With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can be hard to stay motivated enough to have productive holidays instead of just fun ones. One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you aren’t wedded to a set schedule. You set your own hours and can make special allowances for holiday events. It’s important to make a plan before the holidays get too hectic, though. Without one, it’ll be much harder to stay productive during the holidays. So, how do you do it?How do you stay productive during the holidays? Click To Tweet
How many emails do you send every day? Not only are you using this valuable communication tool to send finished assignments, but you’re probably relying on it to touch base with previous clients and reach out to new ones. You’re using it to correspond with sources and verify facts. And you’re probably also sending emails for personal use too—even freelancers do that.
You might think you’re alone as a freelancer, but you’re not: Most people are in a bind with email. That’s because there are nearly 200 billion emails sent – each and every day. And if you kept track of your time dealing with email, in all likelihood you’d probably be spending nearly one-third of your time dealing with it. In fact, how many of you face email management issues, such as too many notes in your inbox, a difficult email filing system, or even loss of emails because you’re so inundated. [Read more…]
Do you ever find yourself browsing the web and checking your social media feed instead of getting your writing tasks done as efficiently as possible?
You’re not alone. Countless freelance writers have been there before you.
You look at a blank page and somehow you just can’t bring yourself to fill it with your writing. This is when your eyes dart to other parts of your screen and you lose yourself in distractions.
Are you unsatisfied with how much you are earning right now? Do you want to increase your freelance writing income?
While there is no exact formula for this, there are certain things you can do to earn more.
1. Optimize your calendar or to-do list.
I live by the calendar. I used to rely on Google Calendar for everything, but recently, I tried out something new. It’s a to-do app called Timely, which basically tracks how long it takes you to finish a task. You can assign an estimated time for each task, and start/end the timer manually.
At the end of the day, you’ll see whether you spent less or more time than you expected. This is helpful because you can see just how much time you actually spend on tasks. You also get to realize how many hours you don’t spend working and make the necessary adjustments.
With Timely, you can also assign a rate per hour, so you can track how much you earn. This can make your billing easier.
Timely doesn’t “tell you” that you have to work on this task from, say, 8:00 to 9:00. Instead, it helps you keep track of the actual time you spend on a task. It is like a calendar because you have your tasks set out, but it gives you flexibility when it comes to when you actually start and complete a task.
While I had my reservations about switching to Timely after years of solely relying on Google Calendar, I have to say that it has increased my productivity – and ability to generate more income – significantly.
Now, I’m not saying you have to use Timely. It may or may not work for you. My point is that, if you want to get more work done and increase your freelance writing income, you might want to change your calendar/to-do list approach.
Another suggestion: Trello. You can use this to identify “main projects” and then assign “tasks” under each main project. This can make huge projects less daunting, and you can reach milestones faster.
2. Create actionable steps in relation to goals.
We all have freelance writing goals. Since we’re talking about how to increase your freelance writing income, let’s look at an example financial goal: $3000 a month.
That’s easy enough to set, isn’t it?
More than setting that goal, you’ll want to link specific actions to reach that goal. Here are some things you can do:
- List down all your existing clients and how much you expect to earn from them this month.
- Calculate how much more you need to reach your goal.
- Think about things you can do to reach $3000. Make them specific. Example: write 5 articles a week and pitch them to paying sites.
By doing this, you take concrete steps to reach your financial goal without being fixated on the amount of money, which can stress you out if you keep thinking about it.
3. Know your priorities.
What do you do for a living? You are a freelance writer. Focus on that. Prioritize writing.
It may be tempting to browse Facebook, look at Twitter, and check emails first thing in the morning, but try this for a change: write first.
It doesn’t matter what you write, what client you write for first. Just write before you do anything else for the day.
You might be surprised at how much more you get done.
4. Separate work from personal life. For real.
I know I sound like a broken record. Freelance writers work at home, but we need to separate work from our personal lives. It’s easier said than done, but it has to be done.
There’s no other way to say it. When it’s work time (whenever that may be for you), then shut out every thing else.
When it’s family time (like dinner or going to the movies), then forget work. Don’t check email on your phone. Don’t think about deadlines.
Having strict boundaries leads to better work quality and better family experiences. This will help your overall well-being, which can only lead to good things.
