23 Ways to Save Time as a Freelancer

Jul 5th, 2010 | By Allison | Category: Working at Home

Sometimes, there aren’t enough hours in the day. No, scratch that. There are never enough hours in the day. As a freelancer, you should be prepared for moments when you look at the list of things you have to do by a certain deadline and want to shoot yourself in the face.

This is important: Don’t shoot yourself in the face. Don’t even shoot yourself in the leg. You will eventually get through your to-do list and feel better about the stress in your life again. I promise.

Over the years, I’ve figured out some great ways to save time as a freelancer. These tips will help you writer faster, complete projects sooner, and have more time for your hobbies. Please, add your tips as comments!

  1. Take bulk projects about the same topic. Yes, it is monotonous to write 100 articles about mortgage refinancing. I should know; I’ve done it. But, on the plus side, I did a few hours of research on the topic and was prepared to write nearly all 100 articles. If you take 100 separate one-article projects, you’ll have to do separate research for every single article.
  2. Stick to your strengths. If you are a professional snowboarder, take a project writing an ebook about snowboarding. You don’t need to do much research at all for this project, since you are the expert.
  3. Reward yourself for hitting goals. You aren’t allowed to go for a walk, eat a snack, or watch a program on tv until you finish writing x number of words. When you want something, you’ll write faster.
  4. Schedule your day. I wrote a post about this recently for BlogWorld Expo, and although I wrote it from the perspective of blogging, it helps regardless of the type of writing you’re doing.
  5. Stop tweeting or updating your Facebook status. Seriously, just stop. It is sucking precious moments from your day. Even if you spend just five minutes when you log onto Twitter, if you do that 20 times a day, you’ve lost over an hour and a half of work time. On Twitter!
  6. Get enough sleep. If you only get four hours of sleep, you might add an extra few hours to your work day, but you won’t work as efficiently and you’ll have to do more edits. You know how much you sleep you need to be at optimum productivity. Listen to your body.
  7. Eat foods that give you energy. Sugary snacks and coffee are not good long-term choices for productivity. Quality Health has an awesome list of foods that give you energy for work during the day that you should check out. Trade the soda for some orange juice and you’ll feel more energized already.
  8. Be methodical with articles. Think of your article as an intro, body, conclusion. If you’re stuck, instead of blankly staring at your computer screen, go through and write an intro for every article, then go back and outline the body, then go back and fill in the blanks. Become an article-writing factory without sacrificing quality.
  9. Listen to music without lyrics. I’m not saying that you have to give up Gaga during the day (heavens no!), but when you really need to get stuff done, skip the pop music for classical or instrumental music. You’ll be able to write faster and when there aren’t lyrics streaming through your head.
  10. Schedule posts ahead of time. If you’re a blogger, sit down and write your posts for the week when you’re inspired and on a roll. Instead of posting them all at once, which is pretty inefficient, schedule them to go up throughout the week. You’re already in blogging mode and inspired to write about your topic, so you can crank out five posts at once faster than the time it takes in total to write one post at a time throughout the week.
  11. Answer emails once per day. Instead of logging on to respond to clients every few hours, wait until the end of the day and answer them all in one swoop. This is especially helpful if you have a client who likes to send ten questions - in ten different emails. Rather than taking the time to reply ten times, you can reply just once in a single, efficient email.
  12. Keep a general cover letter and resume saved. Every time you apply to a job, your email should fit that specific client, but if you have a good start that is 99% done and just needs to be tweaked slightly, you’ll save a lot of time applying to jobs.
  13. Hire an editor. If you’re as bad at picking out your own typos as I am, hire an editor to look over the articles you write for clients. It’s easy to find a great editor for about $1 - $2 per page, and for that investment, you’ll do fewer edits (and as an added bonus, lose fewer clients!).
  14. Sign a single contract. Yes, every project you do with a client will be different, but that doesn’t mean you have to sign a new contract and go through the negotiation/emailing/printing/mailing process every few weeks. Sign one overall contract that dictates the work you do with a clause that says specifics of the contract will be discussed via email. Every time you start a new project with the client, just write up a quick one-page document that outlines the specs (word count, due date, payrate, etc) for that project, print it, and send it off. There’s no need for a 30-page contract every month.
  15. Set aside a specific time for housework. For example, you might do housework every night at 8 PM. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it goes when you do it all at once instead of doing dishes between articles, taking a break to vacuum in the middle of your work day, etc. It also gives you peace of mind - you’ll be able to concentrate on your work rather than feeling flustered about the housework you have to do, since you know you have time in the future set aside to do it.
  16. Pay bills once a month. Your cable is due on the 12th and your electricity is due on the 21st and your student loans are due on the 27th. So what? On the first of the month, sit down and pay everything. If you don’t have the money to pay everything at once, at least write out all the checks and get the envelopes ready, then stick them in the mail just before they’re due. You’ll save time if you do it all at once, rather than sitting down to write out checked every few days.
  17. Learn HTML. You’ll save so much time if you learn just a few simple tricks. The top things to learn how to do in HTML: bold text, italics, links, links using images, and bulleted/numbered lists.
  18. Get PayPal. If you don’t have a PayPal account already, please sign up. Yes, right now. I’ll wait. Got one? Good. Waiting for clients to send checks and having to go to the bank every week is just a waste of time. PayPal is convenient, easy to use, and very secure. Link it to your bank account and you’ll rarely have to visit your bank. Get the PayPal debit card, and you won’t even have to transfer money very often.
  19. Set up Auto-Save. Have Word auto-save your documents every so often. that way, if the power goes out or your computer dies or whatnot, you don’t have to start from complete scratch. Better yet, if you’re working on a huge project, email it to yourself at the end of every workday. If you lose it, you won’t completely have lost everything.
  20. Learn to multi-task. You can listen to a podcast or attend a webinar about writing while you get articles done. Hell, I’ve even participated in podcasts while working on articles. Sometimes, you have to give something your full attention, but when you have the opportunity to multi-task, take it.
  21. Invest in a laptop. You can get a decent laptop for under $700, and this allows you to work while you watch television, travel, wait for your kids at soccer practice, etc. You’ll get more done when you aren’t tied to a single location with a desktop.
  22. Get into a routine. My person routine is: wake up, answer emails, check the job boards, read my RSS feed, eat lunch, work on my daily to-do list. When you work in the same way every day, things go faster because you’ll have the routine embedded in you after just a few weeks.
  23. Don’t take phone calls during your work day. Make sure your friends and family members know not to call you during your work hours unless it is an emergency. Sure, you can add an extra hour onto your work day if a friend calls to talk for an hour, but it disrupts your rhythm, which means that extra hour probably translates into an hour and a half worth of work later.

Ok - your turn. What’s your best time-saving tip?

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