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The quickest way to boost your hourly rate and claim back your free time

As a freelancer, working from home has many advantages.

The hours are flexible. There’s no long commute. And you can even work in your pajamas if you want to.

Because you’re the boss.

But, that means you’re responsible for keeping your business running. To make sure this happens, you need to be productive.

Productivity is a major factor in your business’s success

The more productive you work, the healthier and happier you and your business will be.

A key difference between freelancing and other forms of employment is that the longer a task takes, the less you get paid. For example:

Let’s say you get paid $1000 to complete a project.

It takes you 16 hours to get the work done. Including admin, proposal, etc.

That means you’re getting paid at $62.50 an hour.

Not too shabby, right?

But what if you could get the job done faster?

Do the same work in 14 hours and you’d be making $71.40/hr

Save another 2 hours you’d be on $83.33/hr

If you could get so productive that you cut the task down to only 10 hours, you’d be making $100/hr.

Working faster effectively ups your hourly rate.

It also means you have more time to spend enjoying life and doing the things you want. Like spending time with kids and catching up with friends.

After all, isn’t that the real reason we all take up freelancing?

How do you increase your productivity?

The good news is, it’s actually quite easy. Here are my 10 top ways to start working faster and smarter.

1. Cut your ‘to-do’ list in half

Each morning, sit down and prioritise 3-5 tasks you must get done that day. To help prioritise these tasks, look at:

  • Your deadlines
  • What’s most important
  • What’s going to make you money

Because these tasks are the most vital to your success.

It’s important this list is also achievable.

Ticking those tasks off your to-do list will give you a feeling of accomplishment. Which will keep your enthusiasm and energy high, and momentum going.

Another good trick is to divide larger tasks into smaller, more manageable subtasks.

For example – breaking down updating your website into manageable chunks:

  1. Keyword research
  2. Write copy for the home page
  3. Find and prepare images
  4. Update webpage and publish
  5. ….

And so on until your website is complete.

2. Use the Pomodoro technique

The idea is to break down work into intervals (pomodoros), separated by short breaks. After 4 consecutive pomodoros, take a longer break.

The technique looks like this:

  1. Decide on the task to be done
  2. Set the pomodoro timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper
  5. Take a 3-5 minute break and repeat
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes

Keep going in this pattern for as long as you want to work.

It’s important that you remove all distractions while working on a task. These will interrupt your flow and focus. 

Here is a great Pomodoro tracker app to get you started.

3. Think first and then do

This seems obvious, I know. But it’s amazing how often I see people not doing this. They finish a task only to realise they’ve worked a lot longer and harder than they needed too.

The lesson: be clear on the details before you begin and plan a logical order to complete the task.

The goal: try to eliminate both unnecessary work and redoing of work when completing a task (rework).

An important point here is that rework of tasks is sometimes necessary for progress on a project. Be aware of this and manage it correctly. Only spend the time necessary on these tasks to achieve progress.

4. Work systematically

Where possible, work on one task at a time. And, then move on to the next task once the current task is complete.

This way you’ll see yourself making progress  (great for motivation), and you don’t create a neverending to-do list (bad for motivation).

5. Find your most productive time to work

Everyone has a time of day they work best. Find yours.

Me, I’m a morning person. So, I make sure I do the tasks that need my most concentration and creativity before lunchtime. Because I know, if I leave these until this afternoon, they’ll take me at least twice as long to complete.

I save the afternoon for jobs that require less brainpower and are more methodical and process driven.

6. Remove distractions

Keeping your workspace distraction free is essential to being productive. This includes both electronic notifications and physical distractions.

Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean interruptions are ok. Be clear with your family that when it’s work time, you’re to be left alone (unless there’s an emergency…then, by all means, interrupt!).

7. Make the most of your time (not at a desk)

Just because you’re not ‘working’, doesn’t mean you can’t be productive.

The next time you take the dog for a walk or have to take the kids to the park, pop your headphones in. Use the time to catch up on those podcasts you’ve been meaning to listen too.

Waiting in line at the supermarket? Why not read a few interesting blog posts you booked marked for earlier.

Think about your day and I’m sure you’ll find lots of little opportunities to get things done.

8. Eat right

What you eat can play a big part in how productive you are.

Foods high in processed sugar will give you a quick energy burst but can leave you feeling flat pretty quickly.

While chowing down large portions, heavy meals and carb loaded dishes are a surefire way to send you to sleep. Or at least leave you feeling unfocused and unmotivated to work.

Instead, eat light, fresh meals to keep your attention and productivity up. 

  • I find almonds or walnuts make great in-between meal snacks as you don’t need to eat a lot to keep you feeling full.
  • For a quick pick me up, I turn to a fresh apple. The crunch and natural sugars reinvigorate me for the next working session.

Here are some more tips on eating right to boost your energy and motivation.

(Please keep in mind any allergies you might have…)

9. Exercise

Exercise is a great way to clear your mind and get you refocused on your tasks ahead.

A light jog in the morning gets me ready to start my day. While a short walk after lunch can break me out of a mid-afternoon slump.

I find push ups, sit ups or squats perfect for Pomodoro breaks.

Everyone is different, so I recommend finding out what works best for you.

10. Add ‘motivation’

Someone once said, ‘If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done’.

I think you’ll agree with me, this is very true.

While I don’t recommend actually leaving tasks to the last minute, you can recreate this feeling to achieve similar results.

The next time you’re lacking some motivation, try unplugging your laptop and working without a powerpoint in close reach. You’ll surprise yourself how fast you can work when you’ve got a dying battery to contend with.

Another trick I use is rewarding myself when I achieve a big milestone. Or, complete a task I’ve been avoiding. It could be booking that big holiday, or as simple as a glass of wine at the end of a long week.

Either way, when you can see the reward, you’re going to work harder to make sure achieve it.

So there you have it

Increasing your productivity is not hard.

By making a few simple tweaks to your day, you can maximise how much you get done. Boost your hourly rate. And, have more time to do the things you want to do.

Over to you

Do you already use any of the techniques or have others you find really boost your productivity working at home? Comment below.

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Written by Josh Rose.

SEO copywriter. Word lover. Addicted to travel.

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