9 Best Free Blog Sites Compared

Starting a blog sounds easy – you just need to pick a topic and start writing. However, there’s much more to it than that. For example, you also need to choose the right platform to power it all, and the decision isn’t an easy one to make.

Choosing the right blogging site can help you hit the ground running and make your new project that much easier to tackle. In this article, we’ll compare nine of the top free blog sites available online, and help you pick the right one for you. Let’s get started!

9 Best Free Blog Sites Compared

Over the course of this list, we’re going to cover a broad range of free blog sites, including self-hosted options. There are good choices for everyone here, regardless of your level of experience, so take your time until you find the right one for you (and test them on your own if possible!).

1. WordPress

The WordPress homepage.

There are two options when it comes to WordPress – the self-hosted version and WordPress.com. We’re big fans of the former, but some of you might prefer to stick with the latter.

If you just want to get a blog up and running quickly, and not have to deal with finding a web host, WordPress.com can be a decent option. Just keep in mind it only offers a fraction of its self-hosted alternative’s customization potential. You won’t have access to all of WordPress’ plugins or themes, but you can always migrate your content later if you change your mind.

On the other hand, self-hosted WordPress offers a highly-flexible and customizable platform for creating your website. Since it’s an open-source platform, you can customize it in any way you want, and use it to set up blogs of increasing complexity.

Plus, the self-hosted route enables you to have access to powerful themes such as Divi. The theme includes a wide variety of modules to help you customize your blog, as well offering pre-built layouts to help you get started – so it’s easy to come to grips with.

Key Features:

  • Enables you to build any type of site you want, including blogs.
  • Offers access to thousands of plugins and themes if you use self-hosted WordPress.
  • Provides almost full control over every aspect of your blog, covering both style and functionality.

Price: Self-hosted WordPress is free | More Information

2. Drupal

The Drupal homepage.

Drupal is another big name when it comes to self-hosted platforms. It’s an open-source solution that powers popular sites in government and higher education, and it’s also a good option for regular blogs.

On top of being free to use, it also offers you a wide suite of themes and modules (their version of plugins). Plus, there are several free distributions available that enable you to download bundled versions of the platform, which can make setting up specific types of sites much easier.

Key Features:

  • Lets you create blogs and other types of websites.
  • Gives you access to an active community and excellent documentation.
  • Enables you to use any of a wide variety of modules and themes.
  • Lets you download either the default version or a bundled distribution of the platform.

Price: Free | More Information

3. Joomla!

The Joomla! homepage.

Joomla! is one of our favorite Content Management Systems (CMS) thanks to its flexibility and ease of use. If you ask us, it’s one of the closest alternatives to self-hosted WordPress when it comes to functionality, which makes it a good option if you don’t want that particular platform.

In this case, we’re also talking about a self-hosted platform, so your costs will depend on which web host you choose. However, Joomla! is a very lightweight platform and it includes built-in caching functionality that can make for fast-loading websites.

Key Features:

  • Lets you enhance your site’s functionality using extensions.
  • Provides access to built-in caching and Search Engine Optimization (SEO features).
  • Gives you the ability to edit your blog’s content quickly thanks to an intuitive dashboard.

Price: Free | More Information

4. Wix

The Wix homepage.

Wix is one of the most popular hosted site-building platforms available, and it’s very easy to use thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality. You can also access an extensive gallery of templates to create pages even faster.

The main downside in this case is that Wix isn’t a free platform per se – it just offers a free tier. You get a modest 500MB of space to host your website. However, you can’t connect a domain name to your site, and you get to deal with ads. This might not be a big deal for personal blogs, but it’s not a good plan for professional sites.

Key Features:

  • Provides a drag-and-drop builder to create stylish websites.
  • Offers access to an extensive library of pre-built templates.
  • Lets you automatically create a responsive version of your site.
  • Enables you to install any number of apps from Wix’s dedicated library.

Price: Free and premium plans available | More Information

5. Weebly

The Weebly homepage.

Weebly is very similar to our previous pick in many aspects. For one, it only provides you with up to 500MB of space on its free tier, and you also have to use a subdomain if you opt for that plan.

The platform also emphasizes its top-notch drag-and-drop builder as a main selling aspect, and it offers dozens of modern templates. However, there are a few things that set it apart – for example, you can manage your site using a mobile app, and it packs in a decent set of SEO features.

