Some Tips for the Aspiring Freelancer or Work From Home Newbie
Hi! Coming back at 'ya with some resources for freelancers (not just those in the podcast industry). This is all stuff that works for me after quite a bit of trial and error.
Setting up a work environment
Where do you do your best, most focused, flow-state kind of work?
Personally, I picture my undergrad coffee shop (shoutout to Wiggin Coffee), but there's a pandemic going on and I graduated (and do not live in Ohio) and I have to work from home so that's not super relevant. We can still learn from it, though!
Think about what works for you in your ideal work environment. I'll go first.
- Quiet, comfy (I would pick a one-sided booth in a corner).
- "Peer-pressure" i.e. the concept that people might notice if I sit on my phone for 4 hours straight.
- Access to coffee and snacks (and therefore periodic breaks, also, as I waited for my coffee).
- Intentional work time and consistency -- I would go to this specific booth when I knew I needed to get x things done.
- Natural light (this was my beef with the library).
Now set yourself up for success by duplicating as many things as you can in your work environment at home. For me, this looks like:
- Extra comfy desk chair
- I peer pressure myself with my hourly work schedule (see above) and scheduling zoom call check-ins with peers.
- I make sure to always have water or a coffee/tea, which enforces taking periodic breaks. It's easy to get dehydrated without noticing it if you're in a flow state.
- Minimize distraction by keeping my phone out of reach and face down (I also deleted all social media apps off my phone, but that's another story). This is maybe counter-intuitive, also, but I like to keep my phone on "ring" and I have special text tones for people I need to respond to quickly. This lets me know what kind of notification I have without looking at my phone, and tells me if I actually need to check it or not.
- I only work at my desk. The couch is tempting but she is not very productive for me.
- My desk is by my window, which, while admittedly not ideal for audio editing, boosts morale.
- Generally, I just set my workspace up to be a happy spot. It's the little things like nice-smelling candles, having a plant on my desk, some artwork, encouraging sticky-notes...
How do I figure out what to do during the day?
I like to categorize my To-Do list like this:
a) General daily tasks like checking email, updating invoices and tracking taxes/expenses that will always be relevant. These are tasks that are easy and quick (and may need to be checked up on a couple times a day)
b) Projects that are due this week (or next, if I need to plan ahead), and the day they're due. A lot of my deadlines are self-inflicted, but I like consistency in my schedule so I often do the same show on the same day week-to-week.
c) Things I have to do today, e.g. appointments/calls/files I have to send someone, specific emails I have to respond to.
d) Projects with no specific deadline or no specific task that I vaguely want to work on, e.g. blogging or updating my website or portfolio. This also includes what I call "fun work," i.e. the kind of work I take breaks with. For me, this is anything in music production or music sourcing, anything more on the creative side. I really love research and the process of getting my ducks in a row, so a lot of my scheduling and organizational tasks fall here for me.
You'll see below that these categories show up on my schedule in different places.
2. Make that schedule!
When it comes to actually making a schedule, there are a lot of great programs/sites. Personally, I just use google sheets for my weekly schedule, and my synced iCal to keep track of calendar invites and appointments.
This is what my schedule looks like (template)-- I filled out the first day so you can see how I do it, but I left the rest blank-ish so you can easily fill it in if you want to use it. The first thing I do every morning is figure out what my tasks are for the day, and vaguely schedule them out. I'll also put any appointments and calls on my schedule as things pop up. Change the categories, change the lunch break, whatever. Just don't forget to block out some time to rest and some time for leisure.
Shoot me a message or leave me a comment if you wind up using the schedule template! I'd love to hear how you folks are staying productive in the transition to working from home.