5. Learn to say no.
It is very tempting to take on every interesting client that comes your way. After all, more work means higher earnings. However, if you already have existing clients that give you recurring work at a good rate, you may want to say no to new clients.
I know it can be hard to turn down a new revenue stream, but think of it this way: Your existing clients give you reliable work and money. The chances are you can get more work from them as long as you continue delivering excellent work on time. If you take on new clients, your work for existing clients may suffer. This can result in losing their trust and, eventually, custom.
Think about that the next time you find it difficult to say no to new clients.
How do these things increase your freelance writing income?
Not all of the ideas above may directly result in more money, but they will definitely give you more focus, which gives both quantitative and qualitative results.
Try them, and see how your income goes up.
Do you have your own tips on how to increase your freelance writing income? Share your thoughts!
Also read: Easy Ways to Increase Writing Productivity
Finding freelance writing jobs is not the easiest of activities. You’ll probably attest to that. This is why we have those periods when we can barely make ends meet in spite of scouring websites for jobs.
Whether you check our daily listings of freelance writing jobs, look for jobs on this website or do Google searches using the keyword “freelance writing jobs” and all its variations, there are times when you won’t have as much work as you need.
Then there are those times when you bite off more than you can chew. It happens to the best of us – whether it’s because you take on more clients or existing clients give you more work (which you feel you can’t say no to). The result is the same: work overflow.
This can lead to stress – both physically and mentally, which can then lead to subpar work or missing deadlines.
What to do when you have work overflow, and you want to deliver quality work on time? Here are some practical tips.
Work longer hours.
This one’s a no brainer. You simply have to work longer hours. You will also have to pass up on extra-curricular activities that you normally engage in – at least until you get all the work done. These could be going out for coffee with friends, going shopping, or watching a movie. After all, it’s a small sacrifice you have to make. You’ll be meeting your deadlines, making your clients happy, and getting paid for it.
Focus, focus, focus!
What do the terms “rigid structure” and “more focused” mean exactly?
If you don’t use a calendar to plan out your day, then this is the time to do so. Estimate the time you will need to write one article and indicate that in your calendar. Do this for all your tasks so that you know just how long it will take you to finish everything. Here’s the crucial part: follow whatever is written down in your calendar. Use a timer if you have to.
That being said, don’t forget to set aside time to eat! Working longer doesn’t mean depriving yourself of basic necessities.
Be a lean, mean writing machine. Whatever it is that gets you in your writing zone, do it. It’s been said so many times, but close all windows that are distractions – Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Turn off sounds and notifications. Focus on one thing alone: the article you are working on.
Do this one article at a time, and you’ll get done faster.
If you really can’t cope with the work overflow, there is always the option of outsourcing your work.
Pro: Your load gets lighter.
Cons: You don’t earn as much as you have to pay the other writer. Also, you need to ensure that writer you outsource to meets your standards, which may not always be easy.
Tell your client/s.
If worse comes to worst, and you really cannot handle your workload, it’s time to face the music. You have to tell your client/s your situation. You can then ask if an extension is possible and offer other options. The important thing is to be honest about everything AND to offer a solution to your problem. That way, your client/s will get the impression that, while you are unable to meet the terms you initially agreed upon, you are still in control of the situation professionally.
Have you had to deal with this situation? What did you do to fix it?
As freelance writers, we all work hard. We may even work longer hours than we did when we had a desk job.
Does this mean we’re working smartly? Does this mean we’re getting more work done?
Not necessarily. If you feel drained all the time and find yourself dreading work, maybe it’s time to assess how you do things.
To help you with that, consider these ways to work smarter. They may seem unusual, but they certainly are effective.
1. Make a “to don’t” list.
A “to do” list is imperative for me. I can’t work without one. Perhaps it’s the same for you; but have you ever thought of making a “to don’t” list?
That might not make sense, but basically, that list contains the things that you should not waste your time on, things that are unnecessary for you to get work done. This could be phone calls, chatting online, and so on.
Make this “to don’t” list and check it as you check your “to do” list, so you can remind yourself to stay on track.
2. Set a time limit on how long you work for the day.
It may seem counterintuitive. After all, the more hours you spend working, the more work you get done, right? Then again, more hours doesn’t necessarily equate to more work. It just means you’re working harder, and it can drain you.
Instead of spending 10-12 hours working, developing the habit of setting a time limit on your work hours will give you time to rest physically and mentally. Set a limit.