Weebly’s biggest downside is that, similarly to Wix, the free tier includes ads. If you can overlook this, it can be a good option to host your blog.

Key Features:

  • Offers a template library to create a modern-looking blog.
  • Includes a drag-and-drop builder to customize your website.
  • Lets you access a vast collection of apps to extend your site’s functionality.
  • Enables you to optimize your site’s SEO using built-in features.
  • Gives you the ability to manage your website using dedicated mobile apps.

Price: Free and premium plans available | More Information

6. Blogger

The Blogger homepage.

Blogger is one of the oldest free blog sites around. It was acquired by Google in 2003, and it’s been trucking on since then. The hosted platform doesn’t offer you as many features as the others we’ve covered so far, but that’s to be expected. After all, Blogger is a pure blogging service, although it does offer plenty of functionality for sharing your thoughts with an audience.

As far as price goes, Blogger is entirely free, and it enables you to link your blog to a domain of your own. If you’re looking for a straightforward and fast blogging option, this is a good choice.

Key Features:

  • Enables you to set up a simple blog in a matter of minutes.
  • Lets you connect your blog to your Google account.
  • Gives you access a decent collection of modern blogging themes.

Price: Free | More Information

7. Ghost

The Ghost homepage.

Ghost is the new kid on the block when it comes to blogging platforms. The self-hosted service launched in 2013, and since then it’s become one of our favorite options for several reasons.

For one, it feels like a more streamlined version of WordPress. Ghost is all about blogging, and every single one of its features is designed to make the process easier and more intuitive for you. For example, you can write your posts using markdown and preview them instantly. You can also collaborate with other writers, schedule posts, work on your content’s SEO, and much more.

Overall, Ghost is an excellent solution if you’re a DIY type of blogger with a penchant for using cutting-edge platforms. However, it does lack as a more multipurpose platform.

Key Features:

  • Enables you to edit and preview your posts simultaneously.
  • Offers a way to schedule your content.
  • Lets you collaborate with others on your publications.
  • Offers built-in SEO functionality.
  • Gives you a way to create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
  • Enables RSS feeds, email subscriptions, and Slack integrations.

Price: Free | More Information

8. Tumblr

The Tumblr homepage.

Tumblr doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to blogs. Some people don’t see it as a serious platform, but it can be a decent option if you’re looking to set up a personal blog. It’s easy to use, it can look professional with a little work, and it has a built-in audience.

This last point can be great if you’re looking to set up a personal blog, but you don’t know how to reach your first readers. With Tumblr, the chances are that people will stumble upon your blog sooner or later, and they can use the platform’s built-in features to get you more exposure.

Key Features:

  • Offers a combination of social media platform and blogging vehicle.
  • Provides optimization for short-form content.
  • Lets you start blogging straight away thanks to a quick learning curve.

Price: Free | More Information

9. Medium

The Medium homepage.

Medium is a modern free blogging site that’s all about providing people with an easy way to share their thoughts, and helping others find interesting articles. Unlike some other platforms, you simply need to open a free account and publish your posts using the built-in editor. Medium is built for readability, and it’s a fantastic option for long-form content.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of setting up your own website, Medium can be a great option. Plus, there’s a chance that one of your posts may hit it big on the platform and net you some exposure.

Key Features:

  • Lets you publish articles using a simple editor.
  • Provides content optimization for readability.
  • Enables readers to favorite, share, and bookmark your content.

Price: Free | More Information

Conclusion

Starting a blog isn’t a walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated either. There are plenty of free blog sites available, and picking the right one for you can make your work that much easier.

As you can probably guess, we’re big fans of self-hosted WordPress. It’s a powerful platform with a broad range of customization and robust themes such as Divi. However, some of you might prefer an easy-to-set-up hosted option such as Wix. There’s no single platform that’s perfect for everyone, so make sure to fully test the choices on offer before picking one.

Have you used any of the options in this list (other than WordPress), and how did you fare? Let us know in the comments section below!

Article thumbnail image by VLADGRIN / shutterstock.com.

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Divi Plugin Highlight: Code Snippet Module

Lots of websites display source code within their articles. Displaying source code isn’t always easy. Most sites use plugins that require tags, shortcodes, embedded links, or similar solutions. The solutions can sometimes feel clumsy and even cause formatting problems. Another option is a plugin for Divi called Code Snippet Module.

