8 Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs, Freelancers and Business Owners

Posted on April 15, 2017 by in Tips & Tricks | 32 comments

8 Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs, Freelancers and Business Owners

Many people in the WordPress sphere (and those visiting Elegant Themes) are self-employed, either as freelancers or entrepreneurs (or both). They belong to a growing group of people who earn a living and support themselves through the WordPress platform.

Being your own boss has many upsides but also downsides. One of the biggest challenge is the fact that you need to completely organize yourself. Nobody is telling you what to do when, it’s all on your own head.

Most of being successful as a freelancer or entrepreneur comes down to being self-organized and having good work habits. The better your habits, the more you can get done and the better your bottom line.

So, in the interest of your personal business success, in this article we will look at essential habits of successful entrepreneurs, freelancers and other creatives. Because we care about you. That’s just who we are.

What Successful Entrepreneurs and Freelancers Do Differently

Ready to reach the next level in business? The habits below will help you be more productive and successful in the long run.

Single Task

single tasking among habits of successful entrepreneurs

Studies have shown over and over again that multitasking is a myth. In fact, those that swear by doing several things at once are often the worst at it.

The human brain is simply not made to do more than one thing. When you try, it actually switches between tasks instead of doing both simultaneously. Multitasking is a waste of energy and responsible for more nervous breakdowns than crashing WordPress websites.

For that reason, one of the most important work habits to adopt is to only do one task at a time. Concentrating fully on a single task and only that will transform the way you work, I promise.

Pro tip: Have pen and paper at hand while working. Whenever something comes to your mind that you are tempted to “quickly take care of”, write it down instead. That way, it stops rattling around in your head and you make sure you don’t forget it.

Set Priorities and Create a Schedule


To be efficient and effective, it’s important to know what to do when. Having priorities and a plan is a surefire fix for most cases of overwhelm. If you don’t, everything seems equally important and your mind thinks you have to tackle it all at once.

Putting this habit into action can take different forms for different people. It can be as simple as writing a to-do list and picking one to three important tasks to accomplish for the day. Another idea is to plan your week ahead of time and put tasks into your calendar. You need to find the system that works for you.

This can also mean scheduling different kinds of tasks during different times of the day.

For example, I can do writing-related work much better early in the day. However, some time after lunch, my ability to concentrate on this type of work steadily declines. Yet, I am still able to do web design or other creative work that doesn’t tax the language-related part of my brain.

You might have similar habits and it’s important to figure this out.

Develop Routines and Processes

develop routines and processes

You might be surprised to hear that all of us only have a limited amount of willpower and self-control at our disposal every day. The more decisions we have to make, the more our pool of mental capacity is reduced (what is also referred to as ego depletion). Once that happens, it’s hard to be disciplined and effective.

For that reason, it’s best to find ways to preserve willpower so you can use it to get the important stuff done. One way of doing so is to establish routines and habits.

The more routine a task is, the less you have to think about it. That way, it doesn’t drain your inner resources and you can use them for the more important decisions.

This is the reason why people like Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg always wear the same outfit. It’s one less thing to think about.

For that reason, figure out how you can eliminate unnecessary decisions from your work flow by setting up routines. Anything that lets you get into the grove easily and get stuff done without thinking about it. You can find plenty of examples here.

Eliminate Distractions

Distractions are the enemy of productivity. Yet, unfortunately the modern world is full of them. Mobile phones, email, coworkers, family members–everyone seems hellbent on keeping us from getting stuff done.

In addition to that, once we are at our main work tool, we have to deal with the temptation of everything the Internet has to offer. Blogs, funny cat videos, news sites — willpower drainers everywhere. Consequently, eliminating as many of these distractions as possible is another habit for freelance and business success.

One of my favorite strategies in this regard is to only check emails twice a day at set times (usually 11am and 4pm). That’s enough to react to everything in a timely manner and eliminates the constant distractions of dealing with “emergencies”.

Aside from that, it can be very effective to block certain websites in your browser during office hours that you know to be time wasters. Apps like Leechblock , StayFocusd and Freedom can do that for you. I also use this browser plugin to block my Facebook newsfeed so I can’t scroll myself into oblivion.

After that, all that’s left is to switch off notifications on your phone (or even set it to Do not disturb) and you will have more space for working and running your business. If you are working from home, it might also be important to set boundaries with your loved ones so you can have some undisturbed time.

Outsource and Automate

automation for business success

Even though it’s your business and career, you don’t have to do everything yourself. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Often, others can do less important stuff better and faster than you.

