5 Habits of Highly Effective Freelancers

The flexibility freelancers have, has them the envy of many full-time employees. However, it takes hard work, commitment and sound business savvy to excel as a freelancer. In the SA Freelance Media Industry and Rates report 2017/18, respondents were found to be highly educated and skilled with 48% holding a Bachelor’s and/or Honours degree or similar, and just over 16% have a Master’s. Freelancers understand that they are a ‘business’ and that they need to treat themselves as such. Professional freelancers put Business insurance in place, they are expert at all time, and they know how to stay motivated.

The good news is that the habits of highly effective freelancers are easy to implement into your work routine:

  1. Don’t procrastinate

A boss breathing down your neck demanding a flawless PowerPoint by 11 am sharp goes a long way to quelling procrastination. An office environment provides a far greater sense of urgency. You are continuously prompted as to your progress on a project and if you don’t meet a deadline, not only will your boss make it well known to you, but the rest of the staff are also likely to hear about your failure. No one likes to look inefficient around their peers.

When freelancing you are still answerable to deadlines, so it is imperative that you put some simple non-negotiables into place to maximise your efficiency:

      Have a designated workspace

Even if you work from home, having a neat, organised office space is imperative to your freelance success. It is not conducive to productivity if some of your work is spread across the dining-room table and the other half on your coffee table. Being disorganised will make you want to walk away from the workload, and ‘’sort it out later.” You need ‘your space’ – that little haven with (at the very least) a desk, some area for filing and drawers for storage.

      Be efficient with your billing hours

As in all industries, time is money. You are likely to charge your client by the hour, or you may charge a project fee – you need to work out a fair freelance fee. Regardless, effective time management will affect your profitability. So, handle it wisely.

Nowadays, there are many time management Apps that freelancers can access. Two of the most popular Apps are:

Wunderlist  – this free App allows you to set due dates, reminders and to assign tasks

Memorigi – this free time management App will enable you to log and colour code tasks by day, week or month

  1. Separate home life from home-business life

67% of freelancers are women, which means many are juggling work and a demanding toddler when working from home. Add to this the plumber that is hooting at your gate and the friend who decided to pop by for tea, and the feeling of ‘being torn’ between home and business life can become exceedingly stressful.

You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you realise the importance of remaining professional. It’s quite simple: you need to put firm boundaries in place when you are working. Friends and family must respect that working in a home office is no different to a corporate office environment. These stipulations should include:

   making your office an ‘off-limit’ zone unless it’s an absolute emergency – make this clear to family and especially young children

   organising a childminder or asking the grandparents to entertain your children

   having set office hours, including your tea and lunch break

   organising for the maintenance man to call during your lunch hour, not whenever he pleases

   leaving the grocery shop until after work, or do a shop for the week on a Sunday

   leaving the household chores to before or after work, and getting the whole family to help

Creating a work/home balance is essential to your success, so be a little selfish if you have to.

  1. Pay attention to wellness and personal appearance

Closely tied to procrastination, is the temptation to snack throughout the day. Or to make a third cup of coffee in under an hour. Instead set yourself a tea and lunch break, like you would if you were working in an office. That way you’re more likely to eat healthily and have a beneficial, guilt-free break. Even look to download a Habit Tracking App.

It is also essential for your motivation and self-belief to get dressed like you were heading out to the office. To work from home in your pyjamas does little for the professionalism you need to project, even if it’s only to yourself. So, put on some makeup, brush your hair and choose an outfit that makes you feel good about yourself.

  1. Join business networks

Besides the obvious benefits of growing your business’s exposure, networking also gives a freelancer some company and people to bounce ideas off. Networks can go a long way to negating that feeling of working in isolation. The right networks like, Hello Boss Community, Cape Business Connect and Durban Entrepreneurs Club  can offer a sounding board and a sense of belonging.

They can be networks that meet in person at certain times, to networks on social media platforms. It can provide great comfort to hear what other freelancers and entrepreneurs are experiencing; you may find their challenges are similar. So, get yourself out there and learn the skills of small business networking.

  1. They take out Business insurance

As a freelancer, you may not think you need Business insurance, but that can be a risky decision. Depending on what industry you freelance for, your Business insurance needs may vary. Speak to an experienced insurer who can advise you as to exactly what cover you need.

As a freelancer, your contribution to a client’s project is an important one. What if your computer crashes or is stolen resulting in snowball effect ramifications for your client? You need to complete the magazine artwork in 2 days’ time, and the client has already paid for the ‘space.’ You need to be able to replace your computer pronto. Alternatively, what if a client blames you for the loss of their client and wants to take you to court? You’ll certainly be very grateful if you have Liability insurance in place to cover your legal costs.

Buildings insurance is also recommended if you own the property from where you work. This will ensure that the building is adequately protected from an insurance standpoint and should give you the flexibility to include additional cover if required.

The secrets to freelance success are simple and attainable. Put these simple secrets into place, and the world of freelance will be yours to conquer. Of course, it’s crucial you don’t get side-swiped by unexpected expenses – having the right Business insurance in place protects you from having to find large sums of money for unexpected things like lawsuits, fire or theft.  You may be a freelancer, but you are an entity in your own right – so try and see yourself as a business and put the right precautions in place. Liability insurance is required in almost every industry, so it’s unlikely you’re the exception. So, go on and live the dream! You’re the envy of us all.