Code Snippet Module is a third-party plugin that adds a new module to the Divi Builder to display code. This is different from the Divi Builder Code module. The standard Code module runs the code that you place within it. The Code Snippet module displays the code with syntax highlighting. Code Snippet Module works with Divi, Extra, and the Divi Builder plugin.

In this article we’ll see how the module works, how it can be styled to fit with your website’s design. Code for this plugin highlight was taken from W3Schools.com and is only meant to demonstrate how code is displayed within the code snippet module. Images for example layouts were taken from Unsplash.com.

Installation and Settings

Upload and activate the plugin as normal. No account info is required. The Code Snippet Module will be added to the Divi Builder.

The module includes the code box in the Content tab. The Design tab has lots of settings for code styling. Settings include language (for highlighting), style (the color scheme), show numbers, custom tab width, and lots of font styles. It also includes the standard heading and border styling.

It will attempt to auto-detect the language by default. If it has trouble with the auto-detect some of the code may not be formatted correctly. If this happens you can choose the language manually. I had no issues with the auto-detect formatting the language correctly.

It has over 70 styles. They mostly change the colors of the fonts and the backgrounds. Some have background patterns but most are solid colors. The fonts match a code-type, so variables will be one color, statements will be another, comments use a different color, etc.

Using the Code Snippet Module

The image above shows the standard Divi Code module on top and the Code Snippet module on bottom. This shows how the two modules react with code. Both modules have the same HTML code placed within them. The Divi Code module runs the code. The Code Snippet module displays the code.

This is the default settings. Let’s take a look at several languages using different styles. I’ve included the default settings for each one to help you compare.

HTML

This is the same code as in the previous example. It’s using the default style, but I’ve added line numbers and changed the font to Georgia. I increased the font size to 18 point. Tags are in bold.

Here’s a look at comments in the default settings. The comments are light gray so they look different than the markup.

This one uses the style called Darkula. The tags are in orange.

CSS

The CSS selectors and properties are in bold. Numerical values are in red. Braces and textual values use the default code font. This uses auto-detect and the default style.

This is the Agate style. Selectors are in orange and properties are in yellow. Braces and textual values on in the default white font while numerical values are in red.

CSS comments are light gray in the default settings.

This example uses Codepen Embed.

This one is Estuary Dark. I’ve included line numbers.

Here’s Estuary Light. I’ve included the line numbers in this one as well.

JavaScript

Here’s a JavaScript snippet using the default settings. Statements are in green and gray while the HTML element and values are red.

This is JavaScript using the style called Android Studio. Statements are in a grayish blue while the HTML element and values are green.

Here’s the same snippet using Arduino Light. I’ve added a blue background to the row to make the code snippet module stand out. Statements are in red and grayish blue while the HTML element and values are green.

This one includes comments. The comments are multi-colored.

This is the same code using Dune Dark.

This is Dune Light.

This one uses Far. I’ve added line numbers.

SQL

The SQL statements are in bold while the tables use the default font. Values are in red.

This uses the style called Brown Paper. The statements are in blue, tables are black, and values are purple. This is one of the few styles that use a pattern in the background.

Here’s the default settings with comments. The comments are lighter than the rest of the code.

Here’s a look at Foundation. I’ve included line numbers.

PHP

The PHP language tags are in blue. Keywords use the default font, functions are in bold, and variables are in red.

This examples uses Cave Dark. The PHP language tags are in red. Keywords are gray, functions are in purple, and variables are in blue/green.

This one is Cave Light. It has a slight purple background and the colors for the code are a variation of Cave Dark.

This one has comments using the default settings.

This style is Github. The comments are in italics.

This is Github Gist.

This one is Google Code.

This one is Visual Studio. This will look familiar to VS users. I’ve added a background to help it stand out. Using a border is another option.

Bootstrap

Here’s a Bootstrap example using the default styles. Bootstrap isn’t specifically stated as a language (since it’s an HTML, CSS, and JavaScript framework) but I wanted to show that it does format correctly.

This is Pojoaque.

jQuery

Here’s a look at jQuery.

This uses XT256. I’ve given it a border to help it stand out.

XML

Here’s an example of XML using the default settings.

