer is factoring in the hours you’ll use for when things to become skewiff. For me, this could mean helping a faithful client who requires extra work. Or, making revisions to a project, I didn’t expect to revise.
Similarly, work can run short. Another of the best freelancing tips you should focus on is preparing to pitch at any moment. As such, if you do dedicate flexible hours to your weekly workload, you can always use them for finding new clients (if you have time for them), working on your freelancing site’s SEO, or strategizing a unique and enticing element of your solopreneur empire.
Just remember that the hour or so you plan for flexibility won’t go to waste. And, as I’ll explore below, you can always use those hours to avoid freelancer burnout.
Look out for the signs of burnout
One of the biggest pitfalls facing freelancers everywhere is burnout. If you’re just entering the world of controlling your work, you’re more susceptible to this than most. The temptation to take on as much work as possible is overwhelming, and the seemingly good advice of others doesn’t help.
For example, one of the first freelancer tips I received was to recognize that writing comes with periods of feast and famine. While that may remain true, if you pitch consistently and stay aware of the fact that clients can and will disappear off the face of the earth, you shouldn’t find yourself overworking during certain periods.
Recognizing the signs of burnout is vital if you’re going to start resting at appropriate times. Putting your feet up and making time for self-care is central to staying organized as a freelancer, as a well-rested worker is a productive one.
Some of the key signs of burnout include:
- Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. If you’re ending your working day with the overwhelming feeling that you can’t push yourself to socialize or enjoy your usual hobbies, your burning out.
- A sense of detachment from your work. Many of us can spend hours hammering away at a project after project for a short period. However, this sensation eventually gives way to detachment, leaving you dreading the lifestyle you once craved.
- Feeling as though you’re not quite achieving enough. Feeling as though you’re not gaining enough is a sensation that rises insidiously. You don’t just wake up one morning wondering if you’re underachieving. Instead, you’ll gradually let thoughts such as “I’m not doing well enough at this” enter your mind.
If you are experiencing freelancer burnout, what do you do about it?
The answer to this one is simple: commit to staying organized as a freelancer, take breaks, and allow for some downtime. Naturally, there’s no magic pot of money from an employer to keep you afloat if you do need to take a break. So, when you enter the freelancing world, I recommend setting aside savings rapidly.
Allow yourself as much annual leave as you would receive in a regular job. Plan vacations, take walks and allow yourself to work in different settings. When you create your home office, make sure it’s an environment you love to work in.
In short, look at what’s making you burn to the ground and change it.
Try using a planner for staying organized as a freelancer
I’ve only ever met one person in my life who stays organized without writing things down: my Nan. She does have a calendar, but she doesn’t have lists. Weirdly, she also never forgets anything.
Unfortunately, my Nan is an exception rather than a rule. Most of us need a helping hand, and if staying organized as a freelancer is important to you, you’ll reach for one too.
Finding appropriate work and week planners allows you for prepping your week in advance and tick tasks off as you go along. In addition to producing a sense of accomplishment, planners will enable you to check on progress. Whether you stick them on your office wall or create a binder for your freelancing work on the move, I highly recommend finding printables that work for you.
Download apps that’ll help you on your way
Alongside printables, I employ the use of several apps that keep me sane. The most important, and simplest, is called ‘To-do.’ As the name suggests, it’s an app that allows you to write list after list, providing you with the chance to tick tasks off as you go along.
My advice is to create a primary ‘to-do’ list, which the app encourages you to repeat each day. Alongside this, I have lists for each of my blogs, my clients, and my plans for the future. I also create lists for everyday life and items I need to buy, as there’s no point in staying organized as a freelancer and failing to generate a normal environment elsewhere.
Aside from ‘To-Do,’ I’m a HUGE fan of OneNote. And yes, you can use it even if you’re an Apple junkie like me, plus with iCloud, you can sync all of your documents and edit them as you flip between devices.
As a student freelancer, OneNote serves a lot of purposes. I won’t bore you with all of them, but it’s also my repository for daily gratitude and affirmation-type musings, plus my work on the Laws of Attraction.
Staying organized as a freelancer doesn’t have to be arduous. If you’re anything like I used to be (walking organized chaos), you may want to try implementing one of these freelancer tips each week until you can mill them all into your routine effortlessly.
Is your new business in need of a writer? Fill out my form to hire me as a freelance writer, and we’ll get the ball rolling.