For example, one of the first things I did after I generated sufficient cashflow was to hire someone to do my taxes. It’s something I absolutely hate, have no interest in learning and that overall just adds to my level of frustration.

For that reason, it’s a much better idea to have someone who can do it in the fraction of a time and much better than me. In the meanwhile, I am free to concentrate on tasks that will grow my business and my bottom line. Win win.

The same goes for you. Which tasks could you pass on to someone else that would free up time to focus on more important things? There are plenty of sites out there to find help such as Upwork, Guru and Freelancer.

Or, instead of hiring someone, maybe you can use one of the many automation tools to take some work off your hands. These are especially suitable for all things marketing and website related. If you are interested, this article gives you an intro into IFTTT, Zapier and other ways to automate and improve your workflow.

Track Your Time

Especially in the beginning of self-employment, it can be difficult to estimate how long different tasks will take. Most of the time, we actually underestimate the effort involved (or what is also known as the planning fallacy).

One way to address this is to take your original estimated time frame and add half on top of it again. This will get you closer to the actual time it will probably take you.

Secondly, to get better at estimating these things in the future, it’s a good idea to track your time. One of my favorite tools for that is Toggl. It’s browser based, easy to use and will send you weekly summary emails so you know what you’ve been doing. Tracking your time will also let you figure out your hourly pay.

Read and Learn

reading and learning are habits of successful entrepreneurs

Most successful people out there are voracious readers. They know that their education and knowledge is one of the best investments they can make. The same is true for our line of work.

Especially in an area changing as rapidly as the Internet, marketing and web design, staying on top of the latest trends and developments is incredibly important. A good start to do so are the resources we have listed here, here and here.

However, don’t neglect publications on other topics that interest you or inspire you to be a better entrepreneur like biographies of famous people and business books.

Get Plenty of Rest

Rest is a Weapon – The Bourne Identity

To do high-quality work, you also need some top-notch downtime. Albert Einstein reportedly tried to get at least ten hours of sleep every night. Other high performers also religiously covet their bedtimes.

You and I are no different. We also need to get enough rest in order to keep at peak productivity.

One of the best ways to make sure you get enough sleep is to establish set bed times. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.

However, it’s also important to take breaks during the day. A good way to ensure this is to work in sprints, as popularized by the pomodoro technique.

The way it works is that you set a timer for a 25 minutes and do just one task during that time until completion or until the timer goes off. Then, when the time is up, get up from your desk and do something else for five minutes. Rinse and repeat four times and then take a longer break.

This way, you get your mind out of the work frame and are able to come back refreshed. Trust me, it works. I’m actually doing this while writing this very article.

Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs in a Nutshell

In the quest for business success, self-employed freelancers and entrepreneurs need all the help they can get. Cultivating useful habits is one of the best investments to propel your life and business forward, make sure you are productive and stay on top of your game.

The examples above will help you get started. Most of the habits mentioned in this article are very simple to put into action and will truly make a difference in your work and private life.

However, don’t feel like you need to adopt them all at once. Focus on one at a time and really make it stick then move on to the next. You can always add more later.

Over to you. What habits do make a difference in your work? Let us know in the comments section below.

Article thumbnail image by Stmool / shutterstock.com

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  1. Great points Nick, especially the distractions, it is also to have a set break schedule as well and not break it either. Meaning, if you take 30 minutes for lunch, take the full 30, this allows the mind and body to relax and reenergize.

    • Hey Mike, thanks a lot for that important addition!

  2. This information is extremely useful as I begin my journey as an entrepreneur. I feel this article has nothing to do with Divi but will help me accomplish everything I want with being a Divi artist, photographer and creative soul. Much thanks to Nick and all those who contribute to helping us succeed using Elegant Themes.

    • Hey Pamela, I hope the information above helps you get started with your own business. I know what it’s like to strike out on your own so good luck!

  3. Eliminating Distractions is the best one to success i believe

    • It’s definitely an important one. Thanks a lot for the input!

  4. Thanks for the article. This came right at the perfect time as I am struggling on how to handle the thousand of items that need my attention and although passionate about my business I don’t want to burned out soon. Thanks again! I like the 25 minute work time and 5 minute off illustration. I will certainly practice this.

    • Yanni, happy to help! I know exactly what you are talking about. Having a fixed work routine is definitely the best way to fix overwhelm. Hang in there, you’ll figure it out!

