Posts Tagged ‘freelancing’

Productivity Tips For Freelancers

December 28, 2014

Like many freelancers I struggle to be productive.

It’s hardly surprising. No fixed timetable, no boss, no office, no hard division between our private time and our work time. I reckon I must spend an average of 9 or 10 hours in front of my computer a day. But I probably do a maximum of four or five hours serious graft in that time.

To a certain extent I am willing to accept that. I like checking my Facebook, commenting on a few photos and maybe toing and froing on one or two message streams. I don’t have any work colleagues after all, so this is part of my day’s social interaction. And as my mind takes a long time to wake up, I am also more than happy to kill the first half or full hour of the day reading Arsenal news, rather than cracking a whip over my own back.

Some light time wasting at the beginning of the day is enjoyable and part of the fun of not having to report to “the man”. Rather it’s the ongoing procrastination, flicking through Facebook photos of people I hardly know, or shamelessly letting myself get click baited by distraction machines like Youtube, Huffpost and gossips rags, that I am resolved to fight against. For me the issue has become more than just not getting as much work done as I should…. it’s that, by wasting as much time as I do, I’m effectively preventing myself from doing lots of cool stuff which I currently feel I don’t have time for. A more productive working day could see me finish at 8pm (I usually start work at 2 or 3pm, having got up between 12 and 2pm!), freeing myself for socialising, eating out, or at least watching a great film online in the evening. Right now my most productive working times tend to be from 10pm to 2am. That’s partly my natural nocturnal-orientated rhythm but it’s also partly because, during the afternoon, I can say to myself “relax, no need to hurry, you’re not going to bed before 2am anyway so you’ve still got hours to get this done… maybe there’s some important Arsenal news since you last checked 45 minutes ago…!?” In other words, because I’ve given myself all day to do things, these things don’t really get started on until night, when I could be at a dinner, concert, dance class etc.

Leaving things until the last minute is a terrible habit (that many suffer from!) which has an additional sting in the tail, at least for me, as doing these last minutes tasks often keeps me awake even longer that I planned. Maybe I wanted to go to bed at 3am, but suddenly it’s 5am and tomorrow’s day will start even later than usual and is likely to be less productive as well.

One remedy that I’ve noticed really works – and therefore one that I want to try to consciously implement much more of in 2015 – is setting deadlines during the middle of my working day. Ie. instead of aiming to complete tasks 1, 2 and 3 before going to bed, it’s much better to give each job an individual deadline so that task 1 needs to be done before lunch, task 2 before dinner and task 3 before bed. This method helps keep me focused throughout the whole day, not just at the end of it. Plus if you have something cool you want to do in the evening then it’s great to commit to that and use that as a final deadline… for example just now, as I was writing this article, my friend called and invited me to the pub at 9pm tonight. Suddenly this blog post, which probably would have got done around midnight is being bashed out at superspeed with a deadline of 8.30pm… whilst I know that a rewarding pint is waiting for me once this is published! Clearly for 2015 then I need to hardcode some of these regular rewards into my agenda, so that both the cool stuff and the work stuff gets done.

Another important tip for productivity I intend to implement in 2015, which comes very much from the Tim Ferriss school of thought, and was also rammed home to me during a recent TBEX talk by Tim Leffel, is the importance of hiring other people to do tasks that a) need doing but are not important / impactful enough for you to waste your own time on and/or b) you don’t have the proper skills for, so end up taking you a wasteful amount of time to achieve. The logic is simple. If for example your time is worth 25 GBP an hour, then you shouldn’t spend an hour doing something that someone else can do (often better) for 10 or 15 GBP an hour. Pay someone to do this work and free yourself up for doing the tasks that bring in the bigger money. (I completely agree with their thinking on this one, but with the caveat that this has to be balanced carefully… I am rubbish at Photoshop tasks for example, but if I have to spend an hour anyway finding someone to do it and then telling them what I need, plus paying them, maybe it is better for me to simply muddle through. If it’s a regular task it becomes different of course).