For example, set your work hours from 8 AM to 6 PM. During that time, you are totally focused on work. At 6 PM, stop whatever you’re doing, and take time to do things for yourself; perhaps cook dinner, watch TV, or read a book.
The next day, you’ll feel better and have more energy to work.
Also read: The Right Hours to Write
3. Recognize that there will be bumps along the way.
You’ll have clients who’ll demand revisions. You’ll have clients who’ll want a Skype chat. Things can – and will, at some point – go wrong. Acknowledge that, and when it does happen, do what needs to be done, and then get over it.
4. Don’t rush.
But you have a deadline! You’ve got more work than you can handle, and you don’t have enough time.
The “normal” reaction would be to rush. Think of a title. Write the article. Scan it. Send it in. Move on to the next piece.
Sure, this may work, but how does it affect the quality of your work? How does it affect you in terms of stress levels?
My suggestion is to make sure you work quickly – don’t dilly dally, check your “to don’t” list – but not to rush.
As UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
What do you think of these tips to work smarter? Do you think they’ll work for you? Maybe you have your own “work smarter tips”. Let us know!
I’m a work-at-home father of two and a full-time writer. I write for blogs like this one, I write books, and I write whatever print freelance assignments come along in between.
I’m not here to tell you what an unbelievable challenge working at home can be. If you’re reading this blog, I’m sure you already know. Instead, I’m going to share with you some strategies for overcoming the work-at-home obstacles.
In the many years I’ve been doing it, I’ve noticed a phenomenon that’s utterly unique to stay-at-home workers. I call it the ATOOTC Principle. We stay-at-home workers desperately long to be taken as seriously as those who work outside the home. We want to be treated and respected equally. But if you don’t work at the office, on the clock, then all of your family and friends (usually subconsciously) behave as though the work you do isn’t as important. If you work at home, then you’re treated as though the usual strictures of priorities, responsibilities, and deadlines don’t apply to you.
For example, if you’re an ATOOTC worker, your friends and family respect your work time and your office. They leave you be during your work hours, so you can do the job that you’re paid to do. If you’re at home, then no matter how hard you work, friends and family believe they can interrupt you all they want. Since you’re at home… then you can’t be doing real work, right?
Combatting this attitude can be a full time job in and of itself. But as if that’s not enough, the 21st Century is the Age of Distraction. It’s harder than ever before to maintain a singular focus while working at home. Not only do we have people calling on us constantly — both in person and on the phone — we now have the wonders of email and text messages and voice mail and smartphones and Internet outages and so much more to deal with. This problem is compounded when you work at home, with the addition of chores and household maintenance that must be dealt with. There’s always laundry, there’s always dirty dishes, there’s always something around the house that has to be fixed, and invariably these things always come up during your designated work time.
On top of this, not all home workers even have in-home offices to work out of. I used to have an office until the baby came along. Now, the living room is my office, and my end of the couch is my desk. There’s no such thing as privacy or personal work space. I’m surrounded by a three-ring circus at all times. This can be catastrophic for we writers in particular, as it can be awfully difficult to focus or maintain the simplest trains-of-thought when you’re not in an isolated environment.
If any (or all) of this sounds familiar to you, here are my best tips for getting the work done if you’re an at-home writer, regardless of what’s going on around you.
1) Be Rigid. “Flexibility” is a term that gets a lot of love these days. It’s held in high regard along with other pop buzzwords like “tolerance.” But tolerance isn’t always a good thing. Should we be tolerant of hate, for example? Freelance writers, by definition, have to be flexible. Assignments come and go, and you have to be available for whatever opportunities arise. And the modern woman and/or mother especially is expected to be capable of wearing dozens of hats at once — and make it look easy.
When it comes to writing at home, flexibility can be a killer. Being inflexible is of far greater value. Guard your writing time with righteous fervor, determined to let nothing interrupt it. This is, of course, an unrealistic goal; intrusions will always happen. But the more rigid you are with your designated work time, the more work you’ll get done.
2) Remember That “No” Is Not a Bad Word. We all want to be everything to everyone: responsible parents and siblings, good friends who are always there. But if you say “yes” to every lunch date or play date with the kids or what have you, you’ll never get anything written. Sometimes — in fact, a whole lot of the time — you just have to say no. During whatever time of the day you’ve set aside as your work hours, treat it as though you’re in an ATOOTC office with your boss watching your every move.
