Editorial note: All Guest Post authors share their views and experiences, and do not represent Week of Saturdays.
As someone hoping to become a successful, self-employed freelancer, I have been reading a lot on how to thrive in the space. Thanks to the authors and leadership at Week of Saturdays, one thing is clear: Freelancing gives flexibility but demands sweat.
To ease into my transition, here are some habits I’ll take from my 9-5 life to my freelancing work.
Have you ever looked up the definition for punctuality? I have always known it to mean showing up on time but I wasn’t entirely right.
Here it goes: The characteristic of being able to complete a required task or fulfill an obligation before or at a previously designated time. Emphasis on ‘previously designated time.’
For a 9-5er, this is any time stated in my employment letter, but as a freelancer or remote worker, it is any time within the specific duration set aside for that project.
You may think that working on your own, you would always find time to do things before the deadline but you’ll find that you have the tendency to postpone tasks until you absolutely have to do them.
There have been instances where I didn’t meet a deadline because I underestimated how much time a task would take and I ran out of time. This makes starting early crucial to punctuality. Consistent lateness on submissions and decisions will culminate in failing your clients and ruining your business.
Let me state the obvious. Being organized isn’t only about arranging stuff on your desk. This is why you can have a clean desk and still be unproductive.
Organizing is one skill that helps fight the temptation of procrastinating and missing deadlines.
Below are three steps to follow to get organized:
2. Have Deadlines
3. Make room for emergencies.
Doing these will ensure you have structure and order to your activities, thereby boosting productivity and reducing inefficiency.
Of course, you cannot plan every second of the day, but can create a realistic order of activities that work. This comes in handy on days when you handle multiple projects.
Failing to get organized can lead down the black hole of confusion, overthinking, procrastination, anxiety, and inefficiency.
On my birthday in January, my boss wrote a short message on our group page:
“Martha is an affable person. One of the few people willing volunteer to participate in any thing company-related. Committed to her work. Very innovative and open to changes. Yet to see her angry…”
Of another colleague he wrote “Very funny and always smiling, also yet to see him angry. Very reliable and very focused. Serious with his work and delivers on time. Always ready to learn, which is the mark of excellence.”
These were based on his observations and interaction with us. His words about my colleague are spot on; I can attest to that.
My point is, you have your work ethic whether you realize it or not. And they are seen and felt by those you work with with often.
How would you like to be described when it comes to your work?
Delivering as promised will make you known as reliable, showing up as planned makes you punctual, and doing the right thing no matter who’s watching says you have integrity.
Without good personal work ethic, you may not survive in the corporate or freelancing world.
At the centre of every misunderstanding is poor communication. Avoid it.
Communicate early, communicate often, communicate well. It shows proactivity and seriousness.
Better still, have a system for your communication with clients.
Depending on what the project is about, you can send weekly reports or schedule calls for specific times of the week or both.
These elements are used on a daily basis in the corporate world and should be maintained in your freelance and remote work.
Also ensure clarity in your communications especially in virtual meetings. To ensure alignment, follow up with an email after meetings.
A point worth noting while building your communication system is time zones and difference, possible language barrier, and clients’ preference. Your client might be overseas and you must consider this when communicating.
You became a freelancer probably because you prefer working alone but you can’t run away from people. It’s even more difficult when the person is your employer. That’s where tolerance comes in.
Freelancing offers the opportunity of having clients from anywhere in the world. This means different cultures, different orientations, different opinions, different ways of working.
Tolerance is being patient, being open and understanding enough to accept such diverse opinions.
Be accommodating and open minded; these are the hallmarks of tolerance.
It could be as little as a golden star sticker in your journal.
I was elated at my boss’ birthday message. The fact that he had noticed my volunteerism and mentioned it to everyone on our group chat motivated me to do more.
We all love to be appreciated. But who is there to celebrate your victories as a freelancer but yourself (and sometimes your clients)?
Go ahead, pat yourself on the back. Have an ice cream, buy a T-shirt (you know that one with the inscription), buy yourself that foot massage.
Celebrating your little victories is one of the best ways to stay motivated and prevent burnout.
It makes transitioning to new projects much easier, as you will feel like you are starting an exciting journey all over again.
You can look up ideas on how to reward yourself or incorporate what was being done at your corporate office if possible.
Most importantly, choose what makes you happy.
Our lives can’t be about work all the time. Work or freelancing in this case, is just a means to an end.
What is that end for you? To own a sustainable business, travel the world or retire early? Set time aside to follow your dreams and keep yourself happy enough to keep going.
Review your personal goals, revisit them and revise them. How can they fit into your activities or how will your current activity help you realize those goals?
Are you doing too much at a time? Slow down. Is there a major area you are not being attentive to? Make room for that.
Personal development gives you purpose and better focus on your goals. It is only when you are happy about achieving your personal goals that you can help others achieve theirs.
We are in the age where things easily go obsolete. Corporate institutions are forced to keep up with standards and acquire the necessary certificates and standardization so as to remain relevant. Same goes for employees.
Certification and standardization are critical in freelancing; a freelancer doubles as a company and an employee.
Just as how you would get higher educations and qualifications in order for a promotion in the corporate world, you must do same in freelancing to get the best gigs and stay relevant. Your business depends on it.
You are your own boss now, so you own no one an explanation right? Wrong, you still do.
You owe yourself and your clients an explanation for your actions. It’s called accountability. It is the act of remaining responsible. It’s a easier in the corporate world. I report to my manager and she reports to our CEO. It is part of my KPI (key performance metric) to send a report on my activities at close of business every day. It is annoying at times but it works.
If you had such accountability systems while working in the corporate world, use them in your remote work or create one for yourself.
- Work from a to do list (there is satisfaction and motivation in seeing tasks checked off as done)
- Journal/document every aspect of your project (A spreadsheet will work for this)
- Review your goals often (check why you started the project and keep your priorities straight)
In summary, be accountable for every task, be accountable every day, be accountable every month. If none of these work for you for, get an accountability partner – someone you respect and can take instructions from. Tell them what you want and let them help you.
It is easy to be accountable to a client, but remaining accountable to ourselves is an act we all need to master.