How I tripled my income as a freelancer by doing 1 simple thing

freelancer productivity time tracking
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Background:

I’ve been freelancing on and off for about 5 years, but it’s never really been anything more than a side hustle. I use Upwork and I get some private gigs from time to time, I also have some long-standing clients that have been with me since I started freelancing. Up until recently, I had no personal website advertising my services, just an unloved Upwork profile and word and mouth.

Recently I decided to see what it could become with a little effort and some focus…

Can freelancing be a primary source of income in 2021?

I’d neglected my Upwork profile for some time, busy with other stuff. So it was in a kind of dormant state, horribly out of date and in general need of some TLC.

I’ve never been one to pour much over profiles and LinkedIn etc. So I spent about 30mins just updating things there and then went straight into applying for jobs. Using all my available “connects” (Upwork credits used to apply for jobs) as soon as I had them.

So I did have some previous work and reviews on Upwork, not completely starting from scratch, but it was all very out of date.

I’ve always found most success on Upwork with the cover letter, I’ll go into that another time, so I applied for ANY jobs that I thought I could turn around quickly, regardless of the price.

I quickly ran out of hours in the day to get everything done, find new jobs, and I was getting messages and emails from clients around the clock, all in different time zones, it was a nightmare to be efficient and to focus.

This one thing changed everything, overnight...

TIME MANAGEMENT

I set some time aside to write a rough schedule out, of what I should be doing each day. My mornings are the most productive by far so I assigned those to working on the most valuable and most urgent jobs. After that, any other jobs I had on my list, and I made sure to lock in time to look for new jobs and clients.

That was it… It wasn’t even a very good schedule, just a simple page on Notion, but paper would have done the job just the same.

This first version helped me to focus at the right times on the right projects, of course, I deviated from it and of course, it’s since evolved! But it was the exercise of managing my time that made the difference.

In three months I tripled my income as a freelancer. No gimmicks, no paid services, no courses… Just a simple schedule…

FREE TOOLS USED:

MY TIME MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

My simple time management strategy has 4 key parts:

  1. A daily schedule
  2. A tomorrow task list
  3. A weekly evaluation
  4. Time Tracking

If you use Notion then I’ve made a copy of it, you can go and grab it for yourself. It’s nothing fancy at all, I will be making something with a bit more flair in the future, but that’s not what this post is about.

The simpler the system, the more likely I personally, am going to use it. That’s why I chose Notion. It can be as complex or as simple as you want to make it.

A daily Schedule:

This outlines my day, I know I’m most productive early in the morning, so this time is locked for getting things done and making most of my days’ money, and so on for other parts of the day.

What’s important here is that you try and stick to it, obviously, it will evolve, but the idea here is structure – and structure nurtures focus.

Identify your most productive times and block those times out with tasks, turn off messages and try to cut all distractions.

A tomorrow task list:

My days are never the same! Clients need things, new clients want to have a Zoom call, whatever…

The main thing is that at the start of each day I have a list of everything that needs to be done all ready to go, no procrastinating, just get straight to it. I make this at the end of each day, ready for the next. It also helps me decompress and get everything out of my head so I can switch off and relax each evening.

A weekly evaluation:

This is an important step, it helps me to highlight areas of improvement, where I’m wasting time, and where time could be better spent. It also serves to highlight clients that are taking up too much time… You know the ones.

The goal here is to take a step forward each week, and if that means a few difficult conversations with clients, then so be it.

Time Tracking:

Track everything, even fixed-price contracts. If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.

This will also help you to price similar projects in the future and highlight areas of improvement.

For my time tracking, I use Clockify, it’s awesome, free, and get’s the job done right in my browser. It has a ton of integration with other apps and a great dashboard that helps you visualize where your time is being spent.

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With this time management strategy in place I was able to be more productive, free up time to find more clients, communicate with my existing clients more efficiently, and most importantly… Make more money!

I will be following this up with some more examples of what has been working for me when it comes to productivity, organization, freelancing and getting stuff done.

Feel free to comment or email (bradford.aaronw at gmail.com) if you would like to chat about this or a project you need a hand with. 

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