1.2 How to Be More Productive and Profitable
In this ten-minute lesson, we’ll look at a number of productivity tips. We’ll begin by stopping. Now, that may sound counter-intuitive, but stepping back from the grind of work will help us organise things and structure our working lives. With that established, I’ll suggest apps and processes to make you more productive and profitable.
1.2 How to Be More Productive and Profitable
[SOUND] Hello and welcome to this short video on improving your productivity as a freelancer. My name's Paul Barag, and I'm gonna share with you some of the tricks that have helped me maximize my productivity over the years. Because let's face it, going freelance isn't quite all we expected it to be. We thought it would allow us more time with our families and that we'd be under less stress. However, let's be honest, the reality is somewhat different to that. Many of the freelancers I know work longer hours and under more pressure than they ever did when they were in a full time job. And it's common for us to work evenings and weekends. But you know what? It doesn't have to be that way. The problem is that we spend so much of our time firefighting that we never stop long enough to review the way we work and look for ways to improve things. Hopefully this video will inspire you to just stop long enough to take a step back and and to examine how you do things and maybe do things a little bit differently. For a start we need to carve out some time to get organized. Lots of the people I work with have never taken the time to put in place basic time savers, obvious stuff that we know, but we never get around to doing. Things like setting up a version control system, or setting up shortcuts and workflows for the apps that we use, or adding filters to email so that we don't get all that junk in our inbox the whole time. And creating templates for those commonly used documents that we have to create, the proposals, the invoices, the things like that. Most importantly we need to establish a single system for organizing all those tasks we've got to do. Many people will have tasks in all kinds of different places, notebooks, emails, a voicemail, to-do apps, and Post-it notes. It's hardly surprising that stuff falls between the gap and we end up firefighting. Find yourself a to-do app that works across multiple platforms. And then, this is the important bit, stick to it. Make sure you only use that place to keep all your tasks. Personally I use OmniFocus, but there are loads of other options available. You just use whatever is right for you, but have one place where all of your tasks live. Do the same for notes too. It's could be hard to remember what you've agreed or all the information that has been communicated between you and the client because it's spread of all over the place. So use a tool like Evernote to keep all your reference material for all your projects in one place together. I even record meetings with Evernote, so that I've got a record of everything that was said. And while we're talking about apps to keep your organized, I highly recommend getting yourself some form of customer relationship management system. If you have more than just a few customers, this really is worthwhile. Now i'm not talking about some big, complex sale system. I'm just talking about something really simple that will allow you to track the conversations with your clients and remind you to follow up on those sales leads. Also something that will let you just glance at it and see what kind of work you've got coming up over the next few weeks. Personally I use a tool called Pipedrive for this job, ensures I never forget to follow up on a potential piece of work, while also helping me to remember everything that was going on between me and a client. But being productive isn't just about what apps you use. It's easy to become obsessed with productivity apps. But it's also about your attitude and how you work. Take for example email, so many people insist on having email open all day. Every time an email comes in and that notification chimes, we have to check. We can't stop ourselves. We're worse than Pavlov's dog for crying out loud. Instead try checking email just three times a day, once in the morning, once after lunch, and once at the end of the day. You'll be amazed what a difference it makes. Just turn off those notifications, honestly, you do not need them. Now, I know what you're thinking. What if somebody sends me an urgent email? But how likely is that really? How many of those kinds of emails do you actually get, emails that couldn't just wait a few hours? If there really are clients that need your immediate response, then set up a flag on their email address so that you receive a notification just for those emails. That will still cut out huge amount of the chatter that goes on. And on the subject turning off notifications, turn them all off, Twitter, Facebook, the lot. Interruptions like these are probably the single biggest disruption to your productivity. They prevent you from getting in a flow with work because every few minutes is another little ping, and we have to go and look. Of course interruptions don't just come from social networks or apps, they come from people too. And if you work from home, make sure there's a clear division between your home and work life. Make sure your family knows when you're working and when you're not. For example, I have on my office door a free and busy sign so that my family know exactly when they can come in and annoy me and when they can't. But let's be honest, we can't blame interruptions for all of our productivity woes. Sometimes it's simply that we find it hard to focus, and to some extent we've got to accept that. We're not machines after all, and therefore we don't work at a constant rate the whole time. One of the best productivity tips I can give you is to learn your own working rhythm. Some people are more productive in the morning, some more so late at night. Make the most of your freelance freedom and work when your body most wants to work rather than sticking to a strict 9 to 5. For example, I rarely start work at 9 o'clock in the morning because I suck at mornings. I also tend to start with those simpler admin jobs because my brain hasn't woken up by even 10 o'clock. And so once I have done a few admin jobs, once I've got on a roll, then I'm ready for something a bit more substantial. Of course when deadlines are looming, we don't always have the luxury of working when we feel like it. We just need to double down and get the job done. And in such cases you might want to check out something called the Pomodoro technique. It's incredibly simple. But it works really well. The Pomodoro technique encourages you to work in 30 minute blocks with a 5 minute break between each block. During that 30 minutes you work intensively, no breaks, no distractions, no looking at Facebook, no popping out to the loo. You just work. By managing your breaks and preventing those distractions, you'll be amazed at how much you can get done. Also, it's a great way of starting the day if you're not really in the mood to do any work. Just tell yourself that you'll do one 30 minute block, and see how you feel. I guarantee that once you've got going, once you've done the first of those blocks, you'll want to keep going. Talking of overcoming that barrier to start work in the morning, here's a good tip for you. Always leave a task half done at the end of the day. We have this desire to leave things nice and tidy don't we when we finish at the end of the day? But starting a new task is always the hardest thing you have to do. So instead, begin the day by finishing off what you started the day before. It'll make it much easier than start seeing something entirely new at the beginning of each day. You'll instantly get on a roll. Now hopefully these tips that I've shared in this video will enable you to manage your time and feel a bit more in control. But at the end of the day if you're working evenings and weekends, no amount of productivity tips is going to save you. That's because this is a symptom of a deeper issue, and that issue is you're not charging enough. The problem is that when most of us set ourselves up as freelancers, we don't take the time to properly calculate the rate at which we should be charging. We forget to take into account things like vacations or sickness or public holidays. Added to that we dramatically underestimate the amount of time we're gonna spend on doing non-chargeable admin that is a big part of our jobs. So for example, I calculated that in the UK there are actually only 252 working days in a year, not including any vacations I might take. I also estimated that almost 50% of my time is spent on non-chargeable activities, such as sales, marketing, project management, and finance. These are the simple facts of running your own business, and if you don't take them into account, then you're really gonna under charge. Now you may feel that you can increase your rates, but I'll tell you something, you're wrong. If you're working weekends and evenings, it means that you've more than enough work coming in because you're busy, so busy you have to work even when you shouldn't be. Sure, increasing your rates would reduce the amount of work that you win so you won't be as busy. But that will be more than offset by the extra money you earn on each project. So I'd encourage you to give it a try. You don't need to raise your rates for everyone straight away. Just try raising your rates for new customers, see how you get on. And if it goes well, you can let existing customers know that in a few months you're gonna be raising your rates. That gives them ample time to adapt to the idea. And you can even tell them that for new customers, you're already charging the higher rate. But because they're preferred existing customers, you'll give them a few months of the discounted rate. Can't say fairer than that can you? So there you go, by balancing higher rates with more efficiency, you'll find life much more pleasurable. And hopefully you can finally get the work life balance you were looking for when you set yourself up as a freelancer.