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5 ways freelancers can do more without additional effort

Freelancing used to be a side occupation, something that was rarely seen in the mainstream economy. This is rapidly changing, however, and is increasingly becoming the preferred way to work for many professionals.

The 2016 Field Nation Freelancer Study found that 86% of professionals prefer freelancing due to a number of benefits, including flexibility in work hours and the autonomy to work with little direct supervision.

While working as a freelancer certainly has many advantages, it isn’t a skill that is learned overnight. It takes practice to manage a diverse range of projects.

Freelancing requires a lot of flexibility: you must be at least somewhat skilled in a variety of different areas, such as handling financial matters, managing your own marketing and public relations, dealing with IT problems, among a myriad of other, smaller tasks.

Managing and executing multiple projects takes time and effort, and you have to be self-disciplined and driven. It can be tempting to attempt to be more productive by simply adding more hours of effort into the day; while this may be a temporary fix, it isn’t a long-term solution for a variety of reasons.

One of the chief ones is that adding extra time defeats one of the most attractive features of freelancing: flexible hours!

“The most successful men work smart, not hard.” -Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom

With that goal in mind, here are a few tips for freelancers to do just that — work smarter, not harder.

Schedule and automate

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Being entrusted with multiple projects is affirming and creates a sense of achievement. Having too many projects, however, can become overwhelming, especially if deadlines for different projects are due close to each other. Sometimes stress doesn’t come from deadlines, but having to redo work repeatedly if clients request revisions.

Take stock of your projects, then make a schedule and then stick to it. Staying disciplined is absolutely essential for a freelancer to be successful.

One tip is to automate as many tasks as possible, such as bookkeeping. Perhaps your social media marketing plan could benefit from a software program like Hootsuite, where you can dedicate a day to scheduling the next six months of published content; the software program will then automatically publish your content and you can dedicate that time to devote to more profitable tasks.

Treat yourself like a CEO of your freelance empire. Remember that you’re working as a freelancer to build the life that you want, so start there and structure your life around it.

Treat yourself like a CEO of your freelance empire. Remember that you’re working as a freelancer to build the life that you want, so start there and structure your life around it.

Hold yourself to the highest standards of work and continuously challenge yourself to deliver the best in less time than it took you previously.

Take a break!

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In the book Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, one of the things that author Stephen Covey noted was that the most successful people he had ever met all made sure and took care of their own needs. They took breaks: they rested when necessary; they took time to invest in their own mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Deadlines and schedules are important, but so is your health. A recent study found that people who give in to some kind of diversion or distraction once an hour perform better than those who just keep at it without a break.

Taking a break allows you to come back to a project with renewed energy and a more focused mind, ensuring that you complete tasks as quickly as possible. Use online task management software to schedule regular break times to boost productivity.

Declutter

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Your workspace has a bigger impact on you than you might think. A study by Princeton University showed that clutter in your surroundings can cause distraction that you’re not even aware of. This, in turn, causes reduced performance and increased stress.

A cluttered workspace could be causing freelancers to spend more time on tasks, causing them to be less profitable. According to a 2008 NAPO survey, you could save over an hour each day by being organized.

Take a day and organize your desk and office space. Think through how you work and what tools help you. Perhaps having a white board on the wall next to your desk for creative brainstorming is important to you, or having a file system nearby to quickly reference information.

Decluttering and removing distractions can be a great way for new freelancers to improve their efficiency.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

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It may feel great to take on more and more jobs, but be sure to take on only as much as you can handle; taking on more assignments means working greater hours, which is great until your plate is full. Past a certain point, increasing your workload simply means everything else that you’re working on will suffer as your productivity decreased.

In the short term it might be tempting to add a few extra hours to your workweek and take on last-minute, high-paying jobs. However, a study found that even though workers may achieve a small boost in productivity by putting in more than 60 hours, that increase only lasts three to four weeks before rapidly falling off.

The study also found that keeping up with a 60-hour workweek will damage your productivity so badly that it may take an inordinate amount of time to recover– far more time than you gain by stretching yourself too thin.

Learn to use your time wisely and be selective about your freelance work.

Look for Innovations

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Study your work methods and, if needed, rework them to maximize productivity. If you have a recurring task, search for an automated way to handle it. The world today is brimming with gadgets and apps that can turn your professional life into a highly-oiled, well-functioning machine.

Automating tasks, standardizing processes, and investing in efficiency tools can save precious time you could be spending on more profitable tasks. If a task involves anything that repeats itself, look for a way to automate it (trust us, there’s probably an app or software system out there to help).

Make sure that your time is reserved to do the creative work and let the apps and software take care of the rest — handling your calendar, marketing, content management, and a myriad of other tasks that are more repetitive than creative.

What are some of the tips you use to work smartly? We’re eager to find out. Let us know in the comments below.

nTask is an all-in-one online project management software trusted by smart teams to organize work. Sign up today — it’s free.

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