So far I’ve already found an assistant to help me on one of my projects, Barcelona Life travel guide (a franchise of Local Life), and by letting them take care of some of the basic tasks like keep our news and events calender up to date, and our social media profiles too, then I can spend more time optimising some of our key pages to be friendlier for search engines, or building business relationships. Both of which should add to the site’s revenue. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Right, I feel a bit fraudulent at the moment, because the title of this blog post suggested a long list of useful productivity tips… however maybe it’s best to keep it to two or three really good ones:

1) Set several task deadlines during the day to:
a) stay motivated, and get the important stuff done
b) avoid distractions
c) ensure reward / leisure time happens (after all without that why do we work anyway???)

2) Hire assistants to make sure that simple, routine tasks are handled at a low cost, and your time is spent doing the most impactful things that help achieve your goals.

Should be easy enough right? As I move into 2015, with a lot of potential opportunities in front of me, I also have to decide what I’m going to focus on and what will have the most impact, but I guess that’s a post / problem for another day. Finally do check out the link above to Tim Leffel’s talk as I went through it again last night, and it’s a really good one for keeping things in perspective and helping you achieve your goals. I nearly didn’t attend the talk I must say, but it gave me a very valuable kick of the backside in terms of eliminating bad work practices and hopefully moving forward with my various projects, to bring in more income – and more leisure time! The two don’t have to be incompatible if you are smart.

Freelancer’s Working Timetable 2013

January 2, 2013

Holy sh!t… it’s 2013 already! Last time I updated this blog was to have a bitch about the cons of freelancing! And that was way back in May 2012. Safe to say a lot has happened since then. My main project Barcelona Life travel guide, made a nice recovery from Google’s Panda and Penguin updates and is flying again, after that little wobble, and there’s also been an uptake in interest from advertisers. I guess Spain’s economic crisis also means that more and more local businesses in Barcelona are relying on foreign coin, so obviously BL is a great platform for them in that respect.

Meanwhile Urban Travel Blog finally launched a new design and is now actively looking for premium partners in the travel industry to work with. We’ve got one almost signed up, so let’s hope others follow suit! Overall my strategy is simply to publish more and more of our flagship content, which are our (long) weekend guides to the world’s best cities, plus of course keep the travel stories coming and hope the traffic continues to rise! Hush hush but there’s also side project in development (idea phase only!) here, so let’s see how that goes.

After hearing that my favourite wine blog was about to close, I’ve also started helping out over at Catavino.net developing a new travel section, with gourmet guides to Barcelona and beyond, plus a tours section where we put their readers in contact with some of the best wine tour providers in Spain and Portugal and help them book a great trip or experience.

Get Sailing is another project I’m heavily involved in… 2012 was a slightly painful year of experimentation and possibly too many meetings and not enough action, but we’ve relaunched the site on WordPress which should enable us to dramatically increase the functionality of the site simply by using plug ins (rather than programming from scratch). Once we’ve got the site looking a fraction better I need to wave my magic content and SEO wand to get us much more traffic. We’ve got a good search engine but no where near enough visitors to take bookings just yet. Naturally I’ve got a good plan cooking how to fast track this a bit!

So 2013 looks to be one full of opportunities! The main threat being spreading myself too thinly. As I’m quite committed to all the above however there’s no chance to pulling out of any of them just yet – plus I can’t really afford to pay anyone to replace me anyhow – so what is needed is a good work ethic and maximum efficiency. In fact today, January 1st 2013, I’ve overcome my hangover to work out a daily working schedule which I hope will keep me on track, breaking down my hours into specific activities and ensuring that not too much time gets wasted on things like checking email and social media – or even worse pointless Facebook browsing etc!

A typical day might look like this, with three main windows for getting important tasks done.

12:00 – Get up! (Yes I like to lie in:).
13:00 – Check and reply to emails, social media if time
14:00 – Major task I
16:00 – Lunch
16:30 – Major task II
18:30 – Check and reply to emails, social media if time
19:00 – Siesta
20:00 – Dinner
21:00 – Major task III
01:00 – TV series / Spanish reading
02:00 – Reading
03:00 – Sleep

Importantly two of them are in the afternoon, so that if I do decided to go out or play football in the evening I still have two thirds of my usual working day to get things done. Last year, because I relied so much on my evening/late night work shifts, when I did take a break it was almost liking taking the whole day off. Ok, let’s see how it goes! I plan to write down motivational goals and rules as well and print them off, to keep me focused. Plus I also plan to have a work window on both Saturdays and Sundays, at least during January to April, when the summer fun and travels are not a major distraction.