This is Zenburn. I’ve chosen XML from the dropdown and as you can see the auto-detect in the previous image has formatted the code correctly.

This one is School Book. I’ve added line numbers. The code lines up with the page lines at this font size. Increasing the size aligns them differently.

Making Adjustments

This is a PHP snippet. Let’s make some manual changes to the design.

I changed the code font type, size, color, and line height. I also added a border.

Tab Width

In this example (which uses Sulphur Pool Light) I added tabs before pasting in the code. Fortunately you can adjust the tab width so the code displays correctly.

I’ve adjusted the tab width to 1, which decreases the amount the tab is indented. This is Sulphur Pool Dark.

Custom Styling

The code snippet display area can even be styled with CSS. The documentation includes some styling examples. This is one of the examples provided.

Layout Examples

Of course the advantage of the module is that it uses the Divi Builder and fits in with your Divi layouts. There are enough styles that you can fit it into the design of your site with ease. This one uses Paraiso Light. It fits in well with the styling of my sample page.

This one is Railcasts. I’ve customized the header font style, size, and color to match the headers of the page.

This one uses the blog post layout from Divi 100. The code style is Solarized Light.

It also works great with Extra. This example uses Plateau Dark.

License and Documentation

It has unlimited installs. It even comes with a 60 day money back guarantee. Documentation is provided on the developer’s website. It includes instructions and CSS styling examples.

Final Thoughts

Code Snippet Module is a great way to display code within your Divi layouts. It’s easy to change the look and feel and the code is clean and can be copied for pasting. I’ve only shown a small handful of the many languages it’s compatible with and I had no issues with formatting. All of the styles work with all of the languages and they can be styled further using CSS. If you provide code for your readers, Divi Snippet Module might be the plugin you need.

We want to hear from you! Have you used Code Snippet Module? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Featured Image via hanss / shutterstock.com

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How to Test Whether Your Email Campaigns Are Working Properly

Creating a modern, stylish email campaign is easier than ever thanks to the myriad of powerful marketing tools we have at our fingertips. However, getting your emails to display correctly on every client can still be tricky.

The best solution is to test your campaigns properly before you send them to your subscribers. In this article, we’ll talk about why testing is so important, then introduce you to two tools to help you do it (and teach you how to use them). Let’s get to work!

Why You Need to Test Your Email Campaigns Before Sending Them

An email campaign.

Ensuring your emails display properly is key to building trust with your subscribers.

Even in this day and age, not all email clients are as effective as they can be when it comes to displaying emails. In some cases, your messages will render differently depending on the application your subscribers are using. If you want to reach as many people as possible, you need to make an effort to minimize these instances.

This is because each email needs to be interpreted by your client before you can view it. Most modern email clients use this step to strip out any extraneous code they find for security and compatibility purposes. It can be a hassle, but it also protects you from receiving malicious or broken messages.

Fortunately, the process of testing your email campaigns is straightforward. You’ll simply need to check if they display correctly on the most popular email clients before sending them. There are even tools that can help you do this without the need to install each client.

2 Tools to Help You Test Your Email Campaigns

Before we jump in, it’s worth noting that most major email marketing platforms include some sort of in-house email testing tool. For example, MailChimp enables you to test your email campaigns before you send them to make sure they look exactly as you want them to.

On the other hand, the tools we’re going to discuss offer a good way to double-check your design before sending, and can come in handy if you like to build your campaigns manually. Let’s take a look!

1. Litmus

The Litmus homepage.

Litmus is a one-stop solution for testing email campaigns. On top of enabling you to check whether your messages display correctly, it also includes several other helpful features. For example, you can test your links for broken URLs, check for images that aren’t loading, and make sure your messages won’t end up in the spam folder. To do this, Litmus sends your code to over 70 different email clients and takes full screenshots of how they render your message, so you can see them side by side.

The only downside to this tool is the cost. At $99 per month, it only makes sense if you’re monetizing your subscribers and need to ensure your emails are pixel perfect. However, Litmus does offer a seven-day trial for all its plans.

Key Features:

  • Preview your emails in over 70 different clients.
  • Test whether your messages will end up in the spam folder.
  • Check if there are any broken links or images in your emails.
  • Use a custom email builder to create new campaigns.

Price: $99 per month | More Information

2. Inbox Inspector

The Inbox Inspector homepage.

