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Contractors are not employers, they are independent consultants who work when they want and where they want depending on client specifications. They are usually contracted in to perform a task for a specialist job that an internal member of staff doesn’t have the time, resource or skills to complete.
A contractor or freelancer will have their own tools to perform the required task, unless contracted in to complete a job where by specialist tools are required and provided on-site.Freelancers will often work for more than one client at a time and as such need to be resourceful in their approach and productive to ensure efficiency across all client assignments.
A contractor also needs to stay productive and communicate well, which is essential in creating a trustworthy reputation and knowing that you are on top of everything you should be whilst maintaining great relationships with clients and potential clients.
When a contractor is not reliant on an employer to give a typical 9-5 work structure, you can fall into the trap of work, work, work. If this happens, it’s a good idea to stop and realign what should be occurring in order to ensure a productive and effective working environment without the chance of burnout. Being productive should eliminate the need for rushing around, trying to cram in as much as possible into any given working day or the need to think you have to achieve everything before the sun sets. Working as a contractor or self-employed worker means that you need to set structure for all that you do and create working patterns or habits in order for things to be done in a timely, organised and presentable manner.
Here’s our top 8 tips for being productive as a contractor or independent worker
CommunicationBeing productive and working well as a contractor or any small business owner means that you need to communicate well. And not only well, you need to establish great communication skills to grow a business and manage your time effectively. Regular and ongoing communication with a client means that you know where you are, what you’re supposed to be doing with both parties having an understanding of what’s expected and what is happening in real-time. If there are good communication lines open, it will be easier to work through grey areas or issues and iron out problems from the beginning meaning a longer and easier working relationship. You’ll also be aware of the right people to speak to or the code of conduct with all issues that should arise.
Set expectationsKnowing what a client requires and desires is great, but the relationship needs to be two-way. Setting expectations of what you as a contractor wants or needs is important too. This eliminates frustration and time-wasted exercises and back and forth unnecessary communications. Setting expectations from the beginning will allow both parties to understand each other and know what is expected from the assignment.
WorkflowsWhen you first get started in any project, map out a workflow. This should be the starting point of any task. It may be time-consuming, it may take a few attempts to get right, but following a plan gives you direction and a purpose as well as a goal and target to reach. It will also allow you to dedicate the correct amount of time to a project and manage the costs that may occur.
Project ManagementEveryone has their own ways of working but when you are working with multiple clients or need to keep a database of client details and projects, using a project management system is a good great way to go. If you’re just starting out, you may opt for an Excel spreadsheet (make sure you’re covered for GDPR) but as time goes on and business grows, a central filing and project management tool is essential for productivity. There are many free solutions available online, such as Asana or Trello. These allow you to create and manage projects more effectively, setting due dates and being able to communicate with team members (or clients) on specific tasks.
Password SecurityWhen working with a number of clients, there will be a need to remember passwords or security information for each. With Passpack you can securely store client information or any personal / privacy information only accessible to you when you login. This takes away the need for separate hackable spreadsheets or files on your devices, providing a safe, encrypted online file.
AutomateDepending on what type of contracts you are working on, if you’re getting technical, try to automate as much as possible. Keep online notes or diaries to know where you are at all times that can be accessed from all your workstations. Evernote is a great app to store notes, save photos, documents, audio files, webpages and more. It’s a must have tool for any freelancer or contractor!
Stop multitaskingAs good and productive as it sounds, multitasking is not always a productive way of working. Chances are that the tasks are not being completed to the highest of standards, if thoughts are on two or more things at once. Dedicate time to one job at a time and finish that before commencing on the next. This also means that there is less chance you’ll need to go back to correct changes or make amendments as you’ve already put in 100% effort to achieving excellent results to start with, saving time.Distractions can also cause you to slip. If concentration stops, you’re more likely to start on another task rather than continue with what you’ve planned to do, slipping into multitasking. Take away any distractions so that you can concentrate on tasks, even if that means switching off your mobile devices or putting an out of office on your emails.
Take regular breaksThe most important aspect to ensure productivity is to take regular breaks. An eight-hour stint of full-on working will not improve your work ability but instead may hinder or cause you to make mistakes. Your mind needs to time to breath, your body needs room to stretch and your client needs your work to be outstanding. Concentration will be lacking in anyone who thinks they have a never-ending supply of effort to give, resulting in mistakes, ill-health or bad reputation. Look after yourself, look after your work and look after your client relationships by giving yourself time to regenerate and work productively.
All these points are things that most of us know already but putting them into action is not always an easy thing to do. Start this year with the motivation to building great client relationships and building a business that looks after itself. By addressing productivity areas, you can allow this to happen, giving you a much better sense of work-life balance and career satisfaction.If you’re a freelancer, sole trader or contractor and would like the opportunity to discuss these points or if you’re looking for an accountant to take the hassle of finance from you to give you more time to be productive with the things you love to do, we’d love to chat with you. Get in touch and let us help.