No one wants to work harder than necessary.
Sure, we dream of working at the beach, but we’d rather be drinking a frozen margarita and not working at all. Yet sometimes work pops up when we’re least expecting it.
Maybe it’s an email offering us a hard-fought for job, or maybe we need to invoice someone so we can eat this weekend. Even when we’re trying to find a balanced lifestyle, freelancers can still get sucked back into work anytime they look at their phones.
Here’s my definition of Business Zen:
We started our businesses so we could spend our days doing what we love. Striving for business minimalism lets us clear out the stuff that’s holding us back, and allows us to focus on what really matters.
The ability to work directly from our smartphones is an amazing thing. It allows us freedom we never had before. But just because we have the ability to work doesn’t mean that our businesses will thrive. It just means that we need to come up with a new strategy.
Here are five freelancing rules for working from your smartphone without working your fingers to the bone.
1. Your Mobile Goal is Management, Not Productivity
As a freelancer, you have three main tasks: marketing yourself to find new clients (networking, communication, social media), your actual freelance job (writing, web design, graphic art), and managing your daily operations (paying bills and invoicing). In a world that’s measured by accomplishments, it’s easy to try to use your smartphone for all of these tasks.
As an overworked freelancer, your goal is to streamline your business. Use your smartphone as a tool to manage your business, not to try to accomplish everything on the go. Yes, you have a virtual office that allows you to work from anywhere.
But working from anywhere is not necessarily the best use of your time. Don’t try to do everything on your mobile phone. Just get the day’s priorities done and save the rest for your office.
2. Be Paranoid
You’re not being suspicious. Hackers really are out to get you.
According to author Arthur Baxter: “Hackers want to sit between you and the websites you visit in order to look at your information. They do this with little effort on public Wi-Fi. Besides the lack of security, all sorts of different people might their share sensitive information through public Wi-Fi.”
So along with adding encryption software like Norton Mobile Security, use USB condoms that block an accidental data exchange if you have to charge your phone in public.
Never wait until you have a security issue to figure out your smartphone’s vulnerability. If you think you’re overworked now, just wait until you’re trying to rebuild your online presence after a cyber attack.
3. Limit Apps & Platforms
Yes, there are a million awesome apps out there. No, you don’t need every app to do your job.
Freelancers can’t control the programs preferred by their clients. Maybe you like Slack, while your biggest client likes Trello. While you may not be able to change that situation, it doesn’t mean you need every possible app on your phone.
If your goal is to achieve some level of Business Zen, then you need to reduce the number of platforms you’re using every day.
Every business is different, so look at the programs you use for communications, social media, organization, and productivity.
Take steps to limit social media, choose one or two platforms for communication, and find one time management program.
If you’re unsure where to start, try Week Plan, which is inspired by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey and Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.
4. Never Assume You’ll Have WIFI
The entire concept of working from mobile is the idea that you can work anywhere. Whether you’re sitting at a coffee shop, at the sideline of a soccer game, or hiking up a mountain, you want to know where the best connections are.
Sometimes you need more than your phone’s data, and you shouldn’t assume you’ll have access to free WiFi.
An app like OpenSignal allows you to search a location to see where the best network connections are. This ability is great when you travel or run into a situation where you need to grab your laptop and find a connection fast.
5. Don’t Work 24/7
Perhaps the biggest rule for overworked freelancers is that you don’t have to work 24/7, even though your clients can technically contact you day or night.
I’ve had clients call me at home after 10 pm, before 7am, and on holiday weekends. I’ve been expected to jump when they say jump because they know I’m probably around.
Just because you have the technology to connect at any hour doesn’t mean you have to respond. You can always have an emergency protocol, but hang up the “closed” sign when you’re not working.
Many programs have the ability to let everyone know that you’re currently “out of the office.” Microsoft’s Outlook has an “Automatic Replies (Out of Office)” and Skype has it’s own notification system.
Cut the Smartphone Cord
Freelancing is an awesome job, but it’s still a job, not your life. Make a plan for using your smartphone. Actually, devise a strategy that works for your particular business. Set it up so that you can manage your business on the go, while not being tethered to your phone all the time.
On average, people check their phones 46 times per day. That’s almost 6 times per hour! And that doesn’t include freelancers who are actually working on their phones.
We all want to work less and still get great results. We all believe that technology is the best way to do that, and it certainly could be. But working constantly isn’t the answer to a better business.
It’s just a pathway to complete exhaustion.
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