As for your friends and family, if they’re worth their salt, they’ll understand and respect you for being disciplined with your work responsibilities.
3) Work Odd Hours. This isn’t for everyone, but if you can handle it, working during the hours that others are asleep or not around can be extremely conducive to getting things done. I often find that I can get a lot done late at night when my wife and kids are asleep. Others work early in the morning before everyone else wakes up. It could even be as simple as working during school hours, when the kids are out of the house.
4) Get Out of the House. As important as it is to guard your at-home work time, sometimes you just have to get away from all the around-the-house distractions in order to get anything done. So grab the laptop and head out to someplace where there’s free wifi, like Barnes & Noble or Starbucks. Find yourself a small table or a quiet corner, and get busy. I’ve often found that being around other people — but not interacting with them — can be particularly helpful when I’m writing fiction. Something about being able to observe people going about their lives, hearing the way they talk… it can help trigger those instincts for writing strong prose.
These are the strategies I’ve found that work best for me. What works for you?
This is a Guest Post by Kevin Whipps
(you can learn more about Kevin at the end of this post)
When I first started out as a freelancer, I had dreams of waking up at noon, getting my work done by 2:00, and spending the rest of my days playing in fields of daisies. When that didn’t quite pan out, I started to realize that many of the things that people consider to be an advantage as a freelancer are really hindrances, and can really stop productivity in its tracks. Because of that, I developed a system that works well for me, and could work well for others as well.
1. Discover Your Productivity Window
Everyone has a time frame in which they are more productive than others. For myself, I find that early in the morning and late in the evening are my sweet spots for getting things done. Between 1 and 5 is a horrible time, and never really works out. As a result, I adjusted my schedule accordingly, and now I tend to either meet with clients or work on other projects in the afternoon.
2. Set an alarm and stick with it
Once I figured out that my problem was consistency, I decided to set my alarm for the same time I did every morning when I had to commute across town. It worked, but it meant I was starting my day at 9 am. Since that wasn’t quite early enough for me, I tried waking up at 5 am, but that was way too early and I ended up overdosing on Red Bull later in the day. The sweet spot for me has become 6 am, and that means I’m ready to go by 8. By lunchtime, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, which sometimes can push me through that crappy afternoon drop.
3. Establish an office area and make it perfect
Before I quit my day job, my wife and I spent a month fixing up my new office so that I would be able to work in peace. We put down new wood floors, ordered up a second monitor, mounted pictures to the wall, and made sure everything was perfect. At times though, I wanted to work on the couch or in the bed, just to mix it up a bit. For those moments, I purchased a portable lap desk that works pretty well. It’s not perfect, but it keeps my computer off of my lap and makes me more comfortable. Whether it’s on the sofa or in a dedicated room, make it work right from day 1.
4. Treat the “office” like any other place of business
Yes, it’s nice to be able to work all day in pajamas, but to really get my head in the game, I had to shower and get dressed every day like I was going to a job. This puts me in the mindset that I need to get in, but also allows me freedom to get up and go somewhere if need be. I live in Arizona, where flip-flops and t-shirts are considered business casual. As a result, I wake up, put on a pair of shorts or jeans, and top it off with a white undershirt. This way, if I need to go to a meeting, I put on some flip-flops and a polo shirt and I’m golden. Otherwise, a quick trip to the store just requires a t-shirt. Works for me.
5. Wash, Rinse, Repeat
Being a freelancer means having the flexibility of making a schedule personal and functional. For me, that means working 8 am to 10 pm, with liberal breaks in between for errands and meals. But sometimes, I need to take a Monday to run the kiddo to a doctor, or hang out with a client. In those cases, I rotate my schedule to the weekend. For example, this Sunday, I have an interview to do in the middle of the day. Because of that, I’m taking off Monday so I can have some personal time. Always block out a day or two a week for yourself, no matter what.
Ultimately, this all comes down to finding a system that works for each person. These tips help me out, and maybe they’ll do a lot for you as well.
About the Author
Kevin Whipps is a writer and photographer based in the Phoenix, Arizona area. For the past 10 years, Kevin has been writing for various print and web publications, while carving out a name for himself in the industry. Although he writes about a wide variety of topics, he tends to focus on the automobile and tech industries. He is also the editor of Splashpress Media’s Apple Gazette.
