productivity tips for freelancers

9 common freelancer productivity problems and how to fix them

Do you feel overwhelmed with all the things you need to do as a freelancer? Do you wish you had more time in the day to accomplish everything on your to-do list—without burning out? In this presentation, you'll identify your productivity problem areas so that you can take action and fix those issues, using a unique approach of personality-based productivity! 

This video will help you feel confident in your abilities to free up several hours each week, and have an action plan for restructuring your business in the most productive way possible for your unique life and business.

NOTE: This presentation is a recording that was initially taught at a conference for freelance editors in autumn 2022. 

Show notes:

  • 0:00 Introduction to the presentation.
  • 1:45 The FIRST thing you need to know about productivity.
  • 2:40 What productivity is NOT.
  • 3:45 The reasons why traditional approaches to productivity are NOT actually productive at all.
  • 4:45 What productivity IS — a better approach to productivity!
  • 7:30 Overview of the Productivity Powerhouse framework (solutions to each of the 9 common productivity problems and productivity mistakes you're making as a freelancer).
  • 8:20 Productivity problem 1, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 10:55 Productivity problem 2, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 14:20 Productivity problem 3, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 17:50 Productivity problem 4, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 21:35 Productivity problem 5, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 25:15 Productivity problem 6, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 28:15 Productivity problem 7, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 31:55 Productivity problem 8, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 34:00 Productivity problem 9, plus the solution to this mistake and practical actions you can take to fix the issue.
  • 35:55 Your overall action step — what to do with all of this!
  • 36:40 An important reminder about ALL of this.
  • 37:15 Where to go from here and how to get support, guides, templates, etc with EVERYTHING you learned today — Save time and energy, enjoy true work/life balance, overcome these common 9 productivity problems once and for all, and make incredible progress on your goals when you join the anti-hustle e-course for freelancers, Productivity Powerhouse!


Hello and welcome to the foundations of productivity. In this session, we're going to go over the nine productivity mistakes that you are making and how to fix them using personality based productivity. 

So, first of all, why am I teaching us? My name is Sagan Morrow and I'm an anti hustle productivity strategist and internationally board certified success coach at I've had my business for for well over 10 years; I have done solopreneurship, freelance writing, social media management, a bunch of types of things in my business, business partnerships and writing books, all of the things, and one of the early problems that I had in my business is that I have chronic insomnia, chronic nightmare disorder and chronic anxiety. As a result, traditional productivity hacks or tactics are really not designed for people like me in mind. 

What I had to do is to really unlearn a lot of traditional productivity methods to instead design strategies that worked very well for my lifestyle, for my mental health, all of these different types of things. Because I've had so many different types of pieces within my business, I've really been able to apply my own signature anti hustle productivity methods to a lot of different types of businesses and business models. And that's what's brought me here today! 

Over the past few years, I've really transitioned into teaching about anti hustle productivity to other solopreneurs like you so that you can apply these methods to your own situation as well. Let's dive in… 

The first thing that you need to know about productivity is that it is a practice. It is a skill that anyone can develop and it's something that can be built into as a habit for lifelong learning. 

There is no limit to how productive we can be! I live and breathe productivity at this point in my business — I'm a productivity strategist — and what I find so delightful, so beautiful, is that I'm constantly upgrading my own productivity skills even though I've been in business for well over 10 years. Even though I teach my productivity myself, I’m always upgrading my own skills. There's a really wonderful opportunity with productivity to continue to improve and build upon it. It is a very lovely continuous journey that builds on itself. productivity tips for freelancers

Now, you probably think of productivity through the way that it is traditionally taught in our society. Let me know if this sounds familiar... 

This is that idea of waking up really early in the morning and not taking a break until it's time to go home from work, or working every weekend or every single evening. Another example of productivity, as you might know it, is toxic hustle culture: keep hustling, keep grinding, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”; that whole concept where your worth and your value are measured by how much work you can do. 

And that leads very nicely into our third example here of prioritizing and glorifying busy work. These are those tasks that make us feel important and busy, but in reality, they are not furthering our goals. This is the act of doing work for the sake of work and not analyzing whether it is useful or even necessary. Toxic hustle culture thrives when we glorify busy work. 

