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The Best Productivity Tools for Freelancers and Remote Workers

Jan 24, 2021
(updated: Dec 5, 2022)
Max 5 min read

Working in freelance means being your own boss, having the freedom to set your own hours and work at your own pace. However, if you’re like me, you might feel you need someone to hover over you as sort of an omnipotent force, holding you accountable to work. Perhaps you have better self-management skills, but productivity is still a challenge we all face. The work still needs to get done, and you don’t have the liberty to let it slide, so here are some proven tools to boost your freelancer productivity. 

Self-imposed schedules

While setting a schedule is a major perk of freelance work, that doesn’t mean “having no schedule at all.” Having a routine and some consistency is important for staying productive. Human beings are creatures of habit, primarily because habits help hack your brain. Embrace rituals, like having a 9 am cup of coffee as you read through emails or making calls at a particular time of day… your schedule will be unique to you and should work best for you. While it will help in productivity, it will also hold you accountable for a closing shop at an appropriate time - avoid overworking! 

A designated workspace

Set up a designated workspace. Maybe that’s a coworking space, but it’s more likely a corner at home with office tools. It should have seating that promotes good posture, a computer, and any other items that promote a good workflow. Your workspace should absolutely not be in bed. Studies show that working from bed makes the association in your mind that your bed is a “workspace,” thus making it more difficult to fall asleep at night. 

Project management platforms and task trackers

When you’re working for a large company, odds are they have their project management system in place. But, for freelancers, keeping up with to-do tasks and project deadlines can be a bit more complicated. Keeping up with everything on your plate using random scraps of paper might not be as effective.

A great way to stay on track is to use tools like planners, lists, or a remote work monitoring tool. Use task and project management tools to manage tasks and promote collaboration. Having a visual reminder of the tasks at hand will keep you honest and attentive to your work.

I like to have my time blocked out to visualize my work week. I also like to have a list of tasks to complete day-to-day that I can cross off in a self-satisfied manner. Familiarizing yourself with your organizational needs is a valuable trait that will benefit all aspects of your life. 

Online communication tools

Communication is crucial for remote workers. Beyond emails, video calls, and instant messaging, a traditional phone call can go a long way. Nowadays, video conferencing is the go-to alternative to face-to-face meetings, and those are excellent for collaboration. Plus, with screen-sharing capabilities, these tools take collaboration to a whole new perspective.

Popular video conferencing tools include Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Chanty and WebEx. Experiment with different ones to find the best ones that suit your needs. For freelancers, it’s always best to create accounts in various ones to accommodate clients.

Sometimes you want to share news as quickly as possible, need a quick answer to something, or want to share an update. Instant messaging apps like Slack, Discord, Microsoft Teams, and others are perfect for that.

Team collaboration platforms

Those against remote work believe that it butchers team collaboration. This couldn’t be further away from the truth. Thanks to collaboration tools like Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive, teams can collaborate in real-time on the same document. These are excellent collaborative tools to share ideas, update tasks, and more. Collaboration tools are perfect for teams in different time zones, as each person can visit the same documents and see the latest updates.

Automation tools

There are plenty of tools out there to streamline efficiency. Why waste time with repetitive actions like logging in, drafting the same emails, or editing your work? Textblaze is a great tool to automate common phrases you use and insert text blocks. 

LastPass is a lifesaver as well in that it stores all of your passwords in one safe place while generating high-security new password recommendations. Grammarly is another useful extension that quickly edits all of your messaging for spelling and grammatical errors, ensuring readability. These tools can quickly cut out unnecessary work and increase your efficiency, leaving you more time to apply yourself diligently to other matters. 

Habits of successful remote workers

At first, working from home can be challenging, and it will take time to adapt. It’s crucial to develop successful remote working habits that help you eliminate distractions and get more done. Here’s a roundup of the best habits successful remote workers and freelancers follow.

Remember to take breaks

At times, it can be easy to keep working for hours without end. Prolonged focus on a single task, believe it or not, can hinder your performance and decrease your ability to concentrate. The optimal break schedule varies greatly. Some people take breaks every two hours, others every hour. A quick 5-10 minute break between tasks works best. Try different schedules until you find what works best for you.

Prioritize your tasks

In the past, I’ve been told by my mentors to “tackle the elephant in the room first.” By this, they meant I should do my least favorite activity (or the largest one) at the start of the day and get it over with. If I don’t get it done early, I’ll find myself dreading it throughout my day, knowing it needs to be done.

Set boundaries

Finding a routine while working from home can be challenging. This is particularly true for those with kids, spouses, or roommates in the house. Overcoming these distractions takes discipline and boundaries. Setting a schedule from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm is a great way to keep yourself organized. A fixed schedule also prevents displaced productivity, like taking a break to empty the dishwasher or put clothes in the laundry. 

Minimize distractions

Because you don’t feel the pressure of your boss, coworkers, or clients watching you mindlessly scroll through your social media feed, you might spend more time there. These distractions can be challenging to avoid. Use app blockers to help you stay away from these distractions. Set schedule times to check your emails and notifications. For example, set intervals of every two hours or so instead of looking at emails every second. Minimizing distractions is one tool that can help boost productivity at home.

Create a space for working

If you’re planning on becoming a remote worker for the long haul, you have to invest in proper equipment. Choose your desired working station, and do your best to work from the same location every day. Whether this is your home’s office or your couch, having a dedicated area you associate with work will help you become more productive and focus better. 

Keep in touch

Working from home can feel isolating and alienating at times. But, you don’t want to be out of sight. Whether you’re working with a team or being a solo freelancer, make sure you keep in touch with colleagues and clients. It’s far better to over-communicate than under-communicate, especially as a remote worker. Share project updates, highlights, and more to stay connected. 

When you have the right tools for remote workers and develop remote habits for improved productivity, working from home becomes a real perk. It might take time at first and a lot of trial and error, but once you find your groove, it will help you turn your freelance career into a lucrative source of income. 

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