As freelancers, we need a daily cut, or we are not free at all

When I decided to go the freelance illustrator route, I quickly noticed the differences between permanent employment. We usually have a commute in a permanent position that we do every morning and after work. This one we can find annoying and a waste of time. But the commute home has a valuable advantage. It makes a clear cut between our work and our free time, which helps us structure our daily lives.

As freelancers, this physical cut is often missing. Often, the place where we work and create is the same place where we eat, watch movies, and go to sleep. As a result, we quickly tend to lose track of time and merge our free time with our work time. In short, we lose piece by piece our life outside work. In the times of Covid, many permanent employees are in home offices, so they have experienced the same thing.

There are simple methods to create physical cuts if we can’t or don’t want to go to an external place, such as a co-working space. A fundamentally important one is to dress for work as if we are going to the office. Maybe not in a suit and patent leather shoes, but not in sweatpants or pajamas. This daily routine affects our attitude during work hours. Then, after work is done, slipping into sweatpants is not only a signal to us that we can leave work behind for the day. It can also feel good and earned, and there’s nothing to stop us from enjoying it.

Quick hack to organize emails: using keywords

To have important emails quickly at hand later, we can include keywords that we can then enter into the search. For example, in price negotiations, we often send several versions of the offer until we have agreed on a fee and the rights of use with the customer. Keywords such as “clientname-finalestimate” help here. Other possibilities are “projectnamehiresfiles” if the print data has been sent or “database” if the contact is to be entered in the database later.

These keywords can stand below the signature in light gray or in white font if they should not be visible to the contact.

Sabotaging ourselves to boost our creativity and productivity 

In the post „Using time pressure as a motivational power-up, I wrote that time pressure can be an excellent incentive to get a lot done in a short time. With the help of little tricks, we can also create this positive pressure consciously and literally fly over our to-do list.

For example, one day, I worked on my laptop in a coffee store when I realized I had forgotten the charging cable at home. I got annoyed with myself and started working. After a short while, I noticed that I had worked off more than usual. I was focused and didn’t waste a minute. 

The battery indicator on my laptop was my hourglass. It drove me on like a boss standing behind my back, nagging me. But it was a positive pressure. I accomplished everything I set out to do and still had time for a coffee with friends afterward. 

Since then, I’ve left the charging cable at home more often. If you have found such hacks that increase your productivity, please feel free to share them with me.

Using time pressure as a motivational power-up

In video games, a power-up temporarily strengthens the player. The most famous one is the mushroom in Super Mario. Time pressure can be our power-up.

Let’s say we have an appointment at the bank in 45 minutes. If we subtract 15 minutes for the trip, we have 30 minutes left. We often fritter away this precious time until the appointment. We say, “It’s not worth it to start something new now,” and bang goes Youtube. But that short time can be our mushroom. We can accomplish so much in 30 minutes, whether it’s work or personal activities like exercise or household chores.

The best part is that we always keep an eye on the clock, which boosts our concentration. I am often amazed that I can accomplish something in an intense 30 minutes that usually takes much more time, like writing this post, for example.