Freelancing Guide: How to Stay Organized

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Freelancing Guide: How to Stay Organized

Freelancing offers freedom and flexibility that can be empowering. However, it takes a great deal of discipline to keep productive and achieve results. To help you seize the potential of being a freelancer, we’ve created a list of routines and habits that will help you stay organized.

Organize Your Time

Create a routine

Routine creates space for productivity and creativity. Set yourself up for success with a morning, evening and afternoon routine. With time, this will give you an intuitive structure that helps you focus on work. Note, there is no right or wrong way to schedule your day as a freelancer! Just be sure to keep a routine that optimizes your creativity and focus. If you are most creative in the morning - do these projects first thing and save more task-oriented work like emails and finances for the afternoon. The most important thing is to create a schedule that keeps you energized and focused.

Make a priorities list

Creating a list is not only satisfying, but a great way to keep track of your daily and weekly To-Dos. Include items by level of priority and include self-care items like meal times and workouts. Keep this list somewhere you can access at all times - on paper or on your phone. This will help you update it after you complete each task.

Don’t procrastinate

Deadlines, especially self-imposed deadlines, can be a great way to hold yourself accountable and ward-off procrastination. For example, if you take on a freelance project, set up realistic and timely goals. Set early deadlines so you can do multiple drafts and get feedback from your client before they need the final product. To meet your deadlines, give yourself concrete time-limits for a specific task and track these. You should also schedule frequent check-ins with your client to report status updates, progress made, and unintended challenges. These are great options to help: Office Time, Time Panther, Toggl or your calendar app.

Use your electronic calendar

Unlike a daily To-do list, your calendar helps organize your schedule at both large and small levels. Here, you can outline your tasks for the day, as well as plot out weekly, monthly, or even annual action plans. Of course, it is also a great place to schedule appointments, including birthdays and reminders for client outreach. Keep yours up to date and easy to access wherever you are.

Complete an end-of-day check-in

After a busy day of working, one the most important things you can do as a freelancer is take 5 minutes for reflection and preparation for the next day. Note the progress you’ve made today, and create a new list of what you need to do tomorrow. This will keep your mind focused and ready for the next day. 

Commit to a healthy work-life-balance

One of the most important things to foster as a freelancer, is work-life-balance. Whether you are working from home, a coffee-shop, or a communal office - as a freelancer it can be hard to create space between your work tasks and personal health. So, be sure to factor in time away from your computer - a walk, a run, quick house cleaning, or simply running errands can help you reinvigorate yourself.

Organize Your Things

Use a filing system

In addition to organizing your time, it is important to organize all of your documents: e-receipts, invoices, contracts, release forms, emails, client accounts, tax forms, business legal documents - you name it. We recommend keeping these in both physical and digital file systems. You should keep each system organized by year and with other folder subcategories. Software programs like Evernote and google drive can be helpful with this.

Clear clutter in your workspace

Create a calm and focused state of mind by creating a nice physical work-space. Whether this is in your home or in a communal working space, be sure to clear clutter and provide yourself with amenities that help you focus. Whether it’s classical music, natural light, a comfortable chair or something else - find what makes you feel productive and create that environment.

Keep track of your finances

In addition to managing your finances with a filing system, track your income, expenses, and taxes using different spreadsheets. This can help you better understand how you earn and spend money.

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Organize Your Business Strategy

Commit to what you can handle

Understanding how much work you can handle at one time may take time. As a guiding principle, however, only take jobs that you know you can complete on top, that interest you and you feel are fair in pay and expectation. More opportunities will come your way when you produce quality work.

Seek steady clients and nurture professional relationships

Be strategic about the work you take and seek out. Prioritize job assignments that offer multiple assignments and nurture relationships with clients who you enjoy working with. Since freelancers’ incomes can be irregular, securing some type of reliable flow of income or part-time work can be a great way to stay stable while being open to other skill-building opportunities.

Have a 3-month, 6-month, 1-year action plan

Be goal oriented! As a freelancer, you get to be your own boss, manager, and employee. Before you get started, be sure to articulate your goals along the way.

Set realistic expectations for your work week

Based on your big-picture action plan, create weekly expectations for your work week. This can help to structure your day-to-day tasks and assess when to take on a new project. 

Find your community

As a freelancer, you get to wear many hats. One of these is a marketer and networker. As you launch your business, be sure to stay connected, attend events, and get involved with groups. Whether it is through Meetup.com, LinkedIn, or your Udacity Alumni network - the options are limitless.

Stay busy and positive

Finally, as a freelancer, you will likely have ups and downs in your workflow. If people aren’t coming to you for jobs, stay busy by creating your own work and projects. After all, you can consider this as a “marketing tool” for your freelance business! The more work you do, the more experience and skills you will have for contributing to future projects.