(Art Credit: Kathryn Sheldon)
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Does your morning start with a jog and a fresh fruit smoothie, or a roll out of bed and reach for the coffee? Do you take your lunch at your desk, or do you take time out, perhaps going for a blissful walk in nature? Would we find you in bed by 9 pm with a good book and some fluffy socks, or up until midnight making the most of the local nightlife scene?
Everyone’s working days look different, and that’s especially true of freelance writers. After all, one of the biggest joys of freelance life is that it offers as much flexibility as an Olympic gymnastics final.
One downside to freelancing is that it can be that much easier to lose focus, especially when you don’t have a manager breathing down your neck asking where the latest copy is. If you aren’t careful about how you spend your time, you can end up spending hours needlessly procrastinating. This can leave you feeling tired, cranky and unproductive.
In this blog, we take a look at how freelance writers can make the most of the time in their day, and work schedules that suit their lifestyles — while still keeping clients happy.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
While there’s an image that morning people are uber-productive and go-getting compared to their late-night counterparts, there’s no virtue in keeping any particular pattern of hours. The best hours to work are the ones that work for you. If you’re a night owl, there’s no point in dragging yourself out of bed at 5am to try and write your latest project — it’s just going to leave you weary and burnt-out, with very little to show for it.
You know yourself best, so reflect honestly on what your most productive hours are and set those as your work time. This is especially true if you’re tackling complex projects like technical documents or whitepapers that require deep thought and concentration. During your less productive times, you can plan to do something else, or tackle jobs that require less intense mental effort like proofing or emails.
Keep your clients in the loop
Even though many freelance writers can work when they want, you’ll still need to meet timelines set by your clients and connect throughout the course of a project. If you tend to work particularly unusual hours, it can be helpful to let your client know this upfront so they understand when they can reach you. You could use your email signature or out-of-office autoreply to manage your client’s expectations about when you’ll be available and what hours you work. This is also a polite move if you email them outside of standard office hours so they know you don’t expect an instant reply at 2am!
Tackle your least favorite job or writing project first
Everyone, absolutely everyone, has that one piece of work that they hate doing. The kind of job that you put off and put off, making excuse after excuse to not do it. For some writers, it could be that you’re feeling uninspired to write a certain piece of copy. For others, it could be emailing that awkward client back. We only have one piece of advice for this, and you might not like it: suck it up and do it. Do it first. Do it before you do any other jobs. Do it before you have your morning (or afternoon) coffee. That job isn’t going to go away, and the longer you ignore it, the more stress and worry it’s going to cause you in the long run.
Tackling the unpleasant jobs first means they’re not hanging over you, interfering with your productivity and holding you back. And, more often than not, you’ll do it and think, “that wasn’t so bad! What was I so worried about?”
Start your working week well
As a freelance writer, your schedule is most likely set by you. Whenever your week begins, we recommend getting it off to a good start. That doesn’t necessarily mean a power yoga session or homemade granola for breakfast (though if that’s your thing, more power to you!). We call it the Monday morning meeting, but it can happen whenever your working week starts. It means making sure that you’re working smartly and strategically, setting your goals for the week ahead and prioritizing your tasks so that you’re meeting deadlines … without stress.