8 Simple Tips for Freelancers to Keep Focused

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)

One of the difficulties of working for yourself as freelancer is keeping focused on your work. Chances are that if you’re a freelancer, you’re working from home complete with all the distractions that it brings.

Here are a few tips to make sure you get the best out of your work by keeping focused.


1. Keep Regular Business Hours

Something that you don’t want to do is work on a project for too long during a single day. The best thing to do is to stick to a set amount of time not unlike a 9-5 job. The best thing is that you can decide when those hours are. This will allow you to keep yourself focused on your work as you know exactly when you need to get it done and under your own times.

For example, take a couple of hours off during an afternoon and make the work up later in the week or start work early and finish early. The point is that you need to give yourself enough time away from the work so you can enjoy yourself.

2. Create your own Work Space

Creating your own working space is all about reducing distractions. Try working in a dedicated area of your house where you can focus without any distractions. If that isn’t possible then consider renting out a desk elsewhere.

If you lack space or money for creating your own workspace then look at your computer itself. Create a separate user account that you use for work purposes only. Cut off access to anything that you don’t need to get your work done.

Create a new user to help you focus on your work.

Create a new user account to help you focus on your work.

3. Remove Distractions

If you are unable to create your own physical working space for yourself, then you need to remove any distractions that are nearby. At least try to reduce the amount of clutter on your desk by leaving your mobile phone and any other major distractions out of reach.

4. Work on your own Personal Project(s)

Working on your own project is a great way to get away from the, sometimes frustrating, world of client demands. Creative freedom is something that all designers love, so by creating your own projects for you to design, develop and maintain you can keep your work varied.

Personal projects also give you the opportunity to do something slightly different so you’ll be able to learn new things and pickup new techniques that you’ll be able to carry over to your day-to-day work.

5. Reduce Interruptions

If you were to ask freelancers what is one of their main annoyances when trying to focus on work, interruptions would be high on the list. Interruptions will cause you to lose focus on a project as it can take you out of the moment of designing or developing.

The only way to get around this is to be vigilant in dealing with interruptions themselves. You don’t have to answer every phone call or email immediately. You can always come back to them later. In fact, it may be better to make calls or reply to emails in a single batch rather than multiple times a day to prevent that stop/start feeling.

6. Take Breaks

A big benefit of working for yourself is that you can take breaks and go off and do whatever you want when you want. Whenever any of your work is getting to you or causing you to lose focus in any way whatsoever, take ten minutes out and go and do something to take your mind off work. If you need to take longer then make sure it doesn’t keep you from getting your work done.

Go for a walk, play a video game, take a rest or anything you can do to return to your work more focused may be exactly what you need to do now and again. If you have to do it on a daily basis or even two or three times a day, ultimately do whatever works for you.

7. Pace Yourself

Following on from taking breaks, you need to pace your work out throughout the day so you don’t get bogged down on one task. Try and split your day up as much as you need to. Keeping focus may require you to work on a couple of projects a day to mix things up and keep things interesting. If you are unable to do that by only working on one project at a time try switching between different tasks on the same project.

Once again, it comes down to what works best for you but make sure you try many different ways of dealing with pacing out your working day. Think of it as personal A/B testing. Try a couple of different methods and then continue with the one that gives you the best results.

8. Motivation

As you know, not all projects will be dream jobs, in fact most of them won’t be anywhere near that. You will have to find other ways to motivate yourself when dealing with these projects such as pay or even simply by always trying to keep improving your work no matter what the project is.

Whatever it is that keeps you motivated on a project, make sure you keep it in mind as it will motivate you to keep focused on your work.

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.