It’s all too easy to get sidetracked by the things that need to be done day-to-day: emails to send, invoices to pay, phone calls, thinking up new ways to market your business… Twitter…
Freelancers have to organise so many aspects of their businesses that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. All these things are important, but so is the reason we set up our businesses in the first place: our freelance projects. There’s not much point in being a freelance writer, event planner or designer if you don’t ever get time to do the writing, planning or designing!
There are four simple strategies you can adopt in order to keep your goals clear and your mind on the result.
1/ Define your project’s scope
It is much easier to keep your goals in mind if you know what they are! Write down the goals of your project at the outset, and make sure you have agreed them with your client: you could both have very different ideas about what constitutes a successful project. For more information, have a look at this previous post about the project scope.
2/ Track tasks
I have written previously about breaking your work down into tasks; once your project has been divided into bite-sized chunks it is much easier to keep track of your progress. You can use a low-tech approach such as Post-it notes and a wall planner to keep track of your tasks, or use one of the multitude of software packages specifically designed for project management.
3/ Set milestones
If you have a larger project you can divide it into phases before breaking it down into tasks. The end of each phase is denoted by a milestone, which might be something like submitting a piece of work, a website going live, your design being approved or moving from a planning to an implementation stage.
Reaching a milestone can give you a good sense of achievement and a reason to celebrate. It helps to have smaller goals to focus on within your project when the end is too far away to see right now.
4/ Schedule in time-outs
It can be helpful at various points in your project to have a time-out to review your progress so far and look ahead at what is to come. Reaching a milestone is an obvious point to do this, although you can do it at any time, especially if you feel that you have hit a wall.
Your time-out can be used to evaluate:
- What is going well
- What could be going better
- What problems you have faced and how you overcame them
- What you could change as you enter the next stage
By taking the time out to assess your progress you can avoid repeating mistakes and get yourself out of any ruts you might find yourself in. You can monitor your work and consider whether you are still on track to meeting your goals or whether you are getting diverted or sidetracked.
Photo by Flickr user chispita_666