Inbox Inspector isn’t as feature-heavy as Litmus, but it has two things going for it – it’s free to use, and you don’t need to set up an account to do so.

The downside is that you don’t have access to as many clients to test your emails with. However, Inbox Inspector supports more than 20 of the most popular options, which should be enough to uncover any issues. Plus, you can also use it to preview how your subject lines will appear on each email client, which can help you tweak them accordingly.

Key Features:

  • Test your email campaigns on over 20 popular clients.
  • Preview your subject lines on those same clients.
  • Use multiple preview options.

Price: Free | More Information

How to Test Whether Your Email Campaigns Are Working Properly

Now we’ve introduced you to two of our favorite email testing tools, it’s time to see them in action. Depending on your budget, we recommend that you try out Inbox Inspector first, then consider upgrading to a premium option such as Litmus if you decide you need more features.

Using Inbox Inspector to Test Your Email Campaigns

To get started, go to Inbox Inspector’s home page and enter your name and email address, before clicking Preview My Email:

Signing up to Inbox Inspector.

You’ll see a dashboard where you can click on the Preview New Email button to get started:

Previewing a new email.

On the next screen, you can choose the clients you’d like to test your emails on. You can pick as many as you want, and near the top there’s an option to select all email clients:

Choosing the clients to test your email with.

When you’ve made your picks, click on the Next Step > button and choose the Paste HTML code option:

Pasting your email's HTML.

Now paste your email campaign’s HTML (including its inlined CSS), and look again for the Next Step > button. All that’s left is to wait for your results to render:

The results of an Inbox Inspector test.

Keep in mind that some clients will render faster than others. In our experience, it usually takes a couple of minutes to get all of your previews, so be patient. When they’re ready, you can click on any of them to get a better look at your full email.

You can also download your previews as a zip file if you want to save them locally by clicking the Download Zip button at the bottom of the page.

Using Litmus to Test Your Email Campaigns

Unlike Inbox Inspector, you’ll need to sign up for an account on Litmus before running your tests. You’ll also have to enter your credit card details to start your seven-day trial and gain access to the dashboard. Once you’re there, look for the Paste my HTML option, and click it:

Adding a new project to Litmus.

Next, find the Create new project button and choose I already have HTML:

Pasting your HTML on the Litmus dashboard.

Much like the others, the next screen is very straightforward. Just pick a name you can remember for your project and paste your HTML:

Adding your email's HTML to Litmus.

Now click on the Start testing button, and you’ll see your code displayed on the Litmus email builder, where you can either edit your message or check your previews directly.

Similarly to Inbox Inspector, there’s an option to download your previews as images, which can come in handy if you want to share them with your collaborators. Just look for the Share Checklist Test section and click on the Download button:

Download your Litmus test results.

Now, take your time reviewing your results, and if you want to make any changes, you can do so using the Litmus email builder (or whichever platform you prefer).

Conclusion

Putting together a great email campaign is not the only aspect you need to think about before clicking Send. You also need to make sure it displays correctly on as many clients as possible. Failure to do so risks you losing out on potential conversions, along with giving subscribers the idea you lack professionalism.

If you’re unsure how to test your email campaigns before sending them, check out either of these two tools:

  1. LitmusA premium option to test your email campaigns from top to bottom.
  2. Inbox InspectorThis free service enables you to test your emails in a matter of minutes without signing up.

Do you have any questions about how to test whether your email campaigns are working properly? Ask away in the comments section below!

Article image thumbnail by Graphic farm / shutterstock.com.

The post How to Test Whether Your Email Campaigns Are Working Properly appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.

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Understanding Your Client’s Perspective with Meg Long – The Divi Nation Podcast, Episode 53

Welcome back everyone to this week’s episode of Divi Nation. We’ve got a great conversation to share with you this time around with web designer Meg Long. Meg’s a fairly new face in the Divi community but I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes a mainstay. Not only is she easy to get along with (which always makes the community side of things easy) but she’s got a lot of talent and experience to share. Check it out!

Understanding Your Client’s Perspective with Meg Long – The Divi Nation Podcast, Episode 53

In this episode I interview Meg Long of Meg Long Creative her one woman web design shop based out of Los Angeles, California.

