Being a freelancer might sound like a great way to make a living. You decide on your working hours, your workload, you set your prices, choose your clients and have a lot of freedom when it comes to organizing your day and life. At least it seems so. The truth, of course, is very different. Apart from issues like lack of clients or unreliable income, a lot of freelancers have problems staying productive at all times.

This is especially the case if you’re the type of freelancer that works from home. Distractions are everywhere and only when you first start working from home, you will discover how important your chores are. You may also find out that those new TV shows you thought were trashy aren’t that bad at all. The result of all this is that you’re always at the brink of breaking deadlines, and the quality of the job you’ve done is far below what you’re capable of. The worst thing is that you spent your whole day sitting in front of your laptop and didn’t really have any free time, although the amount of work you’ve managed to do isn’t really impressive. Here are a few tips on how to avoid this scenario.

Establish routines and stick to them

There’s really no big secret you should know in order to increase your productivity. The main thing is very simple – always have a plan and be disciplined. Of course, as a freelancer, you’ll have days or even weeks that are quite unpredictable and you’ll be forced to improvise. But for most of the time, it’s possible to have a general plan and stick to it. How long your breaks should be, how often you’ll make them, when to start working, how often you’ll check your emails or social networks – you should have all these planned ahead.

Establish all these as routines and resist the temptation to break them from time to time. If you allow yourself to violate the agreement you made with yourself just once, this can get out of control completely. Unless the circumstances are really extreme and there’s no way you can stick to the plan you’ve designed, you have to stay disciplined. Otherwise, there’s a chance you’ll make a total mess out of your work and your life.

Plan your breaks

You’re not only supposed to organize how you’ll spend your working hours, but also how you’ll use your breaks. Of course, you don’t have to have the exact plan on how to spend every minute of it, but don’t ever allow yourself to do stuff that will get you carried away easily. For instance, if you’re in for a 10-minute break, you probably shouldn’t watch a 9-minute YouTube video if you think you’ll be too interested to watch the next one on the playlist as well. Taking breaks is necessary because a temporary shift of focus can help you change your perspective and be more productive and imaginative. But even during a pause, you shouldn’t get completely lost in space and time – keeping at least a bit of focus prevents you from getting too carried away and completely neglecting your tasks. Use the breaks to do things that will relax you but that won’t occupy your attention in such a way that you forget that you’re actually at work.

Make use of technology

There are many tools and apps that can help you save time, whether you’re a designer, copywriter, photographer or you do some other type of a freelance job. Also, there are a lot of things that are not exactly a part of your job but that you have to do occasionally or even every day, such as administration, invoicing or accounting. For all these, there are software solutions that can make your life much easier. Finally, you can find apps that are actually made to help you organize your day and be more productive.

Surely, most of these aren’t free and some might even seem too expensive at a first glance. However, it’s a small investment compared to what the benefits might be. If your budget is tight at the moment, you can even consider taking fast loans to cover these expenses. The right software is worth paying for as it can turn out to be a real productivity booster.

One task at a time

When you start working on a new project, the sheer amount of work put before you can be overwhelming. The danger of procrastination in these cases is huge, since it’s hard to find the motivation to begin. The best solution is to break one big project into smaller tasks and always focus only on completing that next little chunk of work. The feeling of accomplishment that you get after finishing every stage of the project will drive you through the next stage as well. Avoid multi-tasking and don’t think about how much work you’ve got left until you’re all done, as it will only bring anxiety and confusion.

All in all, when working as a freelancer, being disciplined is the first and most important step to being productive. A lot of people start doing a freelance job exactly because they lack discipline and a sense of organization, but this is a very bad idea. Freelancing demands being methodical, organized and systematic, and if you don’t have all these qualities then you should definitely reconsider your choice to go this way.

Emma is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a marketing degree she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant, industry related online publications and does a job of an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. Interested in marketing, startups and latest business trends.