7 Lessons I Learned from Freelancing in 2018

If there is anything that can be said about 2018, it’s that it was fast. One moment here and the next … poof. Gone.

Even as the year departs, the lessons that it taught us will remain with us forever. Since there is no better time to reflect on our gains and losses than now, here’s a quick look at some lessons that freelancing taught me in 2018:

  1. Making notes on paper takes productivity up by several notches

Ideas are as slimy as eels, slipping through whatever cracks they find. Jotting ideas down can, however, encage them, allowing you to work on them further.

That’s what I did throughout much of this year. I wrote everything down in a notebook. Three advantages emerged from going old-fashioned:

  • A small break from screen time
  • Better concentration (I’ll explain that in a bit)
  • More convenience

If there is anything that is as plain as day, it’s that freelancing means increased screen time. This is why jotting ideas on a paper is a happy reprieve for our laptop-strained eyes.

At the same, studies prove that writing with a pen stimulates an area of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), which filters information. This probably explains why inking your ideas, creating content outlines, and so on can allow you to concentrate better on the task at hand.

This may also possibly explain why more ideas line up in a row, pushing and shoving, as you collect them on paper. In contrast, ideas can take time in showing up when we try to type them out. Plus, there are no popup notifications or email alerts when noting ideas on paper as compared to your laptop, which means zero-distractions.

  1. Checking emails along with Twitter notifications isn’t going to save time

Multitasking is evil.

I’ve learned that plenty throughout this year. Research also agrees as it concludes that trying to juggle several tasks at once can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.

Another mind-blowing finding that I learned back in the spring of this year: it takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus on a task after being distracted. What a waste of time!

To beat this problem though, I divide my work into segments: roughly 50 minutes of non-stop, distraction-free work followed by 15-20 minutes of break.


  1. Finger calluses are real

A couple of weeks back, I was greeted by what I thought were innocent-looking crepe-y fingertips. Unfortunately, the dryness on my fingertips (that I did notice but pushed to the backburner), started burning after it came in contact with some cream I used.

Luckily, the victims were only two fingertips – the index and middle fingers, that turned a blazing red (only slightly exaggerating here) and hurt. Plus, the calluses had a good sense of time; they surfaced on a Friday!

A little bit of Google search told me that those were the beginning stages of calluses, which occur due to constant friction or pressure (due to typing in the case of writers or others who type a lot). Fortunately, petroleum jelly saved the day.

Lesson learned: take care of your hands.

  1. Documenting client work in one sheet is very helpful

Throughout the year, I’ve maintained only one spreadsheet where I’ve recorded my monthly earnings, client projects including start and completion date, and everything else. It’s all in one place, and it’s an excel sheet that I am particularly proud of.

Not because I made more or less money but because the sheet looks amazing. Each client’s work is color-coded with light colors. Put together, it is a document that reflects the hard work that I’ve done throughout the year.

I can already tell it’s going to be very valuable as I prepare an annual financial review for the present year in freelancing. (Yes, I do that. You should too).

  1. Networking helps you grow and learn

Moreover, I learned that there is a lot that you can learn by networking. Sure, networking makes you visible and opens up gateways to opportunities. But, there’s more to it than that.

Networking allows you to learn more and it shows you things from different angles. By sharing what you know or talking about how you do something, you receive several opinions in response. This is where all the learning happens.

Research agrees as well. It highlights that by sharing what we know, we understand the subject better. Sharing what we have learned allows us to recognize the gaps in our understanding, which encourages our mind to organize information in a better manner.

So, it’s a complete win-win over here. Here’s an interesting bit from an amazing networking infographic on Entrepreneur.com.


6 & 7. Taking an off and rewarding yourself is essential

Rewarding yourself is a sweet way of enriching your happy hormones. Needless to say, the merrier you are, the better your work performance, and the more goals you can crush.

Besides, working on a laptop for at least seven hours a day on average (or eleven hours in certain instances) can quickly take its toll on your brain health. It can:

  • Steal your sleep
  • Possibly restructure your brain’s gray matter
  • Can add to your stress and anxiety

Here are Buzzfeed’s “5 Things Too Much Screen Time Does To Your Body.” The GIF with point # 5 is epic, btw.

Certain days, I just can’t take any screen time. And, those certain days are usually Sundays. That’s why I have learned that taking a day or two off can help re-energize, give your eyes something else to look at besides the screen, and keep your creative engines well-oiled.

Similarly, acknowledging and rewarding achievements, no matter how small can help.

While I can go on and on about what I learned, I’ll pause here and pass the mic to you: what did your work teach you this year?

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