The Way We Work

The holidays are a hectic time – you are busy celebrating, finishing projects before you take a few days off, and making big plans for your freelance business in 2012.

What can you do now – or over the next few days – that will give you an easier start in January without adding too much stress now?

Before you sign off for the holidays, avoid starting the new year in a rut by creating a plan for your first week back.

Start your to-do list now

There is a reason why lists are so popular; they are easy to create and a great way to keep yourself focused.

If you are busy getting big pieces of work done before the end of the year, chances are you have smaller or less time-sensitive items that you are putting to the side – administrative tasks, feedback, or client projects with deadlines in the future.

Start keeping a list of things to do when you get back, like reminders to:

  • Ensure any out-of-office messages are changed or turned off
  • Leave feedback for any clients you have just finished working with
  • Update your oDesk portfolio to showcase a great project you finished in December

Even the little things matter: You might find that simple tasks are an easy way to slide back into your regular work rhythm.

Clean up your email

Forkie - The Email Game by Baydin

If you use Gmail or Google Apps to manage your email, the Email Game from Baydin can make cleaning messages out of your inbox a lot more fun. Working in batches of 10, 30, 50 or 100 emails at a time, the Email Game forces you to make a quick decision about each message with a countdown timer. You get points for being fast – and if you do a few rounds, you can compete with your previous scores.

For some people, an empty inbox may still seem out of reach, but this is a fun way to make it a little less daunting to look at.

Break your goals into bite-sized pieces

You have lofty goals for the next year – do you know how you are going to achieve them? Zoom in on what you want and think about what your very first step might be.

For example, if your goal is to double your income next year, you might break it into a few parts:

  • Attract new clients
  • Increase your rates
  • Work more hours

Before you start applying for more jobs and before you bump your rate up, you will want to do one thing: make sure you have a great, up-to-date oDesk portfolio. Your very first step could be to look at the projects you did last year and decide which represent your best work so you can include them in your portfolio.

Updating your portfolio will likely only take a few hours in one afternoon; schedule the time for early January and you will already be one step closer to your goal.

Create a social media content calendar


This year, you finally started promoting yourself through social media: You update your blog regularly and you are pretty active on Twitter. But how many times have you sat in front of your computer wondering what to say?

A social media calendar can make this a lot easier. Make it as detailed as you like; the idea is to pick a theme for a period of time, like a month – or even a week. For example, if you are a designer, you might kick off January by sharing a blog post or series of tweets about your favorite fonts.

What is the first thing you do when you get back to work after a few days off? Add your tips in the comments section!

Amy Sept

Managing Editor

As the managing editor of the Upwork blog, Amy Sept works with regular and guest writers to share information that helps freelancers and businesses navigate the future of work. She owns Nimbyist Communications and helps non-profits, startups, and small business owners get their content marketing on track.