10 Ways Freelancers Stay Organized

Let me preface this list by saying that I’m no Marie Kondo. Since joining the freelance world, I’ve struggled with finding balance and focus in my day-to-day. But here are a few tips that have really helped me to stay organized and get more work done. I’m challenging myself to make 2019 a year of personal and professional growth, and I’m committed to keeping myself on track to reach my goals. Hopefully these tips can help you, too!

  1. Declutter your desk.

    I see you clinging to the edge of your desk desperately trying to hang on amidst a growing pile of paper and assorted knickknacks. Reclaim your desk. Relegate your desk toys to the bookshelf where they belong. Go through those papers, file anything important (tax season will be here before you know it) and get rid of the rest. Trust me. You’ll be focused on your work instead of staring at that half-eaten Kind Bar and wondering how long it’s been sitting there…

  2. Schedule your client work in "chunks" of time. AKA Batching

    Being a freelancer is a multitaskers dream. Sometimes I feel like an over-caffeinated hummingbird flitting back and forth between projects. This is a bad habit that I’ve tried really hard to break. To help combat this, I’ve been blocking off my calendar and scheduling time to work on specific projects. For example, I’ll work on one project for a client from 9:00 to 12:00, have lunch and work on another project, take a training etc. from 1:00 to 4:00.

    I work best in three hour blocks, but the key is to make one item your singular focus for whatever chunk of time you choose. I suppose you can use a planner to do this as well, but I have the handwriting of a serial killer (as my dear friends and family have often reminded me), so I opt for digital.

  3. Get dressed. (Do as I say, not as I do.)

    We really should be putting on pants, people.

    I’m the first to admit that it’s easier said than done. No one can see me in my home working in my pajamas day in and day out, but lounging around in the same clothes I slept in doesn’t energize me in the same way that putting on “real” clothes does. By “real” clothes, I totally mean sweatpants –– but the fancy ones.

  4. Plan your meals ahead of time. (I know.)

    Half the time when I’m working, I’m so focused that I forget to eat lunch entirely. That is, until about 2:00pm when my stomach adamantly reminds me that eating is a thing we do. It’s much easier when I have a few easy meals on hand that I can whip up quickly for lunch and dinner.

    Bonus tip: It also helps if I eat something light for lunch. If I don’t follow Rule #3 AND eat a heavy lunch, a midday derailment nap is all but guaranteed.

    I also just ordered a few cookbooks in an attempt to get myself off to a healthier start for 2019. New year, same me, but now with 25% less butter.

  5. Don't use your personal email for your business.

    I know your type. Because I WAS you. You’ve been using your same college-issued email for 10 years, and you signed up for any and every email list with reckless abandon promising yourself that you’d unsubscribe later once you took advantage of whatever promo was being offered. Well, you didn’t unsubscribe, did you? Now you get more emails than you can possibly read in a given day. Create a business email right now. It’s professional and your client emails won’t get lost amidst all your Target promos and daily horoscope emails.

  6. Send your invoices out on time.

    Listen, Linda, your clients don’t want to receive your bill on the 1st one month and the 15th the next. They have to budget their expenditures, too. Set yourself a reminder to send your invoices to your client on the same day every month. It's professional, plus you need money to eat.

    Luckily, you don’t have to create your own invoices from scratch. My go-to for time tracking and invoice creation is this great free resource, AndCo. I have my client invoices set up and ready to go each month in a template customized with my branding. All I have to do is enter a send date and a due date. Boom. Done. ( I know this sounds like and ad, but it’s not. I just love them and they make my life much easier.)

  7. Schedule time for exercise.

    You need to see the sunlight and take breaks for your mental and physical wellbeing. Luckily, I have a dog who reminds me that the outside is a place that we need to see every now and then unless I want to play tug-of-war with a stolen sock for hours on end. (I don’t.)

    That being said, I am making an effort to get up and stretch and get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Take care of yourself because A. if you’re a freelancer, you’ve probably got a crazy high deductible that won’t cover anything aside from you falling down a well. B. It’s good to take a break and clear your mind every once in a while. You deserve a stroll in the sunshine. (Change out of those pajamas first.)

  8. Add upcoming projects to your calendar for the week and evaluate your workload Sunday night.

    This should be common sense. If you have client meetings, phone calls, etc. you kind of need to know when they are. I like to add projects big and small to my Google calendar, so I know exactly what my week looks like. I also use this time to schedule trainings and continuing education for myself, so I have no excuses when it comes to expanding my skillset. Sunday night is the perfect time to batch your work. I can confirm that wine helps this process.

  9. Limit your TV and non-work internet use during working hours.

    Resist the temptation to pick up your phone every five seconds and mindlessly scroll through the social abyss. As a social media manager, this is something I absolutely struggle with during the day. It’s so easy for me to pick up my phone to check whether everything posted, if there are any questions or comments that need addressing, etc.

    I try to focus on whatever I need to review and get the hell outta there. Otherwise, I’ll end up venturing down the rabbit hole, and I won’t come up for air until I land on a Kardashian and realize that I’m in too deep. The same goes for Netflix. “Are you still watching?” No, I’m not, you siren.

  10. Once a month, abandon your responsibilities for a few hours in the middle of the day to go to the movies by yourself.

Ok, this isn't something everyone does, but I do! One time I went to the movies and I was the only person in the theater, which was really cool until a preview for a horror movie came on and I had to hug my knees so no monsters could tickle my ankles.

When you're a freelancer, it's often hard to tell when your workday begins and ends. It’s not uncommon to find yourself working in the late evening, on the weekend, ON VACATION, etc. It's ok to take advantage of your flexible schedule and do something for yourself every now and then that you were never able to do in your 9 to 5. Be kind to yourself because you’ve earned it. Live a little.

Anyway, in the spirit of really treating myself, I make it a point to go to the movies at one of those theaters where you get to pour your own butter on your popcorn, but that’s just me.

So much for 25% less butter in 2019!