But here's the thing: Traditional approaches to productivity are not efficient. They actually end up wasting a ton of time. They also do not take your unique situation into account. They were designed by gurus who have a very specific lifestyle without accounting for your particular situation or background or goals, work life balance, interests, and so on. 

Hustle culture is extremely one dimensional. It doesn't care if you are a parent to small children, if you have mental health issues, any of these types of things. And frankly, traditional approaches to productivity are not remotely sustainable. They lead to a lot of burnout and unhappiness, stress, overwork, overwhelm, exhaustion, and decrease in work quality and missed deadlines. 

In other words, the problem with traditional approaches to productivity is that they don't actually work. They're not actually productive! 

And that is why we are here today: There's a better way to approach productivity so that it truly genuinely supports you. True, healthy, sustainable productivity that actually works and supports you is rooted in energy management. 

It doesn't matter how many corners you cut, or how much time you can save, if you're too tired to make good use of that extra time or to enjoy it. We want to make sure that your energy levels are very stable, so that you can actively increase your energy when you find that it’s taking a dip. 

You also can’t produce high quality work if you’re tired, so it affects your focus and clarity and decision-making skills. Plus it’ll take you much longer to do anything if you’re exhausted. That means it affects your ability to meet deadlines, which can also result in relationship issues with your clients — they're not going to recommend you, they're not going to rehire you; so many other problems come from that. 

True productivity is also efficient and abundant. It’s really about, again, getting that more high quality and meaningful work done in less time without burning out. 

True productivity, when we look at it through this lens, actually begets further productivity. It's also highly strategic: rather than priding ourselves on being super busy and very important, what we want to do is to focus on tasks that actually matter, that truly support you and your goals, so that every day you can really see the actual incredible tangible progress that you're making. All of these pieces work together in conjunction. 

When it comes to productivity and solopreneurship, there is no such thing as one size fits all. And that is why I love to focus on personality based productivity! If you remember what I said earlier about having nightmare disorder and anxiety and insomnia, it's really important to structure my business in a way that accommodates for those things. You'll want to do the same type of thing depending on your lifestyle, depending on your health, depending on all of those other factors, and also your personality, how your brain works, what you enjoy, if you're an introvert versus an extrovert, all of those different types of things really need to be factored in here. 

With that in mind, let's dive into the nine common productivity problems that a lot of solopreneurs face, and what you can do to actually fix those problems — using personality based productivity and anti hustle methodologies! 

What we're going to be working through here is my signature Productivity Powerhouse framework. This is my signature anti hustle program that teaches you how to save 10 hours a week without burnout or overwhelm, and how to achieve your goals faster and more easily while maintaining a really good work life balance. 

You're gonna get a little sneak peek of this program and how it works — so you can actually enjoy stress free scalability and sustainable business growth using the nine steps of this framework! 

Productivity Problem #1: You do not know what you actually want from your business. 

You don't have clear goals so you don't actually know specifically what it is you're working toward. Does this sound familiar? 

The solution: Identify your desires. Start with your personal life! Your business should support your personal life and your personal lifestyle, your ideal lifestyle, your personal life goals, that type of thing, rather than the other way around. Most freelancers make the mistake of building their life around their business. 

What do we want? What we really want to do is build your business around your life. You don't live to work, you work to live. So ensure that everything starts with what you want from your personal life and your personal lifestyle wants and needs, then we can build your business around that. 

Your action step here for doing this particular step is to really get clarity on your lifestyle goals, what your ideal lifestyle will look like, your personal productivity style, and also really your strengths and your weaknesses. 

Everyone has a different way of processing information and experiencing the world. And the more that you can truly tap into what works for your unique brain, the better and more easily you will be able to strategize and take intentional action with your business. 

One example of this, a basic example of this, is integrating something like your learning styles into your personal productivity style. For example, someone who scores really highly as a kinesthetic learner is probably going to do a lot better with a physical task list, maybe colour coded sticky notes, whereas someone who scores highly as a logical learner might do better with something like Asana, a software or spreadsheets, that kind of thing. 

It really depends on how your brain works as to what sort of systems are going to work well for you in terms of productivity systems and getting organized. You can see how, by integrating something like your learning style into your overall productivity, if you choose systems and methods that don't actually work for your brain then you're really going to struggle with it.

