7 Things You Can Do Today To Be A Better Freelancer

Posted: March 1st, 2010

Photo by Keraoc (Flickr)

Photo by Keraoc (Flickr)

Every freelancer could use a tip or two to become a little better in their careers. I know this isn’t the only list out there but I compiled my own of seven tips that have really helped me out personally and wished I learned a lot earlier. Oh well, live and learn.

1. Follow and interact with other freelancers in your field on Twitter.

After being on Twitter for about a year, I’ve come to realize one thing. There is always someone that knows how to do what you are doing, but a thousand times better. That’s not to say you aren’t good at what you do, but there are some really savvy freelancers out there who will amaze you with the work they do.

Those exact same users are more than willing to share their “secrets” if you follow and tune in. Make an effort to seek out and follow other freelancers in your field, check out their websites and other work and don’t hesitate to strike up conversational tweets.

Sure, not all will respond but the majority on Twitter are sociable. After all, that’s what it is about.

2. Limit your free time on the internet.

Yes, freelancers need to email, use Twitter and other social media, check their readers and visit blogs every day. When you add up all the time you spend on the internet related to freelancing, though, does it make sense to spend any free time you do have surfing around?

OK, we do have to keep up with our news, sports and whatnot. Try this out your next work day though:

  • Make a log and record the times you are on the internet throughout the day. Then add up this time.
  • Does this number surprise you? Could some of this time be better spent, say, outside in the sun?
  • Can you really go without visiting those websites, games, etc. or reduce the time to a half hour or hour most a day?

Personally, I found a new hobby during my internet reduction… reading. Beats eye strain I say.

3. Record all your business related expenses using Outright.

At the start of this year I ran into an online accounting app, called Outright, that records all your expenses and  categorizes them for taxes. It is free, easy to use, and can be used in a number of currencies. Plus, it will keep you from scrambling to find those receipts come tax time.

Trust me on this one because I’m currently having brainstorm sessions to recall those expenses and find those receipts from last year that I need for my taxes this year.

4. Learn and apply something new each month.

I’m sure I share this situation with other freelancers but, when I’m busy and have a steady line of projects lined up, I have a tendency to complete them as quickly as possible. What’s the problem with this you ask?

While we are trying to be efficient, by finishing a project quickly to move on to the next project, we usually stick to only what we know when completing our projects. Over time, our knowledge grows stale and it becomes harder to grow in our fields and as freelancers.

Now, I’m not saying each and every project must be unique and has to be developed from new ideas. You can develop your skills further, though, just by setting aside a half hour to an hour a day to learn something new in your field or a new skill entirely. Then slowly incorporate this new knowledge into your new projects.

5. Blog

I can’t say enough on what blogging has done to my freelance career but I can say that if it has this effect on me, then it can for you too.  Here’s what it has done for me:

  • It’s a creative outlet that clears my head so I can focus on work.
  • I have to put into practice what I write. Being a hypocrite doesn’t bode well with me.
  • It’s empowering to know people read what I have to say.
  • Sometimes I forget my own advice so I check back here for it.

6. Have daily work goals.

I tried a bit of psychology on myself to see if it would improve my productivity. To my surprise, I was gullible enough to fall for it, but it worked out. Here’s the skinny:

  • Each workday, write out your task list. Go a step further, though, and write, specifically, everything has to be done in detail for each task.
  • Give yourself a time limit to do it all.
  • Give yourself a little reward if you complete the list, say, an import beer or a pizza (or both).
  • If you easily complete your tasks in the time you set, set the bar higher the next day with more tasks.

What I noticed was that on the days where the tasks weren’t completed, I would work harder the next day and complete the tasks I set out. This eventually becomes a habit which is the real purpose of this.

7. Work on a personal project.

Every freelancer has some kind of idea for a new app or novel, so why not start it.


Don’t worry if it will be a success or not. That’s not the point. Your passion in your career will grow with any personal project you do. Not only that but you may learn a thing or two along the way which only helps in your career.

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What are tips you have to be a better freelancer… right now? Share one a comment below.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

5 Comments. Join In!

  • Samar

    March 2nd, 2010 at 9:51 am

    More than the others, the last point jumps out at me. I’ve been meaning to start a personal project of mine. Trouble was, I couldn’t decide which one!

    Finally decided on one last night and this morning I read this post 🙂

    Now here’s to hoping I can manage to give it time!

  • Johnny

    March 2nd, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Great! I’m glad this post inspired you to do so Samara.

    It’s nice to have personal projects and actually start and do them instead of just thinking about them and getting around to doing them “tomorrow”.

  • Jon Buscall

    March 4th, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Some good tips here. I will check out Outright. Haven’t heard of that one.

    I do find I have to limit my time online. It kind of takes over; constantly trying to build, grow and stay up-to-date. But downtime, away from the Net, is important. Even for web workers.
    .-= Jon Buscall´s last blog ..Understanding Content Marketing with Sharon Hurley Hall =-.

  • Johnny

    March 5th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Just checked and looks like Outright is not available for use with the Krona which is too bad. Supposedly they will have one “soon in your currency”… If it does get around to you, I highly recommend it.

    We do also tend to take for granted the free time we spend online. Since I’m on it all day, I’d rather be as far away as possible. Hell, I’ve even enjoyed going back to reading papers!

  • jsengpiehl

    March 7th, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    I agree with setting goals. I do this each day. I don’t write them out but I plan my day and that is both personal goals and writing goals. I find it helps me to be more productive.