How Freelancers Can Kick Crappy, Outdated Business Norms

“If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.”- Lane Kirkland

Everyone knows the business norms: work from 9-5, sit in a cubicle, drink bad coffee, and complain about the boss. Fortunately, as freelancers we don’t have to deal with these any more. But unfortunately, we’ve been brainwashed for so long about what business “really” looks like. Stuffy, uncomfortable and unproductive. Here are a few ways to make sure that outdated business practices don’t creep into your workday and make you less productive.

  • Detach from your work. Make a clean break from your working environment regularly. Work and life are two very different things, and should be treated as such. When the two start blending together is when people find themselves working 10-12 hour work days. Ugh.
  • Wear what you want. The image of a sharp suit with a briefcase in one hand and the morning’s paper under the other is something the freelancer doesn’t have to conform to at all.
  • Drink great coffee. Or tea, soda, or any other beverage. I’m a firm believer in the “garbage in, garbage out” theory. Having nice, comforting fluids to drink during the day is a great morale booster. There’s a great article on how to
  • Don’t be confined by your work space. Don’t limit yourself to just one work space, if you can help it. Work mobility is a great way to spice up your work time to make it more enjoyable. Variety is the spice of life, my friends.
  • Pick your work times. Only work when it’s best for you, not when the rest of the business world works. The traditional 9-5 work day is sooo 1994. Thanks to technology like email, work hours are no longer that important. You can send emails at any time of the day (or night if need be).
  • Put money where you think is important. Many times companies don’t splurge on their employees. The worse work environment you have, the harder it will be to be productive. If you think you’ll enjoy your work more with a more expensive chair; buy it. Finding yourself cursing at your eight-year old computer while it freezes for the 42nd time today? Buy a new one. The satisfaction you gain from better equipment will ultimately make you more efficient. I don’t have hard data on this to back it up, but I’d argue that higher-quality (aka more expensive) equipment will save you money in the long run.
  • Keep the passion. Nothing steals our motivation for working like dull surroundings and boring projects. Take a good portion of your work time and use it for furthering your education about your work passions. This will keep your enthusiasm for your job and allow you to develop excellence at the same time.
  • Don’t try to be good at everything. Having a small set of really incredible skills is infinitely better than having a lot of mediocre skills. People will pay hand over fist for a really great service. Mediocre work is what Rent-a-Coder is for.
  • Only do what you REALLY want to do. Don’t chain yourself to depressing projects or bad clients. Being more selective with projects you take on ensures that you’ve got control of your workday.
  • Treat people like… people. A major misconception about business is that there really isn’t any human factor to it. “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business” is one of the worst business cliches ever. The best business is always personal. It’s so much easier to do work for friends instead of clients. If you need some further reading, Freelance Switch has a great article on how to turn your clients into friends.

Creative Commons License photo credit: foundphotoslj

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  • Joey July 16, 2008, 7:45 pm

    It’s always refreshing to get some new tips regarding the freelance lifestyle! I linked your page to a post I made I hope you don’t mind =) I’m a new lifedev reader, and it’s certainly filled with pertinent information and entertainingly written posts! Great job! =)

  • Allen Garner March 19, 2008, 3:46 am

    Excellent post! I will try to follow these tips dayly. I see you like the 7 habits book. Here’s an interesting post on this one It might be a good addition to your list by the way.

  • Albert ( March 17, 2008, 4:05 am

    Freelancing has allowed me to discover the pleasure of mixing blocks of work with blocks of play throughout the day.

    I often work for an hour or so, then go for a run. Then another hour of work and then a swim. This keeps me fresh and entertained.

    On days when work feels forced, I cut the work blocks down even further, sometimes to as little as 15 minutes. This allows me to get into work on days when I don’t really feel like.