How to stay productive when you’re self-employed

A freelancer sat at her desk working productively on her laptop.

There are many benefits to being a self-employed tradesperson, not least the fact that you get to do what you want, when you want.

On the flipside though, this freedom can make it harder to stay focused - which in turn can have an impact on your productivity and, ultimately, your ability to make money.

So, what should you do if you’re struggling with this aspect of working for yourself?   

How to be more productive at work

In this guide, we offer some simple but effective suggestions that should help you to be as productive as possible as a tradesperson. From keeping on top of your paperwork, to planning ahead, to making sure you take breaks to avoid burnout, there are lots of techniques you can apply that will enable you to work as efficiently as possible.

Stay organised

Especially if you have a busy schedule, it’s easy to let paperwork pile up. However, putting off essential tasks, such as making sure you have suitable business insurance in place, keeping your tax admin and business accounts in order, and ensuring your work calendar is updated with all relevant jobs and deadlines, could be detrimental. Failing to do these things could end up costing you precious time and money.

The key is to work on business admin little and often. For example, setting aside just 20 minutes or so a day might be enough to keep this element of your business in order. As an added benefit, knowing that you’re up to date with these details will help you to keep a clear head when it comes to the other parts of your job.

Work on time management skills

It might sound trite, but time really is money when you’re working for yourself. Where you can spot ways to make tasks more efficient, take advantage of them. For example, there may be elements of your business that you can outsource to make you more productive. This could involve outsourcing certain financial tasks to an accountant, for instance, or using a virtual PA (personal assistant) to take admin off your hands. If your time can be better and more profitably spent getting on with core tasks, like completing jobs for customers, it’s worth considering this option. Although bringing in a third party will cost you, these expenses could be more than offset if you use the time it frees up wisely.

Good time management also means identifying which times of the day are most productive for you. For example, if you tend to be more focused and energised early in the day, try to plan your most demanding tasks for this time.

Choose your projects wisely

When you’re self-employed, there can be a temptation to take all the jobs that come your way. However, it’s important to be able to identify how profitable different types of jobs and projects are and to prioritise them accordingly. Sometimes, saying no to a less profitable task will free you up to work on something more worthwhile.

Keep the future in mind

If you find you have spare time on your hands, try to use it wisely by planning ahead. For example, you might benefit from organising, cleaning or servicing the tools you rely on to do your job. Other useful tasks can include everything from updating your website, to running social media promotions, to networking with other businesses and potential customers.

Doing groundwork like this will make your life easier once you’re busy again.

Set strict work/life boundaries

When you are your own boss, the boundaries between work and the rest of your life can start to blur. However, it’s crucial to make sure you give yourself enough time off. Failing to do this can mean you risk becoming physically and mentally exhausted by your work, and as well as being bad for your wellbeing, this will impact your ability to be productive.

As we outlined in our guide to being productive when homeworking, taking regular breaks is essential if you want to stay efficient. Although it might seem counterintuitive initially, building breaks into your work schedule is in fact critical if you want to maintain concentration and motivation. For example, when it comes to arranging holidays, try to get into the habit of blocking time out in your calendar well in advance, and being disciplined enough to keep these periods free from work obligations. This will help ensure you get a proper break from your job, and hopefully give you more energy and drive when you get back to work.

In general, try to achieve a healthy work-life balance by setting strict limits on your working time and making sure you have enough breathing space from your job.

Look after your health

Your health is paramount, and as a self-employed tradesperson, it’s also essential when it comes to staying productive. There are various things you can do to help protect your wellbeing, including eating healthily, making sure you drink plenty of water, getting a good amount of sleep and doing regular exercise. Regardless of the type of work you do, being fit and healthy will help to give you more energy to get the job done.

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