Work Smarter Not Harder: 20 Tips for Creative Freelancers

Work Smarter Not Harder: 20 Tips for Creative Freelancers

Being a freelancer is a tough job. You are responsible for your own work and sometimes insecurities are so many that you make compromises with yourself, your work and your happiness. Learning to say no and be assertive is difficult but it is possible if you stick to simple rules and be true to yourself.

The following collection of tips is derived from opinions and experiences from fellow creative professionals who learnt how to live a happy freelance life. Hopefully, you will find some of them, why not all, beneficial for you.


Being a freelance and not having a 9-5 job doesn’t mean that you have to be chaotic with your time. Good planning will save you valuable time and free up time for other fun activities. Putting some effort into daily and weekly planning can be extremely beneficial.

Some tools that can help you out: – a great planning tool that will help you organize personal errands and work tasks. Has a mobile and desktop version.


If you have a good amount of work, probably there are various tasks – small and big, quick and hard. Prioritize ones that are tough in the best time for you and set aside the quick and small ones for later time. Doing the hardest tasks first is well-known and quite beneficial strategy.

Block distracting websites

As a freelancer, especially working alone at home, it can be quite tempting to spend hours in social networks watching cat videos or chatting with people. And sometimes you are wondering how had the time passed so quickly and you have done almost nothing. Well, if you are serious about proper freelancing you should resist the cute cat videos and actually get the job done. Schedule some social networking time after 2-3 hours of work, you would be surprise to see how fast the projects are moving.

Some tools that can help you out:
StayFocusd – StayFocusd increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.

Divide a big task into small ones

This piece of advice has been give almost to anyone regardless of industry they are working in. It just works. If you have a big fat project with lots of stuff to be done, it will be a great idea to divide the big task into small ones. For example, if you are doing branding for a company and all the bells and whistles are required, start with the logo and initial look and feel ideas. Start progressing step by step.


In a TED talk, designer Paolo Carding questions the idea of multitasking and suggests we all try monotasking. Focusing on one task at a time will allow us to perform better and really dive into it by putting all creative power and thoughts, without any distractions.

Set deadlines

Nobody likes deadlines but the thing is they actually work. Setting your own deadlines will again help you stay focused and actually doing what are you supposed to do and eventually finish it.

Don’t struggle alone with projects

Join the creative community of UX, graphic, web designers and developers to get help with any design or dev project.

Schedule time for email communication

Being a freelancer means dealing with clients on your own and we all have “THAT” client who is constantly writing emails and demanding answers or attention. Well, if you constantly available to answer whatever query they may have, you are kind of doomed as you are wasting your time. The advice here is to schedule some time a day for email communication. By doing this, you will able to stay focused on the actual work.

Organize yourself

Having a clear organization of daily activities means better lifestyle and desired concentration when needed. Do not leave the dishes from the last night dinner for the morning. Do the washing or shopping at times when the work overload is scarce.

Organize your work space

Work space is very important. While some freelancers love working from their bedrooms, others prefer to have a corner in their house or flat for work. Having a dedicate work space will actually trick your brain that you are going to work. People working at offices have this mind switching while they are commuting. Freelancers do not have it. So by having a neat dedicated corner at home is a great plus. And you can by this huge desk and put it next to window.

Take breaks

Work may be important but breaks are equally important too. Taking a break after completing a task or in regular intervals will help your brain function. Most designers will tell you that sometimes getting away from the desk helps a lot. Taking a break can also mean leaving a project of a day or two so after a while you can see it with a fresh pair of eyes.


The fact that you are working from home doesn’t mean that you are going to be unhealthy. Yes, you skip the daily run for the metro or bus but you actually gain these additional 30 to 60 minutes to enjoy a full workout. You can do it at home or go to the nearest gym. The importance of exercise is known to everyone: you are healthy, look better, rest your brain and feel good. Have a look at: A weekly workout routine for busy freelancers to help you get started with exercise.


Being a freelancer working from home is a blessing when it comes to food. No tasteless and fatty food and no 10-minute lunch break. Actually, you can set aside a 30-60 minutes for lunch. I have been doing this for so many years. I enjoy a nice healthy salad and home prepared meal every lunchbreak. I eat my oatmeal every morning while planning the day. When I am cooking for dinner I cook for a day or two so I have a meal planned.

Inspire yourself

Inspiration is equally important as planning, exercise or prioritizing. Staying inspired is vital for creating people. Freelancers have the luxury to choose their own projects, tasks that they would love to do. Such tasks are truly inspirational as they can be challenging, requiring learning new skill etc… Inspiration comes in various forms: going to the gallery or watching a movie or just trying to learn an art skill. Whatever it is, set aside some time. Just for you and your inspiration.


Being a freelancer who is working from home doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be anti-social. You can invite friends over for dinner or you can collaborate with other freelancers on a project. You can also can go once or twice a week to collaborative space to see what others do. You can also work from a local coffee shop or just sign up for a language class.

Learn new things

For everyone working in the creative industry, it is absolutely necessary to gain new knowledge and acquire new skills. There are many online learning platforms which offer free or very cheap courses which will help you develop your skills.

Some suggestions can help you out:


Listening to music while working is very beneficial. There are many playlists on Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud with so called “brain” music which will help you stay focused.

Read Books

If you do not read books now it is good time start. The benefits of reading are very well known. You can travel to different times, meet different personalities, expand your vocabulary, stimulate your brain, improve memory and focus. Amazon UK is great source of books as you can find new books for a pence and just pay for the delivery.

Wake up early

Well, there are many creative people who will oppose strongly to this suggestion but to be honest it is good for your work. I do love sleeping and I am not a morning person but since I started getting up early I get a lot of work done. I do not know if this is true for everyone, probably not, but the dull jobs are better done in the morning. You are more focused earlier in the day. Creative work can be done in the afternoon. You can give it a try to see if it works for you.


Having a good night sleep is crucial. Allowing your brain to rest for 8-9 hours a day is truly beneficial. Learn to say no to late tasks and get yourself to bed. Enough sleep means healthy living.

Have fun

Do not forget to have fun. Life is not all about work and getting stuff done. Once in a while you can take a vacation and go travel abroad to see other cultures, meet friends or just enjoy the nature. Freelancing does not mean to chained to the desk just because workflow is not that secure. It is a great idea to have a “Travel Jar” where you put your change and save for trips. It works.

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