Productivity Problem #2: You have too many amazing goals and plans and not enough time to do it all. 

Everything feels really scattered in your business! Let me know if that sounds familiar; if you're experiencing this problem. 

The solution here is to prioritize your goals. Connect the dots between all the different things you want to do. This is especially important if you are multi-passionate, which you know I definitely am and a lot of my clients also are — in that case, it's really important to take this into consideration. 

There are always going to be connected threads between your many different ideas and goals and plans. No matter how different they seem to be, there will always be connected threads because YOU are the commonality. 

In my business right now, a few different things that I do — as I said, I'm a productivity strategist, success coach; that's one of the main things I do. I also write romantic romantic comedy novels, so that's another part of my business. I also do freelance writing for clients. That's another component. There are all these different areas and at first glance, some people on the outside might think, “how does this all fit together?” But you can see if you go to my website, if you go to my social media platforms, everything fits together very cohesively, and specifically because all of it has connected threads throughout. 

So I have internal connective threads for how all these different pieces that appear detached or that seem detached, actually fit together very beautifully. It all makes sense. And it makes it much easier for me to actually take action on them, without getting really overwhelmed by all of it. If you're feeling scattered by all the different things you want to be doing in your business, then gaining focus on it and creating effective threads is going to be crucial. 

Your action step here is to create a business plan that actually works for you. I definitely recommend doing a business planning retreat. If you haven't been one of those before, that's going to make a big difference for you. 

Your business plan should be an organic living document that grows and changes and evolves as you and your business grow and change. If you currently have a business plan that’s just sitting in a drawer or gathering dust or you haven't looked at it since you created it, then now is the time to overhaul it. 

It should be used as an active tool in your business. It steers the ship of your business. Your business plan should be extremely actionable; you want to be referring to it on a routine basis and that it is guiding all of your business activities. It's also for YOU — it's not for anyone else. It doesn't need to be dull or boring or jargon heavy! You can have fun with it. You can enjoy the process of it and make it in a way that feels fun to you, so that when you are looking at it on a routine basis, you actively WANT to look at it. 

productivity powerhouse framework

Productivity Problem #3: Even though you appear successful on the outside, maybe you've got some clients, you've got enough work that's coming in… In actuality, on an internal level, you are burned out, you are exhausted. 

Does this sound familiar? Is this a problem that you are currently experiencing in your business? 

The solution is to manage your energy. Energy management is that root or foundation of really good time management and anti hustle productivity. You want to make sure that you're incorporating plenty of breaks and rest into your day, week, month, year, all of that, so you can have this wonderful foundation of true, healthy productivity. 

And when I say breaks and rest, there is a right and a wrong way to go about doing it! You want to make sure that when you're taking breaks, you aren't thinking or worrying. 

There are different ways that you can implement breaks, depending on how your brain works and your unique situation. Here we’re ensuring that there isn't guilt built in around it because in that case, it's not going to be restful, it's not going to replenish your energies. Ensuring that you're being very intentional with your breaks or your rest is very important. 

Your action step for this is to create a burnout prevention and management plan. Here you are identifying, what are your symptoms of burnout, and how are you going to ensure that you're gonna take those regular stress-free breaks? 

This can involve doing a lot of unlearning around toxic productivity and around the guilt or the shame of taking breaks. When you are creating a burnout management or prevention plan, this is also about identifying exactly what to do at each different stage of experiencing burnout or when you see that burnout is on the way — being able to step in and redirect it. Having all these pieces in place is really important. 

One of the ways you can go about doing this is to track your energy levels to get a much deeper understanding of it, and also to identify your own personal energy boosters and energy detractors: what fills your cup and what drains your cup? 

When you know your personal energy boosters and detractors, then you can start analyzing everything that you do in your business —different tasks you do, your schedule, all of that — and adjust accordingly. Where do you need to make changes to honour your energy levels and to make better use of your energy? 

For example, if you're not a morning person, then don't force yourself to do energy intensive activities in the morning! You’re looking at everything and figuring out “okay, how can I adapt what my current business model looks like so that it accommodates for this?” 

