The Evolution of My Productivity as a Freelancer

Those of you who have been following my work know that I have been freelancing for 9 years. During that time, my productivity has improved dramatically. How?

Through trial-and-error, as well as by reading many books on the subject, I have evolved a series of rules and principles that I adhere to on a daily basis. I am sharing them here in the hope that you will go through this process a lot faster than I did. Doing this will help you achieve the seemingly paradoxical: get more done and have more free time.


I started freelancing as a software developer in November 2011. I had finished college and was entirely disinterested in the subject I had been studying for 5 years. So, having a knack for logic and computers, I turned to coding.

However, my lifestyle was far from perfect, and it reflected on my productivity.


I played video games every other night. When I wasn’t playing video games, I would go out. I had positive hobbies as well: reading and the occasional basketball game. Having hobbies is not a problem; in fact, I strongly recommend it. But not all hobbies are created equal: some are productive, healthy, and relaxing; others destroy time and health while providing only a temporary dopamine fix in return.


Between the video games and the partying, there was hardly ever a night I would fall asleep before 2 AM. My alarm would go off at 9 AM, and even that was often ambitious — I would laze around until 10, or even 10:30.


Too much sugar. Way too much alcohol. As a result, inevitable mood swings and unpredictable focus.

Productivity score: 2/10

My budding freelance career somehow fought through the obstacles that my habits presented. I worked hard, but I was inconsistent. Starting work at 11 AM meant that I would either work until late or have work left over for the weekend.

Keeping clients happy was pretty much my sole professional focus, at the expense of earning less.


No changes in sleep, food, or habits. However, starting my first passion project made me more motivated. I often worked on weekends and evenings.

Productivity score: 3/10

I did about the same amount of freelance work, but I was more efficient. I started leveraging my downtime between projects better. With experience came the ability to pick better projects and communicate better with clients.


The passion project quickly turned into a business, and I was forced to discipline myself in order to keep it growing.


I severely cut down on the video games. In fact, I made a deal with myself: I would only reward myself with an hour of playing if I completed certain tasks during the day. It was the first time I incorporated some type of gamification into my life, and it worked like a charm.


I didn’t change this willingly. However, reducing the over-stimulation of the brain via video games allowed me to fall asleep earlier and sleep better. The alarm clock was still set to 9 AM, but now I actually got up at 9 AM more often than not.

Productivity score: 4/10

Doing freelance work and managing my business in parallel meant I worked a lot, but how I spent the rest of my time started to shift. With that change came more reading and better health. With that came more knowledge, a clearer mind, and more opportunity to optimize. It slowly started to dawn on me that all the above is connected.


The year I met my wife. Also the year I started hitting the gym regularly. There may have been some correlation between the two.


Started a strength program at the gym that brought on some pretty heavy lifting pretty quickly. Still, I undid some of the progress on weekends by drinking and sleeping in.


It’s difficult not to sleep well after deadlifts and squats. Started sleeping earlier, waking up at 8–9, and starting working by 10 on weekdays. My weekends were still hectic and exhausting.


Started counting calories and macros for the first time in my life.

Productivity score: 5/10

What does this all have to do with productivity? Everything! I doubled my earnings relative to the previous year, and worked on a couple more side projects, one of which was a multiplayer card game that had some 10k users on Facebook at one point.


This was a year of two major milestones: I sold the company I had built a few years back and I started investing my earnings into the stock market.

Productivity score: 5/10

No major changes in the way I worked.


The time and effort I was putting into the gym were growing to a point where, instead of boosting my health and productivity, it was draining too much time and energy and making it difficult to catch up with everything I wanted to do.

I decided to give it a rest for a while and take up some less demanding activities.


Replaced heavy lifting with outdoor running and playing pool. While running kept me in shape, pool would prove to be a phenomenal hobby, one that stimulates the brain and motor skills without being a huge drain on energy.


Started waking up at 8 AM. Yes, it took me 6 years to get to a reasonable alarm time. I don’t believe the problem was laziness. I’ve never been lazy. The problem was stubbornness. I maintained that the time you wake up doesn’t matter, as long as you get your work done. I would prove myself wrong in the following years.


I quit calorie-counting but kept most of the good habits I had developed during my gym-going days. That’s the thing about good habits — you can build them up for a year or two, and then let go of some of the pressure that you put on yourself during that time. You might lose 10% of your discipline, but this allows you to free up a lot of energy for new good habits, and new activities.

Productivity score: 6/10

Waking up earlier allowed me to be more consistent, bill more hours from my freelance clients, and try out a few more side projects.


Increased financial discipline: less spending and more investing.

Productivity score: 6/10

No changes in productivity and work structure.


No major changes, but a series of small tweaks to my schedule increased my output by 20–30% without increasing my office hours.


Replaced outdoor running with a home workout of my own design, combining cardio and bodyweight strength exercises. This takes up a lot less time than running because I can do it in my living room, and be done after an intense 20 minutes.

Stopped taking long breaks from work on most days. Structured my days into a series of roughly 1-hour work sessions, interspersed with 10-minute intervals used for house chores, stretching, and family time.

Productivity score: 7/10

Managed to combine a full-time freelance job with some great side gigs, invest more, and dedicate more time to reading.


The nemesis year of many was, by far, my best year.


Started waking up at 7 AM.


For the first time ever, I defined a strict morning routine.

Productivity score: 9/10

Spent all year working on the best freelance project of my life. In addition to that, I started writing articles, one or two every week. Started a Twitter account to promote my work and built it up to about 1000 followers so far. Recorded a course about freelance success and published it on Udemy. Had more time for family and hobbies than ever before.

“It seems to me that if you look back at yourself a year ago and aren’t shocked by how stupid you were, you haven’t learned much.”

— Ray Dalio

Cut the process short

Can you do better than me? Sure you can! What took me 9 years can take you 2 or 3 if you’re smart and you apply these crucial principles:

  1. Wake up early.
  2. Diversify your income by creating content, creating products, or creating services.
  3. Add reading into your daily schedule.
  4. Mind your health and avoid burnout.
  5. Take mini-breaks often and use them productively.

Habits take time to build, so no change can come within a week, or even a month. But abide by these proven principles for a year and you will see your productivity skyrocket.

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