Many people are intimidating by freelance work because of the lack of structure. When you work for a company or in an office, you have work hours, an office or desk, a lunch hour, etc. Most of all, you have other people nearby to hold you accountable. You can’t spend all day watching Netflix because, well, people will notice! Being a freelance web designer is challenging because you have to be responsible for your own time. You have to be disciplined. You have to hold yourself accountable.
The great thing about freelancing is that you can work when and how you are most productive. If you work better in the evening, work in the evening! If you work better in PJs, sitting cross-legged on the floor, go for it! No commute or dressing up for work if you don’t want to. All this freedom can be tempting. The best way I’ve found to make freelancing easier is to create your own structure. Here’s how I structure my days to make the most of my time and my freedom.
My favorite part about freelancing is that I can get up whenever I want to. I don’t even have to set an alarm! I usually wake up naturally sometime between 7 and 9am. If I’m not feeling well or just in one of those moods, I’ll sleep in as late as noon! (I haven’t been doing this recently, but I used to! I don’t recommend it.)
I’d like to say I’m one of those people who get’s up early, eats a hearty breakfast, works out, reads the newspaper, and then starts working. In reality, I check my email and social media from bed and reply if I can. I spend some time playing with my cat before showering and making some coffee. Despite my lazy tendencies, I don’t work in my PJs. It makes it too easy to want to slip back into bed later on in the day when I get drowsy. Minus the shoes, I always dress as though I’m going to go out. If I need an extra boost I’ll even put on makeup, just to get myself in the mindset that I really am “going to work”. I often eat some toast or fruit with my coffee at my desk while I get started working.
Thankfully, I now have a designated room in my house that I use as my office. I used to work in my bedroom or living room. Now, I have a clean, fairly minimally designed room that I can use to focus. (Although there’s a cat bed in the corner for when my kitty wants to visit.) I answer the emails and social media messages I couldn’t answer in bed. I pull out my planner and get down to it.
I try to tackle the things I don’t want to do first. Getting them out of the way means I have something to look forward to later and I don’t lose momentum. If I don’t do this, I still get that 2pm slump after lunch and it becomes really hard to not check out early.
- Set an alarm and wake up early EVERY DAY to get your body used to early mornings.
- Have something to eat or drink in the morning.
- Get dressed if it helps you feel more productive and energized.
- Don’t work in bed.
I usually work until about 4 or 5pm. (This is when my boyfriend comes home from work and I end up getting distracted.) I often keep music playing while I work or even sometimes have a TV show I’ve seen a million times (like FRIENDS) on in the background. I’m the kind of person who focuses better if there’s extra noise in the room. I have a hard time thinking in complete silence. Everyone works differently. One of the best parts of being a freelance web designer is that you can work in the environment you’re most comfortable in.
I try to avoid social media, but it’s tough. Part of my job involves being active on social media, interacting with people, doing research, and participating in Facebook groups. It’s a struggle sometimes to ignore the cat videos and focus on work. If you get easily sucked into social media platforms, I recommend finding a blocker that will prevent you from accessing those sites during designated hours.
Before I stop working, I take a look at my planner and make sure I’ve crossed off what I’ve accomplished. I check the next day to make sure I am prepared for what’s coming up. For instance, if I have an early meeting, I make sure to set an alarm to make sure I don’t oversleep and do some prep so that I have less to do in the morning.
- Have a time in the afternoon or evening when you make yourself stop working. Schedule your work life and personal life as separate parts of your day.
- Minimize distraction as much as possible.
- Always prepare for the next day.
My evenings are my extra times to work some more or not work. Sometimes I need some time away from a project or problem in order to tackle it. If I’m struggling with something during the day, I’ll often drop it. Later on that day I often get another rush of energy around 7pm or 8pm. I’ll often hunker down for another 2 hours or so and get some more things off my list between those times. I don’t go out a lot, so I’m usually still home anyway and it’s easy to pick up my laptop again.
I check my email and social media consistently, even when I’m not working. Most of my clients know that if they email me at 10pm, they can get an answer pretty quickly. This isn’t always good. I get anxiety very easily and not being able to sleep because emails keep lighting up my phone isn’t good. If you want to have your work and private time separate, make it clear to your clients that you do have office hours and will not answer messages outside of those times.
- Working outside of your personally set “work hours” is fine, but don’t over do it. Life happens between answering emails!
Freelance Web Designer Tools
Here’s a list of tools, websites, and resources I use daily to keep me going.
My Planner – I couldn’t operate without my planner. Since I’ve started using it, my business has begun to grow and things have been falling into place. I use it for the big and the little stuff to keep myself from getting overwhelmed. Check out this post on how my planner changed my workflow entirely. If you’re getting geared up for 2017 and want a luxurious planner of your very own, enter here to win one! (Giveaway ends December 18th, 2016)
Waves App – My friend Kristy told me about this site and it’s a life saver. It links up with your bank accounts and tracks all your income and expenses. You can categorize and label everything, then create amazing reports for yourself or for tax season! You can also create invoices and do a ton of other amazing stuff. The site is very user-friendly and not too techy.
Hopper – I recently discovered this site and it’s one of the only Instagram scheduling tools that actually posts for you. (Instagram has lots of lame API rules about not posting) I highly recommend it if you want to automate your Instagram profile.
Facebook – It may seem like a fun place to keep up with friends and watch videos, but Facebook has been one of my most powerful tools. Aside from having my business Page and ocassionally running ads, it’s helped me connect with tons of other business owners. They have helped me learn and some have even hired me for my services. Check out this post I wrote on how Facebook helps me drive traffic to my site.
Hubspot CRM – This thing is like magic. It does what all good CRMs do: helps you keep track of your sales funnels, reminds you when to contact leads, keeps track of contacts, lets you schedule phone calls and meetings, etc. However, it has some other amazing features too. My favorites: allowing you to sync up with your gmail account to schedule emails to send later AND lets you know when people have opened your emails! Amazing.
Google Drive – No brainer. It was probably the first tool in my kit when I started my business. I create everything here. Sheets are particularly useful for me, from keeping track of client info to sharing information to calculating my budgets to making social media posts schedules.
SignNow – It’s a bit pricey, but lately I’ve found myself really needed a strong and professional way to get contracts to my clients and having them sign. SignNow is incredibly helpful and every client I’ve worked with has had no problem using it.
Simple Bank – If you have a bank account already, I recommend Simple for a business account. It’s free to set up and their whole thing is simplicity! No fees, to extras, no lines of credit, no frills. Literally just a bank account. And my favorite part is that you can sort your money into different goals. For example, I have goals for my bills, business expenses, savings, taxes, and personal. Every time I get paid, I split the money up and put some into each goal!
PayPal – Last but not least. PayPal is how I process all my payments. I recently started using it for invoicing which is a million times easier than using a third party site. I’ve linked it to my bank accounts so I can organize my money the way I want.
Are you a freelancer? What do your days look like?