One of my clients realized that she needed to let go of rush jobs, for example. She was doing a lot of them and they were leading to burnout and she realized, “I actually don't enjoy doing rush jobs. They don't make me feel good and they drain my energy so much!” So we have restructured her entire business model to really accommodate for this. 

Productivity Problem #4: You are only using particular marketing techniques or pricing strategies or communication processes, etc, because you see other people in the industry doing them — you assume that it is the only way or the best way to do it. 

…So even though you don't actually really enjoy that strategy, you just do it anyway! Does that sound familiar? 

The solution is to create your customized strategies. Break free of the temptation to do things *just because it's that industry norm*. What do you actually want to do? 

You get to make your own rules. You get to design strategies that feel amazing and fantastic for you. The most beautiful thing about having an online business, about being a freelancer, is that there are limitless options and opportunities. There are so many different ways you can go about growing your business, marketing your business, handling client communications, all of that. You get to design everything in a way that feels so perfect for you. 

Your action step is to create strategic action plans that are fully customized to your needs.

For example, use time management tactics and productivity strategies that work for your brain — not ones you just choose randomly! There are so many fun time management tactics that you could use, but not all of them are going to feel great for you. If you are using the Pomodoro technique or time blocking etc, but you are just using them because you see other people using them, then there's not gonna have an intentionality built into it. It’s probably not going to be as effective for you as if you really take a step back and look at, “How does my brain work? What feels really good for me, what actually appeals to me, what makes more sense for my business? I'm going to experiment with that tactic over here rather than those ones.” 

This connects back to that first step of connecting with your personal productivity style, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, all of that stuff. All of these steps really build on each other and create a foundation — they need to be layered and everything else you want to do becomes much easier when you do the previous steps. 

Another way to look at this one is keeping in mind that there is no single *be all end all* social media platform. There are so many different social media platforms you can use. You can choose any type of marketing strategy that you like. You don't need to get TikTok, you don't need to be on Instagram, you don't need to be on Facebook — you can focus on the ones that you enjoy. 

If you hate a particular social media platform, if it's not fun for you, why should you use it? Ensuring that you are using things you actually ENJOY is important. 

And you know, I will also say here that many of my clients are introverts. Many of my clients actually don't enjoy social media. So what we end up doing is we come up with alternate strategies that actually feel good for them. For some people this might mean changing their approach to social media; with others, it means that they do not use social media, and so they focus very heavily on email marketing, for example. There are a lot of different options out there that you can really tap into, depending on your unique wants or needs. 

Productivity Problem #5: Everything in your business feels important or urgent — you're overwhelmed with this never ending task list, but you do not know what you could possibly cut from it. 

Does that sound familiar? Is that something you're struggling with? 

The solution: organize your tasks. Eliminate the unnecessary busy work, connect everything back to your strategies and your bigger goals! 

Again, this is why we did those previous steps first: When you created your strategies and you know that “these are the exact things I'm going to be using,” you can connect those strategies back to Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals so you know what your goals are. You work backward to create a strategy that feels good to meet those particular goals. And those goals all support your lifestyle goals — your business goals, support your lifestyle goals. You create strategies that support your business goals. And then from there, you can work backwards to ensure that all of the tasks that you do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis fit into those particular strategies. 

Your action step is to outline all those tasks that you are doing again on a daily basis or weekly basis, monthly basis and ensuring that they connect back to your strategies. 

When we look at this, based on that previous work that you did, you could for example, check on your three month goal — So back in Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals, maybe you have like a three year goal or a one year goal, then you work backwards: where do you want to be three months from now in order to get to where you need to be a year from now?

Then you can break down at three months — three months is a really nice time because it gives you enough time to test things, see what's working, what doesn't, and you might want to pivot a lot; you might want to create a whole new different strategy or really change things a lot. So we don't want to plan out new daily tasks beyond three months because things might change. 

If you know where you want to be three months from now, that's your milestone that will lead up to your longer-term goal, then you can really look at: Where do you need to be one month from now, in order to get to that three month milestone goal? 