Of course if you’ve got any tips on being super efficient in 2013 please do share them! Especially if you’re a fellow freelancer, who can get distracted easily!

Freelancing: Pros and Cons

May 22, 2012

Many people dream of the day they can go freelance. No more bosses, no more alarm clocks, live anywhere in the world you want… there’s a fantasy about freelancing that many office workers subscribe to, but – a bit like a week’s holiday in Faliraki – the reality is rarely up to expectations.

On many levels freelancing sucks, and here are some things you should consider before you decide to chuck in the corporate gig, with its free gym membership, health insurance and generous pension.

1) Money. Many freelancers think that they will earn more if they leave their job and service their clients directly. In fact the chances are they will earn considerably less. What you have to bear in mind when you go freelance is that you won’t get paid a single cent for work you haven’t done… unlike with standard employment where you get 25 days holiday, bank holidays, bonuses, benefits, pensions etc. etc. And sick leave. And just days when you can’t be arsed. Your boss may not be impressed if you do bugger all all day, but unless you get sacked you’ll still get your full pay at the end of the month… hangovers, colds and even bad moods are all expensive if you’re a freelancer. To have the same perks and bank balance as a freelancer you’ll probably have to earn at least 25% more than you did as an employee (statistic sourced from the Duncan Rhodes School of Rough Guessing), and if you ever get seriously ill/injured, you’re completely screwed.

2) Admin. Imagine a world where you go to work every day, bust your balls, and then at the end of the month the money owing to you appears in your bank account. Now imagine a world where you go to work every day, bust your balls even harder, and then look at your bank balance to find no one has paid you. In fact you still have invoices outstanding from 6/12/18 months ago. Imagine a world where every day you get up knowing some mofos owe you money and it’s gonna be a major pain in the arse to get it from them. Welcome to my world!!! Not only that but you know those nice girls in accounts. They don’t give a shit about you any more. You’re going to have to try and work out, despite a complete lack of training, how much tax you owe the government every year. And yes it’s a lot more painful paying it back to the tax man in one lump sum after Christmas, rather than have it arrive, minus the amount owing, every month. As time is money, you’d better go back to point one and factor in how much extra time you’re now going to have to dedicate to arduous, tedious, soul-destroying invoice-chasing, general admin. and tax returns.

3) Escaping the office… not as good as it sounds! I always used to think to myself if I ever went to jail I can’t see why solitary confinement would be that bad. I’d rather that than be shut in a cell with a load of rapists, madmen and murderers. But if you’ve ever read the Count of Monte Cristo you’ll realise this is simply not true. Man is a social animal and even bad company is better than no company. Freelancing is a lonely world, and whereas I enjoy sleeping in in the mornings, what I wouldn’t give for a few colleagues I could joke with, flirt with, gossip about etc etc ever day of the week. The office is also useful for helping you maintain a work life balance. You’re in the office you’re at work. You’re out of the office. Fuck work! When you work from home (as with most freelancers) it’s hard to know when you’re at work and when you’re not… and for me at least, I tend to feel I’m always at work. There’s always something important I could be doing. It may sound strange, but the office and the office environment is the thing I miss most about my previous life as an employee. No cuties wear a short skirt around my house, no one cares about the latest Arsenal results and there’s no one to call me “Rat Boy” and throw paperclips at my head when I’m on the phone.

I guess the proof is in the pudding though. Despite all of the above I’m still freelancing, and not planning on changing any time soon. I get to spend a lot of time in cool cities, like Barcelona and Krakow, I can go on (working) holidays whenever I want (even if I rarely do), I can sleep in, I am always available to party if some hot girls want to go out on a Monday night. I am free to work on the projects that interest me most, and take them in the direction I want to take them in… without having to ask anyone for permission. Freelancing = freedom, basically. But the life of an employee is a cushdie life of slavery alright and that’s something you should bear in mind when you’re taking a corporate cockshafting this summer. You may have sold your soul, but chances are you got a damn good price.