Meg is one of those guests I have get on the show from time to time who I have never met before, but the community has nominated because they respect the work they’re seeing. After getting to know her a little and see that work first hand, it’s no mystery to me that she was nominated to be on the show.

Meg seems to be one of those web designers who really gets communication. It’s obvious looking at her website and her work that she’s able to put herself in a client’s shoes, find out what problems of theirs that she can solve, and then bring in a lot of other really valuable skills and insights along the way.

We talk about all that and more in today’s episode of Divi Nation.

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See You Next Week!

Well that’s all for this week’s episode. Thanks again to Meg for making the time to be on the show. I hope you enjoyed our chat as much as I did. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

The post Understanding Your Client’s Perspective with Meg Long – The Divi Nation Podcast, Episode 53 appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.

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Productivity Tips for Freelance Developers, Designers, and Creators

Whether you’re a freelancer, a company employee, or you’re just doing what you do for the love of creating, the art of productivity could be the most important skill you ever master. After all, no matter how much you learn, how great your ideas are, or how strong your skills are, if you’re not productive enough to finish anything on time, you’ll constantly be playing catch up or unfulfilling your potential.

In this article, we’ll cover some essential productivity tips to help you use your time more effectively. If you’ve ever wondered why although we all get 24 hours in a day, some people manage to do so much more that others, this article could help point you in the right direction.

Productivity Tips for Freelance Developers, Designers, and Creators

Workspace for Designers and Creatives

These productivity tips are a mix of practical advice, such as using tools and systems, to more abstract ideas including knowing your purpose and establishing your boundaries. Together they can help you work smarter rather than harder and start getting more done in less time. Whether you’re your own boss or you want to get ahead in the workplace, these productivity tips are for you.

Discipline Equals Freedom

Before we get to the productivity tips, there’s a concept that’s worth touching on.

For whatever reason, you could have such an aversion to being productive that you might not even see the point in mastering the ability to work more efficiently. Focusing on output, goals, and deadlines are the antithesis of creativity, or so you think.

However, internalizing one slogan, which admittedly sounds like doublethink from Orwell’s 1984, might make you think differently. That phrase is discipline equals freedom.

Made popular by retired United States Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, this phrase can be interpreted as by being disciplined, you can have freedom.

For freelancers and the self-employed, this can mean being disciplined and getting as much done as possible when you’re supposed to be working gives you the freedom to do the things you enjoy either later in the day, on the weekend, or at the end of your career. For other situations it can mean staying strong and saying no to that extra portion, going to the gym when you don’t feel like it, or doing an extra hour of study to ace that test.

When the procrastination monkey comes a calling, don’t take the easy option of instant gratification. Instead, stay disciplined and do what you’re meant to be doing so you can reap the rewards later.

On board? Let’s look at some tips on how we can become more disciplined, increase our productivity, and enjoy greater freedom.

Know What You’re Supposed to Be Doing

Create To Do Lists

From having a big picture purpose such as helping to change the world through great UX or simply wanting to provide a good service to your clients, down to simply having an idea of what you’re meant to be working on now, it’s vital that you know what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time.

To stay motivated, feel free to spend some time reminding yourself of why you started your venture in the first place. However, when it comes to being more productive, you really need to know what you’re supposed to be working on at all times.

Spending some time on a Sunday night or Monday morning writing down the tasks you want to accomplish in the upcoming week works well. Assign tasks to each day of the week. Now each time you sit down to work, there’s no ambiguity or wiggle room for a quickly checking Facebook and no need to trawl through your inbox looking for your most important work. It’s all written down in the plan.

At first, you’ll be too optimistic, assigning too much work to each day. But over time you’ll get better and your schedule will become more realistic. Once the work is done, don’t look for more tasks. Instead, enjoy the freedom your discipline has created.

Group Related Tasks and Use Themed Days

Now that we all know that effective multitasking is a myth and that it’s all about deep work, it’s time to start working on one thing at a time. Not only does multitasking reduce your output while working, but focusing on one type of task all day can eliminate the dead time that occurs when switching from one type of activity to another.

Designating a theme to each day, such as coding on Mondays, design on Tuesdays, copywriting on Wednesdays, and admin and client calls on Thursdays, could help keep your momentum running throughout the day, rather than chopping and changing and having to start anew multiple times. However, this approach does have its limitations.

