How to be More Productive and Start Earning More as a Freelance Designer


Being a freelance designer can be a great way to make money with your skills but the time will come when it seems you just can’t earn more. A major fear of every freelancer is the fear of not being able to earn more money due to a limit in productivity or effectiveness of the freelancer.

I have also been a victim of a situation like this and as professionals we need constant training and tools to stay ahead of the competition, and what this only means is that we need more money to keep ourselves afloat. This kind of situation is very unique and it isn’t a result of lack of skills or lack of clients, but it is simply because we can’t get more done.

If you’ve been experiencing problems with making more money as a designer due to lack of time then you simply need to learn how to get things done in less than half the time it takes without having to sacrifice quality for speed.

Having the right productivity tips and making effective use of them can make a whole lot of difference in how fast you succeed as a freelancer and it can mean the difference in you making four figures in a month or you making five figures in a month. Below are some of the tips that have helped double my productivity and thus increased my income over the months.

Work in Batches

do your work in batches

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I’ve been in situations where I have high hopes about what to do in a particular day but as a result of one big project I keep on postponing the smaller projects and at the end of the day I discover I’m unable to work on both the small and big project for that day.

One trick I recently discovered that has been working for me lately is to get all my work done in batches. I classify the kind of work I do with various clients and I identify the ones that are pretty easy to work on and the ones that take the most of my time – I group all my tasks based on how long it takes to complete a task and I dedicate a day to a group of tasks. The result is that I find it easier to get things done because whenever I start working on the simpler tasks I become pretty confident about what I’m doing and I also won’t be distracted by the bigger tasks and whenever I embark on the bigger tasks I find it pretty easy to focus on completing them because I believe I have enough time dedicated to it.

Working in batches ensures you don’t just work on any random project but that you’re able to work on a task based on its simplicity and that when you’re working on a bigger task you do it with great commitment – this will help you prevent the unexpected, make it more difficult for you to procrastinate and thus make it easy for you to get more done.

Complete First, Revise Later

complete your work first and revise later

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Perfectionism can be a great problem if you’re involved in any kind of creative work, especially if you’re a freelancer.

We all know that the better the quality of our work for a particular client the more likely they will rehire us and the higher the chances of them referring someone else to us, and as a result we try our best to make all the work we do the best, even if it means sacrificing our productivity.

Trying to be a perfectionist poses great danger to your work so instead of obsessing over each font you use whenever you design the first letter of a particular logo why not focus on completing the task first before revising it? The reality is that nothing will ever be perfect so don’t focus on producing the perfect design. Instead focus on giving your best to your client.

Whenever you take on a new project try to outline how you will go about it, design the whole project and then come back to make your changes by doing a revision after the project is complete – trying to examine every letter and font to make sure it is perfect as you’re working on a design won’t help you at all, it makes you less productive and results in a decrease in income for you.

Time Yourself

learn to time yourself

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If only we could notice how much time we waste on small insignificant things every day we would see the main reason we’re not being productive. A lot of us try to work on a particular project while at the same time surfing the web, and as a result we keep on checking our email and social media accounts every once in a while – if only we could notice how much time this is costing us!

You can increase your productivity as a freelance designer by timing each project you do – if you give yourself 40 minutes to complete a particular project make sure you don’t do anything else before that project is completed.

Another thing about timing ourselves is that it helps us become more focused. Once we are conscious of the fact that we need to complete a project in the next 40 minutes it becomes very easy for us to focus on it till it is out of the way.

Don’t Take All Jobs

don't just take any job

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One thing about being a freelancer is that you will start getting a lot of offers, especially if you know your stuff. Some offers will be highly lucrative but out of your scope and some offers will be what you find fun to do but the prices irritating. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to make sure you don’t just take any offer but the ones that will be best for you.

If you discover that you’re not that good at working on a particular type of design and that it will end up taking the most of your time the best thing to do is to avoid the job, no matter how lucrative it is. You should also do your best to ensure you avoid low paying jobs – they will only leave a stain on your career and make it difficult for you to get other jobs.

The less jobs you take the easier it becomes for you to identify and focus on what really works for you and the more likely you are to get paid for it.

Break Down that Big Project

break down big tasks
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There are situations where I get projects that I believe are too big to start working on and at the end I keep on postponing starting to work on them. As a result I discover that even after a month’s time I’m yet to touch that project.