I’ve had the pleasure of writing about productivity on many sites, but never specifically for freelance writers. Due to that fact, I figured I’d start out with the productivity tip that has had the biggest impact on my writing.
I was one of those kids who was always writing, but I never seemed to get that much accomplished. I started writing a novel my freshman year of high school — it was bad, but we’re not here to talk about that — and I carried around this notebook where I constantly rewrote and polished the first chapter. After six months of work, I had that overworked first chapter and half of the second and that’s it. I abandoned it.
Not long after, I read about a writing exercise with a timer: you sit down and you see how much you can write in 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be good. There just have to be words on the paper at the end of the writing period. Using that timer changed my writing and counting up the number of words I had at the end entirely changed my writing. Just the fact that I could see my progress made all the difference in the world. Today, I break my days up into blocks of thirty minutes and I keep track of how many words I write in each of those blocks. I use my timer when I’m working on other tasks, like editing, as well.
A timer is particularly useful for freelance writers. In general, you should be tracking your time, if only to make sure your clients are paying you a living hourly wage if you’re working on a per project or per piece rate. But it can also speed up your writing process. Spending a certain amount of time when you can only write on a project, rather than writing and editing at the same time, can help you get more written down, which in turns gives you more to work with when you set your timer for a period of editing your work.
Of course, different writers work in different ways. For some of us a timer can make a phenomenal difference. For others of us, it can just be a big aggravation. I’ll be writing about productivity tips for different styles of writing as we go along, but if you haven’t tried the timer trick yet, I’d definitely recommend it.
When I first began freelance writing my son was an infant. As any parent knows, building a career and nurturing an infant simultaneously is, well, it doesn’t happen. I consoled myself with the theory that once my son was older and in school full time, it would be easier to balance a full time career. That’s sort of a joke too.
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to get into my work day and end it all at 2:30 when there’s still so much to do. I did the 4:00 a.m. thing for years, and frankly, I’m too old and cranky for that now. So I took a few other steps to help me become more productive while still being there for my family.
I’ll share my methods with you here, and when I’m done, I’d love for you to share your methods in the comments. Let’s help each other focus and get the job done.
A separate office
I used to pick up my laptop and bring it to the kitchen table, the dining room table, or even the back deck table. I had no home. Trust me, when you have to pack up and move every time a meal is ready or someone needs your work surface for an art project, you’re short on focus. Two years ago, my husband fixed up a small bedroom as my office. Having a place that is mine where I can write and even close the door when I need extra quiet time is priceless. It makes a world of difference to have a specific spot only for working. Others respect my work now – but more important, I respect my work more.
After seven years of having my son home with me when he’s not in school, I broke down and enrolled him in the school after care program three days a week. There were several reasons for this:
- It was difficult for me to pack up work every day at 2:30.
- My son’s friends are all in after care or activities so he wasn’t spending much time around kids his age.
- The after care program enables my son to participate in sports, science projects, crafts and more.
- I can actually finished my work at 5:00 and my family has me for the rest of the day and night.
During the first after care day, I felt so guilty that I picked my son up an hour early. He was having so much fun playing he asked me to please never do that again. School aftercare is affordable, and two and a half hours three days a week is making a big difference in my productivity. I especially notice that on aftercare days, I’m not rushing to get everything done. Childcare or having a mother’s helper can be a Godsend while trying to build your career. Don’t feel guilty for wanting help.
I used to wake at 4:00 AM each day, and often recommend this to parents who can’t get work done when their kids are at home. It was perfect for part time work as I’d work from 4:00 until 7:00 or 7:30 and have the rest of the day for my family. Truth be told that while I credit it for allowing me to work at home, I was glad when I didn’t have to do it anymore. I was so cranky. My options were to go to bed at 8:00 and not spend time with my husband, watching movies or reading books, or go to bed later and not get enough sleep at all. When I ditched the 4:00 wakeups, I was much more pleasant to be around and found I had more focus. I don’t regret doing it to start out, but I’m so glad that time of my life is over.
I think freelancing is a lot of trial and error. We all find ways to be more productive and focused on our goals. Sometimes it finds years to find a balance.What’s working for me today, may not work tomorrow. but at least I have the flexibility to reinvent my methods.
Now share your tips. What are some of the things you do to remain productive throughout the day?