Holding yourself accountable

When working on our own we have a different responsibilities than those who are employed by a company or agency. Over the years, great things have happened and tough issues come up occasionally that we have to look straight in the eye and deal with. We all have partners and friends that we confide in that we can ask for advice, but when it comes right down to it we typically are left to deal with the tough business issues on our own.

Same goes with our successes. With projects we take on ourselves, we celebrate success as an individual rather than a team which can give us a great feeling of accomplishment. This is one of the great incentives of being a freelancer. Big wins are really big and give us a great sense of accomplishment. But when times are tough, we’re left to buckle down to tackle issues head on which can sometimes be time consuming and stressful not only for ourselves but for our families.

Working with others

Having partners or friends to work with give us, in a sense, a team to ask questions, pass around work or to simply have a talk about design and development. I’ve been working with partners since February of 2009 and have learned a great amount about operating my business and web development as a result. I put a lot of value in these relationships because they help us grow and see our businesses from a different perspective. Friends and partners tend to see you and your business a little differently and are great at making suggestions for improvement or telling you what they think is working or not.
Partners have also allowed me to take on larger projects that I might have passed on before. Since partners typically have complimenting strengths, it’s possible they can take on work rather than trying to muddle through it myself which I would never recommend. Taking on projects that are too far out of your area of expertise can be frustrating, stressful and can even result in a bad end product that could end your relationship with your client. Closely evaluate the scope of your projects and ask lots of questions before you dive into the project. I’ve learned over the years that you can never ask too many questions before entering into a project. Even then, you’ll always have unexpected needs or requests come up from your clients that you weren’t expecting.

Work toward completion

I tend to have several projects working at once and sometimes struggle to keep my focus on a single project at a time. I found that blocking out hours of time for projects helps with focus and allows me to accomplish more over the course of a day. I tend to close my email or other social media earlier in the day to help string together the hours I need to focus on the project I’m currently working on. I was really hesitant at first, since I’ve always been used to being a quick responder, but I found that over time people weren’t always necessarily in a hurry and were patient to get my replies later in the afternoon or even in the evenings. With only so many hours in the day and being really busy, I have to be careful how I spend every minute of the day.

I’ve found it’s easy to fall into the habit of bouncing back and forth between projects and accomplishing nothing. Working toward a single goal, accomplishing it, then moving to the next has productive to me. The idea of multi-tasking to accomplish more only seems to make me less productive over the course of a day.

Track your progress

This may seem like something that’s easy to do, but if you’re busy with work you can quickly lose track of what you’ve accomplished over the course of a day, week or even a year. Take time to look back to see where you’re succeeding or failing in your efforts to accomplish your goals. It’s possible you may want to shift where you’re putting your efforts. Maybe you want to focus on generating more passive income or maybe you want to start making more products. Evaluating what you’ve accomplished can help you determine what kind of work you’re doing and what kind of work you WANT to be doing.

Award yourself for success

I have trouble with this one since I tend to move on to new projects quickly without evaluating how my last project went. When a project goes well, look back to see what went right and how you can repeat that or make it habit for future projects. What good is success if you can’t capitalize on it with future projects. Take advantage of your success and growth by telling yourself  what works and doesn’t. Make sure to market your top projects to give prospects an idea of what they might get from you if they decide to work with you.

I’ve also tried to reward myself with ending a day early or maybe taking an afternoon to play golf after launching a website. It says that today was a good day and to enjoy life for a minute. What good is working if you can’t celebrate getting something accomplished. I think this is so easy to do as a freelancer since our noses are always down working and looking ahead to the next project in the pipeline.
There are a ton of things designers can do to encourage themselves to work more efficiently or to establish a solid routine. What works for your friend may not work for you. For me some simple things like the time of day you like to work and your immediate office and home surroundings have a lot to do with productivity.