Working smarter, not harder: Top tips for freelance creators

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Freelancers and independent contractors have a lot to keep track of. Whether you tend to take on lots of fast turnaround jobs or spend months at a time with one single client, it’s likely you have an abundance of files and admin that go along with each project. This, coupled with the need for constant self-motivation, can leave work feeling harder than it sometimes has to be. 

There are ways that freelance creatives can work smarter, to reduce burnout, keep clients engaged and happy, while staying organised and productive. In this article, Andy Wilson, UK Site Lead at Dropbox, provides his best tips for getting creative work done with less stress, and in less time. 

Find a task system that works for you 


Staying organised is one of the most important parts of becoming a successful freelancer. You can’t afford to let tasks slip, or to miss deadlines, and it’s up to you to stay on top of everything.

If you find that you’re dealing with endless back-and-forth emails, lost attachments, or struggle identifying the most recent draft, I promise, there is a better way. By using shared client folders and links to keep files together, your clients will always have the most up-to-date version, keeping them happy and in the know. 

Let tools help you collaborate 


In the virtual and flexible working world, freelancers often work with people from all over the world, which can sometimes make it harder to stay aligned. Technology can help to ease this and keep everyone on the right track. 

Ensure that there is an overlap with your working hours for collaborative time and meetings. At Dropbox we’ve employed the use of Core Collaboration Hours, a part of the day that is reserved for meetings and collaborative working.

This approach can be useful when applied to the way a freelancer works and would likely be beneficial for their working days. By clearly communicating to your clients the times you're available for meetings, you can set aside the right amount of time and energy for focussed creative work. 

Focus on one task at a time


Multitasking isn’t easy. In fact, decades of research has shown us that not only is multitasking near impossible, it also slows us down. When you respond to an email while you’re working on a client’s project, it takes you, on average, 15 minutes to reorient yourself back to the original task. 

That’s not all, it can actually reduce your efficiency by up to 40 percent and harm your creativity. 

Instead of attempting (and likely failing) to do multiple things at once, consciously choose one task to focus on at a time. While this is easier said than done, there are a few things you can do to help you resist the urge to multitask. This includes muting notifications, taking calls away from your desk, and pushing back on projects or adhoc requests when you need to. 

Take time to detach from work and reset 


Any working adult will understand that not every piece of work is going to make the cut. For those in more creative roles, this can sometimes feel like a personal attack. Creatives put so much of themselves into their work, which can sometimes leave them open to taking criticism personally. 

In order to reduce the risk of burnout, it’s key to emotionally detach and find the balance between caring too little, and caring too much. In practise, this could look like completely stepping away from the work following feedback, to come back to it with a fresh perspective.

This sort of emotional distancing can transform your creativity, with studies finding that participants in neutral moods outperformed those in both positive and negative moods. 


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