  5. Nick,
    I cant be more grateful for this article. Im in 100% agreement with the highlights mentioned.
    I also recommend that readers consider to buy some apps that can help streamline activities 🙂

    • Hey James, happy you agree! Do you have any apps you can recommend? I’m a big fan of Evernote.

  6. I totally agree with the tip about Pen and Paper and taking notes. Richard Branson is a perfect example of this. He never goes anywhere without a note pad and pen. Great ideas can be lost in the madness of day to day life, so write them down. And spend 10 minutes at the end of the day looking back over the past few days and weeks note for a great idea you might have missed.

    • Thanks for the input, Carl! I had no idea Richard Branson did that. Reminds me of James Altucher.

  7. Im happy to discover I have implemented most of these tips in the past few weeks… I do appreciate your article Nick because it has confirmed that I am on the right track!
    One thing I do slightly different is that I work in 50 min blocks and then I get ‘out’ of my head for 10 mins by doing different sets of exercises for 5-10 mins (ab workout/spin bike/yoga/leg workout/walk around the block etc). I mix it up and it ensures that my sitting all day is punctuated with vigorous movement. I find that it also clears my head and refreshes me for the next block of work.

    Excellent article! Thank you.

    • Thanks Halia! Happy to hear you agree. I also used to exercise in between work blocks, however, I find it’s important to not schedule other “productive” things in between. This gives my brain the needed time out. But hey, different strokes…

  8. Hi Nick,

    At this moment in time I was exactly on the same lines, but after reading your article there is more clarity.

    Thanks for such an great article.

    • Thanks for such a great comment, Ashraf!

  9. Very useful. The way you have touched and cover every aspect is brilliant. This is going to be my checklist on my desktop. Thanks.

    • Happy to be of service, Krish!

  10. thanks for sharing this article. really this article is helpful for all. I saved this image for my daily work

    • Happy to help!

  11. thanks for this article. really this article is helpful for all. I saved this image for my daily work

  12. Thee most important step on routines and and processes picture is missing. Sex.

    • Thanks for the input, Roman. I believe that’s a topic for another article and/or blog.

  13. I would like to ask Elegant Themes staff and whoever ultimately is responsible for your blog, what makes any of you qualified to dispense advice that go far beyond your area of expertise? The Internet may be the great democratizer but it’s also the great dumbifier. You can find evidence online for just about any asinine theory you’d like – from vaccine conspiracies to UFO academies. When you folks initially started the push of Divi tips, or whatever you called it, they were largely in your area of expertise – WordPress. I am willing to purchase your software and accept emails on that subject. But lately you have been branching into a wide range of subject matter, and quite honestly I do not feel that the people giving this advice are experts in the fields you give yourself the right to “instruct on.” There are several points in this column, for example, that I can dispute – the author cites no authorities, there are no footnotes, and everything is presented as matter of fact. You ought to stick to what you know rather then further adding to the amount of watered – down expertise content that approaches every subject matter with the belief that anyone with google can do anything. Thousands of academics around the world research work and working habits at incredible institutions of higher learning and your expert is a person who is a self – proclaimed “entrepreneur.”

    • Hey John, thanks for the comment. Sorry you don’t like the article. Can you give me any feedback what exactly you don’t agree with?
      It’s true that I don’t cite too many official sources, however, I can tell you that these are habits that I have researched, tried and tested over years of self-employment. I’m merely sharing the things that work best for me and help make myself more productive in the hope to support others in their own business. Because when you are working for yourself, knowing WordPress is only one of many aspects needed to be successful. Cheers!

  14. Thank you all Elegant Theme teams for these beautiful articles. They’re really helpful for me.

    All the best for you.

    • Happy to hear that Özkan! All the best to you, too.

  15. Thanks for pointing out all these factors in one place. It is the best habits guide that everybody should start with. Especially those who are willing to succeed in business .

    Multitasking is the worst kind of distraction. You had a hard day. You know that you have been extremely busy all the time. But almost nothing is done, and that is frustrating. From that point of view, if you allow distraction to yourself from time to time, choose watching funny cat movies and keep away from multitasking. You will lost your day anyway but without negative emotions.

    Of course, it is very hard to get rid of multitasking epecially when you have to deal with customer service, project management, doing marketing things, and trying to write some code. Like Nick wrote, creating schedule and making your team members respect your ‘do not disturb me’ hours is essential for your success.

    • Thanks for the detailed comment, Marcin!

  16. Just the information that I need to beat my demons, thanks, thanks a lot for sharing.

    • Happy to be of service, Jonatan!

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