How to Fit Freelance Writing into Your Busy Life

Carol Tice

Do you have trouble finding time to write?

So many of us have little distractions that make it difficult to get any quality writing time. Things like my three kids, that neighbor’s dog who never shuts up, and oh yeah — maybe your day job, too.

One way to think about your goal of starting a freelance writing business on the side is that right now, with your day job supporting you, it’s like you’re driving down a nice, smooth, paved highway. It’s almost effortless to just drive home at night and watch TV, kick back on the weekends, and start all over again on Monday.

It’s easy to keep going down this highway

But it’s also a little nerve-wracking, as in today’s economy you never know if this smooth day-job road is headed straight off a cliff of layoffs and unemployment.

There are offramps from this smooth road that lead to a rutted, gravel washboard road that heads off into the woods. It’ll be more difficult to travel on and it’s not entirely clear where it leads…but you have the strong sense that it connects farther on to an even better highway. On this one, you’re your own boss and are able to pay all your bills from writing.

Are you scared to take the turnoff?

If so, you have to sit yourself down and ask yourself where you want to be in five years. Will the road you’re on now take you there? If you want to be a freelancer, driving down the full-time job highway will never take you to that destination. So it may be time for a detour down that rough road.

Yes, things will be harder for while, but possibly more interesting and challenging.

It’ll be tempting to turn back when you hit the bumps

I know.

I’ve been down that road, and I can’t believe what a journey it took me on. And how wonderful it feels now to be in control of my own career and earnings.

How to find the writing time

If you’d like more inspiration, motivation, and time-management tips on how to fit it all in, take a listen to the chat I had last Wednesday with Bryan Cohen, author of Writer on the Side, about how to fit in some writing time around your full-time job. I read it and loved it, so that’s my affiliate link. (Congrats to Lin, who won a free copy of Bryan’s ebook on the call, as well as Kelly, who won a copy of my Webinar and report How to Break In and Earn Big as a Freelance Writer.)

Bryan was a fascinating guest and has a practical approach to carving out that precious writing time.

Among the questions we answered on the call:

  • What’s the missing element many writers skip that makes it harder to freelance on the side?
  • How can you avoid burnout if you write at work but want to get started on your own writing projects?
  • What’s really behind your writer’s block, and how can you get the creativity flowing?
  • How can you write when you can’t seem to find even a couple of uninterrupted hours?
  • How can you discipline yourself to get writing done when you don’t have any deadlines?
  • How did Bryan get started as a freelance writer, before he published his ebooks?
  • What’s the best way to publish your book – ebook? Print book? Both? What platforms and tools are best?

Listen to the call with Bryan Cohen.

How do you fit freelancing into your busy life? Leave us your tips in the comments.


  1. kymlee

    For me, the key is discipline. I have a schedule and I stick to it pretty closely. I used to get writers block, but I started keeping a running tab of ideas that I pull from if I ever feel short on inspiration. Freelance doesn’t mean less busy, sometimes it means more busy. Especially if you have multiple projects…which you will undoubtedly have as your freelancing business picks up momentum. But discipline, setting a schedule is the only way I get things done…that and knowing that if I don’t write I don’t get paid.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, I find the specter of slowly sinking into debt pretty motivating myself! I know how much I need to bring in each month to pay the bills, and my goal is always to start each month with that figure pre-booked. If not I’m really hustling to make sure I lock down enough assignments to make my number.

  2. Sarah Porter-Pennington

    It’s always nice to be reminded that my favorite, most successful professional bloggers and freelance writers were once at the bottom of the totem pole, just like I am now. It definitely can be a tough road to travel, and my lack of experience and current lack of a writing-related college degree sometimes make me want to U-turn back to an outside of the home job. However, I know that I wouldn’t be happy somewhere else, so I’ve got to put on my driving gloves and get to it!

    Do you have any advice for beginning freelance writers who don’t have college degrees to help them land clients?

    I do plan on returning to school–probably online though, since I live in the middle of nowhere–but I definitely cannot afford it just yet. I’m currently one of those living paycheck-to-paycheck almost-starving freelance writers.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Sarah —

      Hmmm…college degree?

      I don’t have one.

      When I realized I was getting into freelancing seriously, I did take a few UCLA Extension courses on magazine writing and copywriting, which I think were really beneficial.

      Now guess how many clients have ever asked me what degrees I have?

      Yep — zero.

      (If ever asked, I’ve been trained to look haughty and say I’m an N.D….if anyone dares ask, that’s “No Degree.”)

