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Productivity Hack for Freelancers: Multiple Chrome Profiles, FTW

If you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, independent contractor, running a little side hustle or growing your future world empire, you know that the mental costs of switching between accounts is painful. Here’s a pro-tip that will save you time and headaches.

Google Chrome is a popular web browser. Beside the powerful extensions, speed and other benefits, Chrome is really the way to go for a simple, fast web browser on your computer.

If you are a freelancer or independent contractor, or even more importantly, a solopreneur or working a side-hustle, your time is, literally, money, and the most-precious asset you have.

Often, a lot of it gets “sucked up” in the mental problem of logging into this account or that, either your personal, your work, your side-gig or your client’s accounts.

How Multiple Profiles Helps

Setting up multiple user profiles in Chrome helps you avoid this issue all while keeping passwords in sync, data from being colluded between accounts*

I tell people this tip a lot and they roll their eyes just a little at me, because, I know, “How hard is it really to manage switching from one Google Account to another?”

Well, it’s not. By itself.

But, if you’re like me, it gets a little hairy when you have 3 to 5 different client accounts you’re managing all at the same time, and they ALL use the same systems, such as G-Suite, Google Docs, and in my recruiting world, Lever, SmartRecruiters or Greenhouse to boot. Fun fun.

Don’t forget how awkward it is when you’re sharing your screen on a zoom call and the link you click drops you into your other client’s account for everyone to see. They might not say anything, but it IS awkward. Believe me.

Oh, you’re also working for them, huh?

Look, whatever s0-called loyalty is these days, the last thing you need is Bob in finance bringing your name up when budget discussions come around and the CFO is looking to trim some fat, “Well, we know they’re double-dipping on us with ACME corp… I think it’s safe for us to cut this contract.”

Personally, I’d rather save the headache, embarrassment, and time of trying to keep all your swimlanes clear when you’re going from client to client.

How Multiple Profiles Work

You could think of multiple profiles in Chrome like being able to login to your computer with multiple accounts, but see them all on the same screen. See this primer from PC World about Chrome Profiles, if you like.

Windows, Tabs, Profiles, Oh My!

You are already familiar with browser windows. Yeah, that thing with 300 tabs you have sitting there in your face all day long. You can open multiple browser windows, too, which you might already do to separate tasks from each other.

Adding profiles to this this takes additional browser windows-usage up a notch as you can separate client work, or personal browsing (banking, for example) from your work profiles.

Each Chrome browser window is tied to a Profile by default. That Profile can be tied to a Google Account, if you like, with some benefits such as cloud synchronized password storage, cookie and search history and more. If you haven’t done anything with profiles, you probably have just one profile on your user account, and if you use GMail, it’s probably tied to your Gmail account already.

This means you’re 90% there already.

In the upper right corner of Chrome, next to all your Chrome Extension add ons, you might see a little user icon or your own picture (if you’ve connected to a Google Account)

My user icon to the right of this bar of Chrome Extensions tells me in a glance which “profile” I am in right now. This icon is for my professional ConnectedWell account.

Tapping this little icon allows you to open other Chrome profile windows OR add a new one (down at the bottom).

I assign different
Chrome profiles
different user icons
so I can tell them apart

When I add a new profile, I will link it to a google account and give it a unique icon or user avatar image so I can quickly pop up off the page and see which account I am in. I have one for personal and one for work, and one for each client sandbox I want to have (where I have access to their internal systems).

I have had up to six active profiles going at a time. It really helps streamline things!

Pro-Tips and Errata

A few side benefits to this behavior:

Delete old client profiles in moments, not days

Beside parsing away all your client work from your other clients or personal work, you can easily blow away an account and delete everything when your relationship with that client is over. All good things come to an end. I promise, ripping off the bandaid is better.

Delete the profile and you can safely know you won’t accidentally violate any privacy agreements or trip any alarms if your browser tries to log you into something in the background.

Keep your bookmarks (and browsing history) separate

Look, you don’t have to go far online to see examples of, ahem, interesting things that popped up in someone’s google search bar when they were trying to search for something while presenting to a room (or a recorded video conference).

If you don’t want to have to defend that your daughter is the one who watches My Little Pony fan videos, not you, just use another browser profile for your, uh, your daughter’s web surfing interests.

Other smart people think this is a good idea, too:

Questions? Ask away.

*Not sure if this could really happen, but in the age of GDPR, keeping my accounts (or more important, my client’s accounts) in separate sandboxed Chrome instances makes me sleep better, anyway. The extra layer of separation seems like it’s only a good idea.

By @AskRobMerrill

I'm Robert Merrill. I am the founder and principal consultant at ConnectedWell Recruiting and Talent Advisors, a boutique recruitment consulting agency. I have more than 15 years technical and professional recruiting experience across the US and fourteen other countries, globally.

Beside my writing here, I am working on helping make hiring more human again, publishing a newsletter, and Helping 1 Million people get better jobs in 5 years. The clock is ticking.

I also write on linkedin and medium, answer questions on quora, am funnier on twitter @askrobmerrill and trying to figure out instagram as well. Give us a follow, if you like.

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