Moving from the time-clock world into the world of online freelancing can be scary. It can also be thrilling once you get rolling.
Building a life that you can take anywhere, creating employment that travels with you and managing your schedule to suit your brain power is freeing, but scary. Below are some ideas for building a great foundation for an online career.
Improve Your Skill Set
To move your life from a brick and mortar job to a “work from anywhere, any time job” will likely take some training. You may need to find online courses to help you fill in any holes in your current skillset so you can sell a package of capabilities and earn money as a designer.
For example, if you’re a decent writer but haven’t studied website creation, you’re a content creator. Once you know how to combine images with the great text you already produce and launch a webpage, you’re a designer. Content creators do earn money, but designers can earn more, and have more control over how their content is presented.
Add Flexibility To Your Life With A Solid Schedule
As you build your online career, you’re going to hit some obstacles or bumps. You may struggle to find the time to do your online work, or get so buried at your regular job that your online work suffers. Figuring out your life priorities can reduce this threat and keep you moving toward a job you can do anytime, anywhere.
Set a defined schedule for your online work. This may mean getting up earlier or altering your hours at your other job. A simple way to maintain focus in our hyper-connected world is to use the timer on your smartphone to help you keep your bottom in the chair and stay focused on your goal. You may have to be a bit rigid about this time dedication to your online goals, but make sure to flex at the end of the day. In addition to working hard, know when to take a break.
Work With Your Body and Brain Clock
If you’re scattered at the end of the day or have a hard time getting started in the morning, structure your life to lead you to good choices. If you want to work on your website design business when you get home from your regular job, set the stage. When you get home from work, make it easier to sit down at your computer than it is to turn on the television.
The path of least resistance is actually between 20 and 25 feet long. If you catch yourself watching television or playing a game at the end of the day and ignoring your new career, take the batteries out of the remote and move them 25 feet from the television. Make sure it’s closer and easier for you to get to your computer (good productive habit you’ll be proud of) than to get to the tv remote or game control (fun but unproductive activity that you can’t seem to give up).
This works for every good habit you want to build. If you want to lose weight, put cookies and chips far away from where you hang out. If you want to work out in the morning, stage your clothes and shoes in the bathroom so putting them on is the logical next step. Don’t ask your morning brain to make a lot of choices; it will reduce your tolerance for decisions later in the day and lead to choices you know you’ll regret but you just want something simpler. Make good choices easier than bad ones.
Stay (or get) Organized
Getting organized doesn’t have to mean that your workspace or computer desktop is pristine. Some of us need a little chaos to do our best work. However, if you can never find what you need in your computer files, tools like Milanote and Trello can help you combine correspondence with your client, your personal to-do list and your work in progress all in one spot.
Stopping any project to have to hunt or search for an image or a bit of text is more than a time-waster; it can lead to anger and frustration. Don’t waste your blood pressure points on stuff you can’t find. Be consistent in how you label projects and make sure that your computer file setup makes sense for you.
Paper projects need to be managed in the same way. Keep your “pending” stack tidy and block out time each week to handle things like invoices, turning in expense receipts, and other types of maintenance. If your business expenses are currently coming out of your personal bank account, make sure you add a category to any payees that are strictly business-related so you can track it for tax purposes. Then, set up a separate business account as soon as possible. Get one credit card for business expenses for easier tracking.
The freelancing life isn’t exactly free-wheeling. You will need to carefully monitor your current skillset, what your competition is up to, and the technological changes that can help you be more efficient. Staying organized and on top of client concerns and requests is critical in a business where you’re truly a global competitor. Most importantly, do your best to have a quitting time every night. Being your own boss is a tough life when you’re unkind to yourself.