      I’ll tell you a little secret about the world of freelance writing. Nobody cares if you learned your craft at Columbia or sitting under a freeway overpass.

      I learned it writing short metro news stories weekly for the now-defunct L.A. Reader. Each week I’d write, then when it published I’d come in and ask my editor, “I see you changed this line to that line. Why?” Learn, learn, learn from everyone you can. Doesn’t have to be in a university setting.

      If you’ve got it on the page, you’ve got it. Period. So go for it!

      • Sarah Porter-Pennington

        I should have fact-checked…I seriously thought I had read in your bio that you had a college degree of some sort. (It’s been a few months since I read it though, so I must have had it confused with another blogger I follow.) It’s even nicer to know that you don’t though, because that’s one thing I’ve been so worried about lately: that I could be losing jobs to other writers who have degrees.

        I am definitely willing to learn and have been taking free online courses from Poytner University. And I always question my editors when I don’t understand why they changed something.

        I’ll have to look into some extension courses, though I’m still would like to get a college degree at some point in the future. Even if I can only afford to take one class per semester, I’d just like to finish what I’ve already started.

        Thanks a bunch, Carol!

        • Carol Tice

          Poynter is awesome, Sarah. If you need formal education to feel legit, note that on your site, that you’ve studied with them. They have a great reputation.

          Hopefully I can help you get over your B.A. complex. Really, nobody asks. Nobody cares. They want to know if you can WRITE.

          And speaking as someone who has edited hopelessly bad writing by people with master’s degrees in journalism…the formal education is no guarantee of success, let me tell you.

          I’m also always meeting people with journalism degrees who never did a thing with it…and people with degrees in all manner of other fields who now write. I have a woman in my Blast-Off class right now who is a veterinarian! Writers come from all walks of life and backgrounds…and it’s all good. Our unique paths make us the writers we are.

          • Sarah Porter-Pennington

            I think you’ve got me over my complex. I may still end up getting a degree. I’d like to, but at the same time, I want to prove to my nieces and my kids (when I have them) that you don’t always have to rely on a college degree to do what you love and make a comfortable income.

            I’m not going to worry about it anymore, especially about how I cannot afford it now but I need it…like I was thinking. I’ll just keep picking up nuggets of gold from other sources, such as editors and various writing courses.

            I’ve got to head over to Poytner this weekend to do some refreshing.

            Thanks again, so much!

          • Carol Tice

            YAY! Thanks for making my day.

            I feel like a lot of the work I do here is just getting people over the complexes they have:

            My clips are too old to use.

            I think I can’t use the ones from my past job.

            I don’t have a degree.

            I sent a query and didn’t get a gig, so now I’m crushed and can’t go on.

            The major barriers to earning a good living from freelance writing are IN OUR HEADS. Not out in the marketplace.

  3. Terrisa

    Learning to juggle a regular 9-5 with freelancing is a great way to learn the discipline necessary to be a successful writer. I always thought that my 9-5 was nothing but a big anchor that was preventing me from writing, so the first chance I got, I jumped into a full-time freelancing career. For me, it was that old “from the frying pan into the fire.” I learned the hard way that there is much more discipline required to be a freelance writer than to work a regular day job. I think it’s worth noting that most writers do not make a living from their work (Margaret Atwood was quoted earlier this year as saying only 10% of writers make their living writing). I think anyone who wants to land in that 10% is well-advised to really practice the essential skills–like discipline–before leaping off into the world of freelancing.

    • Sarah Porter-Pennington

      Well said. Discipline, I believe, is the main principle behind a successful career as a freelance writer. It’s an area I most assuredly have room to approve on. I’m starting out as a full time freelance writer and it seems like I sit at the computer all day and accomplish nothing. I’m sure if I had more discipline, which I am working on, things would seem a little easier.

      Thanks Terrisa!

    • Carol Tice

      Great lessons for us from the front lines, Terrisa!

      It’s not that there’s much more discipline required in freelancing…it’s that working a day job takes a little discipline (gotta get up when the alarm goes off, go into work, do what boss asks)…while freelance writing takes a load of SELF discipline. There’s a big difference, with no boss standing over you.

      That’s really one of the big reasons I’m starting Freelance Writer’s Den, is to try to provide the support and accountability that help keep freelancers moving forward. For many in the solitary freelancing life, it’s hard to keep pushing without a team behind you expecting you to execute on your goals. Many need a buddy, a partner, a group…sort of a substitute “boss,” in a way.

      In the Den, people will be able to get that team. Can’t wait to get it open! (BTW, just checked and only 12 Den Builder cheap seats are now left…so if anyone wants the lowest price on joining that club, they should hurry on over and reserve their seat.)

