You can’t beat the freedom and flexibility that come with being a freelance writer – but that doesn’t mean that freelance writing is an easy job. Some people, particularly those who wouldn’t generally be considered self-starters, often feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to handle. It’s possible to get everything done by sunset, provided you have a clear understanding of what ‘everything’ is and have created a foolproof plan of attack.
1. Weigh the pros and cons of each client
A common mistake that freelancers make is abiding by the motto ‘money is money’. This isn’t always true. There may be some writing jobs you dread, causing you to trudge through them to their impossibly distant end. Is it really worth the profit you’ll ultimately wind up making, or would it be a better use of your time if you phased out this client and brought on a new one? You don’t have to take every job that comes your way.
2. Figure out your hourly rate
If you’re just starting out, you may not have a wealth of experience or a diverse portfolio. If you’ve been at it for a while, you’re almost certainly worth more now than you were when you started. Consider your overhead costs, taxes, and savings for retirement. After all these things are taken care of, how much money do you need ends meet? This is the absolute minimum you should be charging per hour. More experience commands a higher rate.
3. Set reasonable deadlines
When you’re giving a client an estimate in regards to how long a project will take to complete, don’t nail everything down to the last detail. Things happen. Something urgent may be rushed through. You might come down with a cold. You never really know. It’s better to overestimate by a few days and surprise a client by delivering the work early than it is to underestimate and create the impression that you’re unreliable.
4. Have a daily structure
It always helps to get into the swing of things. Building a general structure of your day will help you cycle through tasks without backtracking. Check your email after you’ve had your coffee. Set up your work for the day after you’ve taken the dog for his morning walk. When you have a routine that you’ve become accustomed to, it’s easier to stay focused.
5. Understand what distracts you
Will you check your phone every ten minutes if it’s sitting right next to you? Maybe you should charge it in the other room while you’re working. Do your loud neighbours irritate you while you’re trying to think? Consider drowning out the noise with ambient sounds in your headphones. If you find yourself returning to the same pitfalls that take chunks of time out of your workday, replace them with a habit that will work better for you. If you need to take a 15 minute break every 2 hours to check up on your Instagram feed, so be it.
6. Use a planner or a calendar
If you map things out in your head, you may be biting off more than you can reasonably chew without even realising it. Having a map or a calendar where you can write in project start and end dates, as well as progress goals, will give you a clear visual representation of how much work you’re actually contending with. You’ll be able to see whether you’re making a big deal about nothing, or whether you should be moving twice as fast.
7. Give yourself time off
If you don’t give yourself time off, the time you need to take off will simply wind up interfering with your workday. You need to get your laundry done. You should be having lunch with your friends once in a while. Be sure to schedule days off work that you can dedicate to hobbies, time with loved ones or simply life admin tasks. Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean you should eliminate weekends.
Being your own boss is a lot of fun, but it comes with double the amount of responsibility. Once you find yourself adhering to a routine and keeping a careful eye on your time management, you’ll be surprised by how professional you really feel.
Kelly Smith is an experienced writer and tutor working at Career FAQs. She’s keen on new motivational tools and productivity hacks. She’s also interested in the new media.