That project that seems like a mountain really isn’t that big, and you might not realize that until you get started with it. Instead of procrastinating over a particular project because you think it is too big why not focus on breaking it down into smaller tasks?

If a project will take you three days of hard work to complete why not try to break it down into hours of work a day and days of work a week? That might take you longer than three days to complete but on the long run you will see that it is better than postponing the project for a few more weeks before you get started with it.

Procrastination is the worst thing that can happen to a freelancer and we have more time than we often think we have. Make it easy to complete big projects by breaking them into smaller projects.

Always Do Your Best to Avoid Deadlines

always avoid deadlines
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Some of us are used to not starting a project until we have less than a few hours to get it done. This can be really dangerous to our career so it’s important to work hard on eliminating it as soon as we get the chance.

I’m someone used to the idea of working on a particular project only when the deadline is near but in a particular month I decided to start working on a project in the beginning of the month. I only worked on my projects for the first few weeks and I got sick towards the middle of the month. I was unable to work for two whole weeks but at the end of that particular month I noticed I made more in that month than in some other months I was fully active.

The best solution sometimes is to start working on a project as soon as you get it. Don’t wait for a few more days, don’t wait for a few more weeks but start immediately! You will be amazed at how much spending a few minutes or hours on that project consistently can help you achieve.

Another reason why you should avoid deadlines is that as a designer you need ideas to thrive and deadlines only create nervousness which makes it easy for you to get ideas but when you focus on working on projects earlier on when you’re at peace you will find it extremely easy to get ideas and thus progress at whatever you do.

Have the Right Tools

have the right set of tools
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Why spend ten hours trying to achieve a particular goal using a cheap tool when a better tool can help you achieve the same goal in ten minutes?

The reality is that time is money, and you need to realize that to move forward. It might cost you money to get better tools but it will save you time in the long run, and that time can be better spent improving your skills or making some more money.

If you have the right set of tools you can easily reduce a two hour job to ten minutes and you can easily reduce a two day job to a few hours. That will only leave you with more time to work and will thus create an opportunity for more potential income for you.



  1. Aniket

    Absolutely great post.
    As a newbie freelancer myself, this is really helpful. I always do work in batches & am well-planned. But I guess, I get stucked all along making minute changes everytime. Your point – “Complete first, revise later” is useful.
    Thanks for such a clever post.

  2. Ivan Patrick Carmody

    This is a really lovely article for those who want to be successful freelance designers.
    Who want to proudly say “I AM MY OWN BOSS!”.
    If the tips within this article are properly understood, this page could be worth a million dollars to such designers.

  3. Ivan Patrick Carmody

    This is a really lovely article about how one can be a successful freelance designer. Its every designers dream to work on his or her own, proudly saying, “I AM MY OWN BOSS!”. All the tips given are really lovely. I wish every designer would get a look at this page, it may be worth a million dollars to those who begin to understand it.

  4. Kenn

    Great list and I’d add …

    Using a reverse calendar for the ginormous projects. It’s done like this.
    1. Make a list of the critical steps.
    2. Pick the end date of the project – the day to be completed. Say two months form now.
    3. Start going week by week toward the present day the main steps that need to be done in between.

    Doing this exercise is immensely helpful as it firstly gives you a realistic grasp on what needs to be done. The clarity will ease your stress levels. Secondly, you need only worry about the immediate steps with an occasional glance ahead if adjustments need to be made.

    Kenn Schroder

    Web Designers: 8 Mistakes that Stop You from Getting Clients

  5. Scarlet

    Thank you so much for this! It helps me to clear my mind since I’m becoming a freelancer now. It makes me feel more confident!

  6. Artur

    Thanks for the great article Onibalusi.
    I do agree with most points except Complete First, Revise Later. In my opinion it’s one of the best way to create unfinished work and forget about it, leading in some risks delivering your work late.
    Finishing what you started doesn’t mean being too perfectionist :)

  7. LeeB

    I agree that it’s important not to take all work you get offered – as tempting as it can be. I think it’s important to play to your strengths and not get involved in work where it’s going to take you twice as long because you’re going to have to do a lot of learning on the job.

    Another tip is to set aside some time each week, probably half a day, to work on self-promotion and increasing your own knowledge.