  4. Karen

    I’ve finally realized that what I used to think of as ‘time management issues” or simply “not enough time” are actually issues to do with motivation, discipline and energy. I still have problems trying to fit all my writing related projects in but now I troubleshoot from a different angle. Trying to find more motivation, discipline and energy is actually easier than trying to find more time (you can create those three things – you can’t really create time. You’ll just keep coming up with the same 24 hours per day!)

    Re: Sarah’s comments above. I honestly believe writing is one of the few areas where ability still trumps qualifications. With lots of jobs you need the credentials to get started. With writing you need knowlege and skills and lots of other qualities, but as you said, Carol, no client ever asks you about your academic qualifications.

    • Carol Tice

      Totally agree, Karen.

      Bryan’s take on “writer’s block” was that it’s often you’re tired, not taking care of your body, eating right…take a listen. Was a great conversation.

    • Sarah Porter-Pennington

      I’ve always thought that as well: that you’re born with the ability to write creative and engaging “stuff”, and an education just helps you improve on that, by teaching you the mechanics of the machine (grammar, spelling…).

      I had just been worrying about this lately–probably because I am rather brand-new to freelancing. I’ve got a couple of years under my belt, but I have tons to learn still. I’ve been mostly writing for content mills before, and I still am, while looking for more clients. I used to enjoy the content mills, because I didn’t really know there was something more. Now I’m so burnt out, struggling to push myself through another day of excessive work with minimal pay. Like I said, I’ve been looking for better clients, but I have to keep doing the content mill work to make sure the bills are paid. And since I’ve not landed many clients yet, I started worrying that my lack of a degree was the problem. It’s great to know that it’s not as important as what I was building it up to be in my mind.

      • Carol Tice

        Nope. That’s not the problem. It’s all about knowing how to market yourself.

        Hope you’re on the Writers Den waiting list…there will be two huge modules in there on marketing your business…which is what it’s all about when you want to move up and earn more.

        And two years of writing means you’re not brand new anymore… 🙂 You’re ready to progress to better clients!

        • Sarah Porter-Pennington

          I just went to The Den and signed up. Hoping there was still seats available, if not, I’m sure it will be worth an extra $6.

          Looking forward to learning more from you!

          • Carol Tice

            You’re in!

            I just checked and only about 6 Den Builder seats are left.

            Look forward to having your participation in the Den!

          • Sarah Porter-Pennington

            Great to hear! Just sent my writing buddy and co-author of Getting It Write to sign up as well. So make that 5 spots!

          • Carol Tice

            I just checked, and it appears to be only four slots left! These have really gone fast.

            Anyone who is serious about wanting the best deal on a membership that includes monthly live Webinars, weekly live calls, private email responses to your questions, forums, courses on every aspect of freelance writing, and more…should hurry up and sign up.

  5. Andy C.

    I love freelance writing because it is very convenient for me compared to the usual office work or teaching jobs that I encountered before. As for finding time, I think it is about knowing the priority or topic that they are dealing and discipline on sticking to their writing schedule. It is also important that they don’t forget to take a break and have a passion to write something. Thanks for the wonderful post.

  6. Luana Spinetti

    Busy or not busy a day, it’s anxiety attacks that prevent me often from writing.

    After a day spent studying at university, I’m happy to come home in the afternoon/evening, eat dinner and watch a movie or just rest my head, and then get deep into writing, be it for money or not. Spending a single day without writing is like putting me on a forced diet: I need it, it’s my hobby and an outlet for my creative ideas. However, anxiety attacks still take place when I’m anxious for some exam, lacked sleep, a bad migraine hit me or I’m simply burnt out.

    Even so, I still do my best to write at least something every day, an paid article or review, an update on my blog, or just a list of ideas for possible short stories, novels, articles and new blogs. I make list with priorities and try to get them done as soon as possible, working on a draft on paper first (to avoid those awful migraines) and then completing it on the computer before sending it to my client. That usually works, even though I go to sleep at 1AM then. But I go to sleep with a smile of satisfaction. 🙂

    ~ Luana S.


  1. Good stuff from this week: Linky Link Roundup « Kristin Offiler - [...] I love freelance writer Carol Tice, mostly because she’s so willing to share information with other writers. And she’s…

Related Posts

A Look Inside Den 2x Success Stories

The Freelance Writers Den is the online community where freelance writers learn how to grow their income -- fast. Inside the community, there are two levels: The Freelance Writers Den is for freelancers who are just getting started, learning the basics, and giving...