Working for yourself can be liberating. There’s no lengthy commute, and no race to be behind your desk before your boss gets in. You can take a sneaky long lunch if you like, and if you’re having a bad day you can shut up shop early and spend the afternoon curled up with the latest box-set and a mug of tea.
This laid-back approach is all well and good, but being a bit too flexible with your hours won’t help you to generate business, get that article underway, or meet deadlines. I think of myself as a relatively organised person, but I admit, I can be (as a few of my ex-secondary school teachers pointed out) easily distracted.
Personally, I blame the internet. I often settle down to start a new piece, looking for useful information to get my creative juices flowing. I start well, digesting statistics, but some-how I find myself clicking on that pesky mouse. Before I know it, I’m browsing for a new pair of jeans, updating my grocery delivery slot, or looking at a romantic weekend break for two in the Cotswolds (a four-course meal, bottle of fizz and a four-poster bed – I’m sold).
I bring myself back to reality with a short, sharp reminder. To get paid I need to work. I need to write, I need to submit accurate and well-crafted work on time, and I need to grow my freelance business. But staying productive in a world that’s full of interesting distractions can be tough. Here are a few top tips that might help:
Create a To-Do List
Subtracting from your list of priorities is as important as adding to it – F.Sonnenberg
I love a good list, but I know they are not for everyone. If you’re not careful, creating and updating the list itself can become a distraction. However, it’s a good idea to keep track of your work load somewhere, be that in a note book, in an app etc.
A basic list should include details of the client, piece, agreed word-count, price and (very important) deadline. I quite enjoy the fulfilment of ticking off items as I go, it makes me feel as though I’m actually getting somewhere!
Remember Your Goals
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible – Tony Robbins
We all want to rack those jobs up, pull in the money and build a robust portfolio of work and clients, but it’s also important to keep your goals and objectives in mind. Be it writing your own blog, penning an epic adventure tale aimed at children, or only writing on a part-time basis so you can enjoy more of a work-life balance. If you have a freelance writing vision make sure it stays on the horizon.
To do two things at once is to do neither – Publius Syrus
Unless you have the arms of an octopus, multi-tasking can prove challenging. Your writing deserves focus, whether you are crafting a product review piece to compare lawn mowers, drafting content for a new website, or creating an engaging blog post for a regular client, you should give it your undivided attention.
I try and look at the job in advance and apportion an approximate amount of time. The more I write, the easier it becomes to predict how much time I will need to complete a particular piece. I make an effort to prioritise my tasks and I resist the urge to open multiple tabs on my laptop – if I do that, I’m done for on the distraction front!
Factor in Admin Time
The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today – E. Hubbard
It might not be your favourite part of the job, but as a freelance writer you not only have to produce words, you also have to do the added extras. We’re talking about self-promotion, communication with clients, and managing your financial accounts.
I make a point of answering messages in the morning and just before I end my day (I sometimes take a sneaky peak after lunch too)!
I put a little bit of time aside to look at billing at the end of the week, sending invoices, subtly chase payment etc. I also factor in time each month to update and polish my profile – after all, potential clients need to know who I am and what I can do.
Don’t Be Afraid to Switch Off
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life – Dolly Parton.
I try and kick-start the day early. I quickly catch up with the daily news over at least two cups of tea. I’m then ready to hit the work trail. At lunch I often grab a bite to eat and then go for a walk around the nearby park with my loveable (but slightly crazy) Border Collie.
I don’t stick rigidly to a schedule, but I always factor in a break or two. It keeps me from getting sloppy with my writing, and from yawning! I choose when I want to call time on my day – but this is often dictated by family commitments, hunger, and tiredness. When I’m done, I’m done. I pack the laptop away in the drawer to avoid temptation. Switching off is essential – after all, there’s always a new box-set to watch!