3 simple steps to becoming an insanely efficient freelancer

I’m a one-man band, a lone wolf, a high plains drifter.

Which is all just to say, I’m a busy freelancer.

I don’t have any staff, so every bit of work – I need to do it myself. There’s a long list of things that my work involves, but let’s just say that it goes from selling myself to doing the admin.

Ugh, the admin.

So… I’ve spent 8 years as a freelancer now, and I want to share some things that have helped me to become more productive and more efficient.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a freelance ninja just yet, but all this has helped me make a start. And stopped me going insane.

1. Book keeping

I still remember the days and nights I spent scrambling through 12 months’ worth of receipts and listing them in a spreadhsheet.

I’ll never get those hours back.

Fortunately a fellow freelancer showed me Receipt Bank.

Now I scan the receipts when I get them and Receipt Bank automatically uploads them into its online platform.

Cue a chorus singing ‘Hallelujah’ accompanied by visuals of unicorns dancing under rainbows.

At this time of writing Receipt Bank costs me £9.99 a month. That’s much less than I’d pay for a book keeper.

And it leaves me to do the work that I enjoy (hint – it’s not book keeping).

2. Invoicing

Another massive time-saver. If you send a lot of invoices, use Free Agent.

Don’t ask why, just do it.

Alright, here’s why. It makes the process of sending and tracking your income and outgoings so much easier.

It takes feeds from Receipt Bank (see above) so you get a real-time view of revenue, costs and profit.

3. Staying organised

Here’s where I get geeky.

I love tracking my time. I just do.

I realise that not everyone shares this passion, but there’s a few things that made a difference for me.

The Pomodoro technique

Such a simple idea, but such a life-changer in terms of getting work done and being focused. You can read all about the Pomodoro technique here, or read this brilliant book.

Essentially it’s about focusing on one thing in 25 minute blocks of time, without any interruptions and without straying from the task. Then take short breaks in between to re-evaluate your priorities.

Try it. You won’t look back.

To ensure I work strictly to the pomodoro technique I use the focus app on my MacBook Pro and iPhone, but there are plenty of alternatives out there.

Tracking work time

How much time are you spending on each project? What proportion of your working day do you spend on admin?

I was alarmed and intrigued by data that suggested that people spend up to 28% of their work time on email. And don’t get me started on social media.

I decided to consciously measure my time throughout the working day. I use a wonderful app called Office Time to do this.

There are a few key benefits to this:

1. I can see where I’m wasting my time.

What I found is that I can often spend too much time on the less useful stuff. The stuff that feels important but really isn’t.

Like reading emails. Or doing admin.

2. I can prioritise my most important work.

Thanks to the reporting tool on Office Time, I can now instantly see how my time prioritisation is going.

And it’s worked. After analysing my time I have now changed the way I work, and put more into my higher priority work.


So there it is. Three things I do that have made my freelancing career more productive.

I am a total geek about this stuff, so please let me know if you have any tips, recommended apps or general advice about organising your working life. Email me or leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear them.