If creating copy for client websites isn’t the highlight of your week, then the idea of a full day of it can lead to severe resistance. Also, rewarding yourself with an afternoon of more creative work after a productive morning of intense analytical tasks can be a nice way to structure your days.

Grouping and theming is definitely something to experiment with. It sure beats trying to do multiple tasks at once.

Remove All Distractions

Remove Distractions

Did that earlier mention of Facebook have you reaching for your phone or itching to switch tabs? We all know about the time-stealing abilities of social media, email, and many other digital distractions. We also all think we’re able to resist temptation.

Most of aren’t so we must use Chrome extensions and smartphone apps to help us. There’s no shame in turning to technology to keep us productive. After all, companies like Facebook and Google have hired some of the best minds of our generation to work on ways to keep us engaged for longer. This list of productity apps can help, but be selective when deciding what to use.

Even turning off notifications for email and social media can readdress the balance of power. Now you’ll be checking for updates when you’re ready, rather than being at the beck and call of your smartphone.

If you’re not sure what to block, try a service like RescueTime to find out where your best hours are being wasted.

Master Email

Master Email

Email is a great tool but it shouldn’t be your master. Set times for checking email and stick to them. Rather than spending the first few hours of the day firefighting and reacting to the demands of others, try working towards your own goals before checking email.

This approach might not work for your business. Especially if the needs of your clients are your lifeblood. But even so, committing to only checking your inbox every hour or even half an hour, then allowing a maximum of 10 minutes to process any messages before getting back to your task, can still set aside a usable chunk of time to work on your goals between checks.

When the alternative is mindlessly opening your inbox every time you feel like a quick distraction, this can be a huge improvement.

Embrace Technology

Embrace Technology

Just as technology can be a huge time suck, it can also be the key to helping freelancers become more productive and deliver more freedom. We’ve covered blocking distracting apps but now it’s time to embrace productivity-enhancing tools.

Free apps and services like Trello can help you digitize your to-do list, while Toggl and its rivals make it easy to track your time and see where leakages are occurring. The Pomodoro Technique of breaking the workday up into 30-minute chunks that include a 5-minute break is a personal favorite. An app like Pomotodo gives you an easy way to start chunking.

Figure Out Your Why

As well as knowing what you’re supposed to be doing, you need to establish why you’re doing it. Are you working to keep a roof over the head of your family and put food on the table? Are you striving towards that big payday or winning industry awards?

Write down your goals. Keep a symbol of them visible from where you work at all times. Sometimes a simple reminder of what you’re doing it all for is enough to get you back on track during a session of procrastination or a lull in productivity.

Learn to Say No

Learn to Say No

Once you’ve figured out your why and established your goals, you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to be working on. However, you should also have a good understanding of what you should not be doing.

For some, it might be saying no to a troublesome client. For others, it might be saying no to that extra episode and getting an early night.

Being ruthless and saying no to anything that doesn’t fit in with your master plan can help free up more time for you to be proactive.  If you’re having trouble deciding what to say no to, if your response isn’t a hell yeah, it’s should probably be a no.

Look After Yourself

Last but not least, look after yourself! Having enough sleep, eating the right foods, and doing some exercise are the three pillars of productivity and good health. If you’re not firing on all cylinders there’s a good chance you’re not taking care of all three.

Consider eating more real food, scheduling physical activity into your day, and sleeping smarter. Also, don’t neglect optimizing your working environment.

Final Thoughts

Most of us, as well as those around us, will benefit from increased productivity. In most cases, just implementing a few strategies and tactics can deliver big improvements. Vowing not to let email and social media run our lives or creating a realistic plan for the week can help get us back on track.

However, don’t take things too far. There is a dark side to productivity.

Once you start down the productivity rabbit hole, the quest for total efficiency can become a distraction in itself. Productivity is big business, with gurus, conferences, podcasts, books, and blogs all trying to sell you on the latest tools and techniques. The law of diminishing returns comes into play quickly when trying to optimize productivity. Once you’ve taken care of the basics, there are minimal gains to be had.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic system or approach that will increase your output 10x. In the end, discipline really does equal freedom.

What have you learned from trying to become more productive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Article thumbnail image by Tetiana Yurchenko / shutterstock.com

The post Productivity Tips for Freelance Developers, Designers, and Creators appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.

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