“It’s easy to be busy. Less so to be productive. The two are very different. Busy is doing stuff, while productive is doing the right stuff. As freelancers our goal is to create a successful business, not busyness. How do we go about working smart versus hard – working less and earning more?”
These are the words of Shea Karssing, a freelance writer and author of the book Freelance like a Boss, who unpacked this topic at a Safrea webinar. She shared actionable tricks and tools to help freelancers build a business, not a busyness.
More is not more
According to Shea, freelancers can easily fall into the trap of thinking that “more is more – more work, more clients, more money. But I guess that part of the reason you became a freelancer is for more freedom and more time to pursue the things you love. How can we spend more time on the tasks where we use our unique skills to make money, and less on the nonsense that drains us?”
Three things you can do right now to feel less burnt out:
• Get better sleep
• Eat real food
• Move your body
3 focus areas to get you working smart
1.1 Prioritise high-impact tasks
How you use the 24 hours in your day will determine your satisfaction, stress, or success. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. Apply the proven 80:20 principle which confirms that 80% of our impact is derived from only 20% of our effort. Prioritise your time to focus on that critical 20%.
Write down your major goals for the year. This is impactful stuff, but often gets sidelined in our day-to-day activities. Break your goals down into baby steps. Ask yourself: what is the one thing I can do today to get me on track towards my goal? Your goal defines your priorities, which determine your productivity.
Use a daily planner to determine the three most important things you need to do each day. Schedule distraction-free time for your one thing and other meaningful tasks. Align the most meaningful tasks with the time of day that your brain is most functional. In between those chunks, work on your must-dos. Anything else that pops into your head goes to the brain dump section to get it out of your head. Reflect at the end of each day on how your plan went and what you can do better.
1.2 Eliminate, outsource, delegate
To free up time, identify the things you can eliminate, outsource and delegate. Think of the things that your creative brain doesn’t have to do – that someone else can do better. Work on your strengths, outsource your weaknesses.
1.3 Find your flow
It takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get yourself back on track after being interrupted. Eliminate distractions such as emails and WhatsApps by setting boundaries, using auto response and only checking these at certain times. The bottom-line is: free up time by eliminating, outsourcing and delegating. Then use this time effectively by removing distractions.
Stop multitasking. Create blocks of flow and focus to enhance your productivity. Schedule at least one hour a day in your calendar for your flow time to get into the habit. Choose a time that is free from distraction, and when your energy tends to be higher. Select a high-impact (20%) task, be clear on the goals you want to achieve, turn off all distractions, and make yourself comfortable. Focus on the present moment, try not to indulge other thoughts and feelings that enter your mind – acknowledge them, then let them pass by.
1.4 Block your calendar
Calendar blocking is allocating specific time blocks in your calendar for various tasks. It helps you to organise and prioritise work. Schedule time for your most meaningful tasks (20%), say no to meetings that are not necessary, tackle tasks in chunks, set meetings for certain days to allow uninterrupted focus, design specific days for different types of tasks, focus on one task during each time block, leave gaps between blocks for unexpected delays, allow breaks to recharge, and don’t overcommit – decline tasks that don’t align with your goals.
2.1 Leverage automation and tools
Apart from selling your skills as a freelancer, you are also a business owner. Use technology and processes to help you with things like admin, invoicing, tax and promoting your business.
If you do what you have always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Consider the following software types to help you: time tracking, productivity apps, password keeper, document sharing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) content generators.
2.2 Implement processes and templates
Use processes, automation, and templates to become more efficient. It means that you can make the same amount of money in less time. So, identify the quick fixes that can free up your schedule. How can you automate or streamline a time-consuming process in your business? What template can you create so you don’t have to do everything from scratch? Schedule in time to implement them.
3.1 Raise your rates
All rates go up. Freelancers’ rates should go up too – at least once a year. Send that email, and have that conversation if you haven’t done so yet. You’ll be surprised. It is much easier (and cheaper) for a client to keep a good service provider than find someone to replace them. If you’re doing a good job and adding value, any client worth your invoice will be happy to pay it.
By raising your rates, you’re not only benefitting your own bank – you’re putting yourself in a better position to support those you love, donate to causes you care about, contribute to the economy, and set a benchmark that helps fellow freelancers charge fair rates too. You’re doing it for the industry as a whole.
3.2 Break up with unprofitable clients
If raising your rates isn’t an option and a client is not serving you or your goals, it might be time to call it quits. Saying goodbye to income is never easy, but by closing this door, you’ll be opening up better opportunities.
Remember why you became a freelancer
“If you feel you’re on a constant treadmill, only you can step off it. Make quiet time every day to work on the one thing you can do to get closer to your goal. Remember why we became freelancers – we want to enjoy our work, freedom, flexibility, earning potential, control our calendars and live our lives the way we want to live them. Take control and make it happen!”
• Take action steps outlined in this workbook: https://sheakarssing.com/how-to-work-smart-not-hard-workbook/
• Join our Facebook accountability group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1936539310063993