And from there, where do you need to be a week from now in order to make the progress for your month goal? You can break it down and map out very specific tasks with their time allotment into every single day for the course of three months. Be sure to map out when you’ll be taking breaks, when you'll be taking weekends off or vacation or anything like that, and have everything mapped out so you know exactly what you have to do, and what order to work on it, in order to hit that longer-term goal. 

When you do this, you're probably going to see that you can cut away a bunch of unnecessary tasks that you currently have on your list. You'll probably realize, “Those tasks could help me but they're really not necessary. They're fluff pieces. They're busy work, or they're not actually tasks I want to do.” Or, “instead of doing that task, this task is actually a simpler way to achieve the same thing and it's more fun for me.” You're gonna be able to critique all of it as you move forward with it. 

Productivity Problem #6: Your business feels chaotic, and there's really not enough time in the day to do everything. You probably also have a tendency of overcomplicating just about everything in your business. 

Does that sound familiar?

The solution: simplify your processes. Your business should be able to maintain itself without you being hands on every minute of every day — yes, even as solopreneurs, even as freelancers, this can be our experience! You do not need to hire people, you do not need to outsource to people, in order to have your business maintain itself. 

Your action steps: Fine tune your business structure and create a decision making matrix. Your decision making matrix is an amazing tool that can be applied to basically anything in your business and it makes all the business decisions for you, big or small, so that you do not have to expend unnecessary energy or time or effort on doing that. 

Your decision making matrix connects back to your business vision, values, goals, all of that type of thing. Another component here is to structure your business like you are a CEO. This might mean parcelling out different aspects of your business into departments or subdivisions, so everything has its own place and so you can put on different hats in your business and able to focus on that one type of thing at a time and ensure that everything is highly strategic and simplified for each different aspect of your business. 

You juggle a lot of things as a freelancer! You're in charge of running the business, doing business operations, admin work and marketing and client work, all of those different pieces. In this instance, you are able to remove other hats when you're focusing on one specific thing. 

Another aspect of creating this business structure and your decision making matrix is that you can handle all of this in a documentation manual or a business bible — you have this guidebook that's customized to your business so that you know how to do everything in your business. All of your processes are documented, very clearly outlined, for you to be able to refer back to as kind of like an upgraded version of your business plan. 

Productivity Problem #7: You are making big plans, you have really great ideas, but you have a hard time following through on those plans. 

Does that sound familiar? Is that something that you're struggling with? You have big plans or you like learning a lot of things… but implementing what you learn or taking action on your plans is where you run into some problems. Is that something that you are experiencing? 

There's no shame in it. By the way, this is a judgment free zone. There's no shame or judgment in having any of these struggles in your business or your life. I have experienced all these problems myself, my clients have experienced all of these; these are normal, these are common, these are things that every solopreneur runs into at some point or another. No shame or judgment around it! These are very common issues. You are not alone and you can overcome them! 

The solution for this particular problem is to walk your talk: taking action on different things. This is specifically rooted in pleasure and joy; making sure that you enjoy every aspect of your business. Again, this is why you did all of that previous work — so if you skipped any of the previous six steps, this is where you're going to have some struggles in taking action. When all of those other pieces are in place, it is going to be fun and easy to be an action taker because you will love everything in your business and you will love how everything is set up and all of your different tasks and activities in our business. 

If you do not enjoy all of the different aspects of your business, if you are still having a really hard time taking action, then it's probably because you need to revisit some of those previous steps. 

The other thing that could be going on is overwhelm, imposter syndrome, and these type of mindset issues. This is the other problem that could be taking place.

Your action step here is to process any overwhelm that you're feeling and to work through impostor syndrome. These are just a couple of the things that could still be getting in your way at this point. If you did everything else in the previous steps but you're still struggling to take action, then this is probably the issue here. 

In order to effectively move forward in your business and to take action strategically, what you want to do is some self coaching and deep inner mindset work. This is rooted in self trust and self honesty, both of which are skills but should be developed over time — they need to be developed and built on an ongoing basis. 

Again, just like with productivity in general, there's no point where you'll be like, “oh, now I trust myself fully, and I'm as honest with myself as I'll ever be.” No. There's always room for improvement, we can always build on your skills. So really ensuring that you are constantly being very honest with yourself about what might still be tripping you up in your business, and also trusting in yourself to take that sort of strategic intentional action on ideas and plans. 

