Your success as a freelance writer — and this is true for any self-employed person — is critically linked to your own personal productivity. And I’m not talking your ability to use Productivity Apps and write a to-do list, but efficient time management where you are pumping out a lot of published copy, and getting paid for it.
Today’s blog won’t teach you how to manage your time, it’s more of a checklist for anyone considering a career in freelance writing — or about to make the leap from paid employee to full-time freelancer. It’s also Part 2 in the blog series Essential Qualities of Successful Freelance Writers.
Plan a project.
The most successful freelancers know how to plan a project. They know exactly how many projects they are working on, and are realistic about how long it will take them to complete an upcoming assignment.
They allocate sufficient time for research, writing, editing, and rewriting — and they stick to the plan. If you allocate 3 hours of research time in your quote — but it takes you 6 hours because you keep getting sidetracked by celebrity mag clickbait — you’ll struggle to stay in business.
Successful freelance writers are fiercely protective of their writing time and know that working from home (or the local coffee shop) is not a holiday. They have simple strategies in place to prevent interruptions:
- Isolating themselves from chatty partners and hungry kids during writing time. It’s ok to lock the door to your office (and feed your kids before starting a new assignment).
- Setting dedicated work hours. Make productivity a habit by sticking to a routine.
- Establishing clear boundaries with family and friends. Diplomatically let your friends know that even though you work from home you’re not available for random visits or phone calls during work time.
Successful freelancers aren’t mean about their time, they just have clear boundaries.
Finish a piece of writing.
One of the most basic things a freelance writer needs to be able to do is start and finish a piece of writing according to a client brief. Whether it’s a 10,000 word white paper, a set of 10 x 250 word product descriptions, or a 300 word blog post — you won’t be paid until the writing is finished, submitted, and approved.
It takes an incredible amount of discipline for anyone who works from a home office to complete a piece of writing without getting up for water, the toilet, the dishes, the chickens, or a phone call from your mother. Every distraction eats into your profit margin, so train yourself from the getgo to shut the office door and write in uninterrupted blocks until it becomes an unbreakable habit.
Challenge yourself to write (on a billable project) continuously for at least 30 minutes without checking Facebook, responding to an email alert, answering the phone, or leaving your chair for any reason.
Market the business.
Successful freelancers are able to balance writing time, administration time, and marketing time. They know their business is only as successful as their last paying client, and they never take for granted their regular clients are going to utilise their services past the current writing assignment.
For the longterm success of your writing business you have to program marketing time into your work week, but still honour the client projects you have taken on. Marketing time means sending out proposals, cold calling prospects, creating email autoresponders, and perpetually refining your services brochures and content.
Have personal time.
The most successful freelance writers have their work time clearly rationalised, so at the end of the work day, week, and month there’s still family, fun, and friend time. Sure in the first few years of business your family time will probably be stretched, but a savvy freelancer has their eye on the prize. A longterm writing business with automated systems so they can eventually take real time away from the business to stand in the sun, refresh, renew, and pray.
Read the whole series
This article is part 2 in a 7 part series Essential Qualities of Successful Freelance Writers, check out the other blogs in the series.
Part 1 – Writing Skills
Can you write in in clear, business English using perfect grammar, spelling and punctuation? Do you know the correct English to use in the geographic region of your clients (or their readers) — either British or American?