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“Secrets” to Successfully Working Alone

by Laura Spencer

on January 30, 2013

in Freelancing Basics

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As a freelancer, it’s likely that you work alone–probably from home.

While working alone may sound ideal if you’ve had to deal with a difficult boss or difficult coworkers, working alone is harder than it seems.

When you’re working by yourself, it’s easy to put things off or get distracted. What makes it even harder is that many clients don’t expect you to provide a status on your progress–they just expect you to get the work done. What you need is a plan to help you get things done when you work alone.

In this post, I share several “secret” freelancing success tips that will help you to get things done. (Even though these tips may seem obvious, many freelancers do not use them. So essentially, they might as well be secrets for many freelancers.) If you enjoyed this post, you may also like 33+ Real Reasons Why YouĆ¢??re Not Getting Anything Done.

Secret #1: Get the Details

Without a boss to find out exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing and to assign the work to you, you’re left to figure out what to do on your own. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix.

Your easy fix is simply this–ask questions. That’s right, make the client describe what they one done by asking questions. Keep asking until you are sure you really understand the work.

Getting the right details is crucial to succeeding at a freelancing project. Without those all-important details, you could waste hours (or even days) working on something the client doesn’t even want.

Secret #2: Plan Your Work

Time management is a crucial part of freelancing success. As a freelancer, it’s up to you to make sure that you get all of your projects done. The best way to do that is to plan what you will accomplish each day.

Schedule tasks for each day, along with an estimate of how long you think each task will take. Base the task order on priority. Plan to tackle the most important tasks early in the day when you are fresh. Leave the less important tasks for later in the day.

Also, make sure that you don’t overplan your day. Allow for some extra time every day in case a task takes longer than expected (or in case an unexpected task comes up).

Secret #3: Establish a Work Structure

The freelancing life is flexible, but most of us work best with some degree of routine and structure. As a freelancer, it’s up to you to establish your work hours and routines.

But just because you’re establishing set work hours for your freelancing business doesn’t mean you have to work eight to five every day. As long as your work gets done and your clients can reach you, you are free as a freelancer to set work hours that work for you–whether that’s from 3:00 a.m. to noon or 3:00 p.m. to midnight (or something in between).

Having set hours also doesn’t mean you can’t ever depart from them. Freelancers can and should schedule vacation days, go to the doctor as needed, and so on. What freelancing does mean is that you no longer have to ask a boss before you can take a day (or part of a day) off.

Secret #4: Have a Dedicated Workspace

If you worked in a corporation, you would most likely be assigned a workspace. But most freelancers work from home and many do not have a dedicated workspace.

Many freelancers work anywhere and everywhere they can. One day they may work sitting on the living room couch. The next day they work sitting at the kitchen table. Other times they work from the local coffee shop.

While it’s possible to get work done in all of those places, the best way to make sure that important paperwork doesn’t get lost is to dedicate a space to your freelancing business–even if it’s only a small corner of a room. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally take your work to the coffee shop.

Secret #5: Get Organized

If you work from home, no one ever sees your desk. No one knows just how messy your desk has gotten. But your messy desk may actually be slowing you down.

Set aside some time each month to spruce up your workspace. Discard papers that you no longer need. File papers that you need to keep in your records. Throw junk mail and other junk away.

Having a neat and organized office can make a positive difference in your productivity–even if no client ever sees your home office. Don’t let working alone turn you into a freelance slob.

Secret #6: Ask for Help

By our very nature, we freelancers are DIY people. We don’t like to ask for help. We like to do it ourselves.

Most likely, this independence is part of what led us to become freelancers in the first place. Often the DIY attitude can be a good thing.

But sometimes it causes us to become overwhelmed. And unlike in a traditional office, there are no coworkers nearby to turn to for help. If you’re really struggling with something, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help–even if it means hiring a subcontractor.

Your Turn

What success “secrets” would you add to help freelancers who work alone?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by rickremington

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer - Free Test Drive

About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy LauraĆ¢??s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.