Developing those skills, building those skills, doing the self coaching process when you're overwhelmed, and working through imposter syndrome is going to be really helpful here for moving forward with your action taker aspects of your business. 

Productivity Problem #8: You don't have solid systems in place, because you think that your business is too small for systems. 

Does this sound familiar? Have you maybe skipped setting up foundational systems in your business? Or do you have some systems set up, but not systems for absolutely everything in your business? 

The solution here is to fire up your systems. Get those systems in place to begin with in every aspect of our business, and then streamline them. The more your business grows, and the more success that you have, the more critical it is to do this. It's very important to do this when you're starting out as a freelancer, but it gets even more important, the more that your business grows. If you've had your business for a while, then you especially need to do this because the stakes are higher, the moves you make are bigger, and the risks are greater. 

What you really want to do here is fine tune everything at this stage — after you've done that previous work, those previous steps, you will have been able to implement some strategies and you'll have experimented with things in your business. Now you can fine tune it and tweak those things and pivot accordingly. 

Your action step is to implement automation and delegation, gamification and repurposing. You can apply these to many different aspects of your business to truly ensure that it runs a whole lot smoother and so that your business has stable foundations as you continue to grow. 

Doing this also makes sure you have a good handle on things when unexpected obstacles arise — and they will arise; that's just the nature of life, things will come up. This ensures that you have those really stable foundations and you have a lot more fun infused in every aspect of your business. 

Productivity Problem #9: You never check in with yourself. 

This is where your business plan might just be gathering dust. Here's where you probably aren't stopping to acknowledge or celebrate your success and your progress. You are so on the move, you're so in the weeds of working on your business, that you don't take a step back to really look at the bigger picture. 

You don't take a step back to pat yourself on the back to acknowledge and really celebrate everything that you have accomplished, everything you're doing in your business. You are probably also not analyzing your mistakes when you make them. You might make a mistake and then you carry on without really critiquing it. 

The solution here is to celebrate your progress: check in with yourself on a routine basis, assess the progress that you're making, and celebrate yourself; celebrate your amazing business. 

Your action step is to conduct regular business audits and personal performance reviews. 

When was the last time — yes, as a solopreneur - that you set yourself down for a performance review? This is an amazing practice that you can and should do as a freelancer: review your own performance. Grade your performance so you can continue to improve. 

Another aspect of this is doing business audits and check ins so you can stay on track with your business plan, so you can keep on top of any missteps or issues before they spiral out of control, and so you can redirect your business as needed. You can almost anticipate the mistakes before they happen. That's what these business audits will do for you. It's beautiful and magical. 

Wrap up: 

Put together all these pieces in the order that we've outlined here — start with getting clear and focused, then build in energy management as you create your customized strategies. You can organize your tasks based on those goals and strategies and assess where you are overcomplicating things, implement those ideas that let you streamline your systems and processes, and hold yourself accountable through progress points along the way. This is what we're doing to create that personal productivity action plan. 

And when you do this, you will be able to save easily 10 hours a week, every single week. All of these pieces are going to save you so much time and energy as a result. 

Remember, this is all rooted in customization. Every step along the way, you are taking your unique situation, your personality, brain, lifestyle, lived experiences, background goals, etc, into account. When you do this, when you do what makes your heart happy, what makes your business fun, when you make your own rules, all of this is going to become 10 times easier to truly solve those common productivity problems and enjoy yourself along the way — rather than just slapping a bandaid over your productivity. 

How do you do this? Learning this information is one thing, but acting on it is another! 

That's what I teach you inside my Productivity Powerhouse e-course: you'll get everything you need to create your own fully customized productivity action plan, implementing absolutely everything we went over today with step by step guides, real life examples and sample templates to make this work so much easier and more enjoyable for you. 

What you got today was a taste of Productivity Powerhouse. It is my signature anti hustle program that teaches you how to save 10 hours each week without burnout or overwhelm — and how to achieve your goals faster and more easily while maintaining work life balance, using personality based productivity and anti hustle methodologies. It builds on everything that we discussed today so that you can overcome every single one of these problems once and for all! 

Get all the details and join today: