In college, I was known as a champion procrastinator. My papers would finish printing as I walked out the door to class. I even managed to write a couple of papers after they were actually due and still get credit for them. But that approach to work does not fly in the freelancing world. Anything less than high-quality and on time can easily translate to my not getting payment for a project. That, in turn, can mean that my bills just won’t get paid. As a freelancer, completing projects on time is a necessity.

Freelancing definitely improves your interest in getting your work done, but that’s not the only reason that freelancers read productivity advice. The reality of the situation is that the better a freelancer is at handling her work — whether that means writing faster or putting together a higher quality piece in the same amount of time — the better her hourly rate is. There are only so many hours in the day, which means that a freelancer who wants to earn more money needs to figure out how to accomplish more in that same set of twenty-four hours you had yesterday.

The Problem With Productivity

If you take a look at many of the top ranked books and products on productivity, you may find something surprising: few of those products are designed with freelancers in mind. While some are created for small business owners, the mentions of bosses and assignments at work have me convinced that most well-known approaches to productivity are created with employees in mind. It can be particularly difficult to find advice geared at self-employed creatives. After all, not only do we have to complete everything on our task lists, but we also have to come up with semi-regular flashes of brilliance.

It doesn’t help that a fast way to reduce your productivity is to spend a couple of hours surfing productivity blogs and looking at tips and tricks. Not only do you lose the hours you spend reading, but you get distracted by all the new systems you want to implement in your own workflow. I’m particularly guilty of this situation: I write about productivity for many of my clients. Every time I write about some new tool or tip, I want to do nothing more than entirely revamp the way I handle my work.

Productivity Just For Freelancers

There’s no end-all-and-be-all productivity system just for freelancers. After all, we each work in different ways and have different needs. But we’re all ahead of the game to begin with: we have a built-in incentive to be productive (unless you really do like eating ramen for three meals a day). It’s just a matter of finding a basic approach that will work for you — you can always tweak an existing system, but building one from scratch tends to be much more difficult.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to have an all-encompassing system, either. If you have a set-up that works just fine for finishing clients’ work and making them happy, why does the same system have to guarantee that you’ll get the dishes done? Finding what works for you and supports your freelancing career is the important thing when it comes to productivity.

Thursday Bram is a full-time freelance writer. Her newest project is a blog dedicated to finding perspective in productivity. You can find Thursday on Twitter.