Whatâ€™s your freelance writing game plan?
If itâ€™s â€œkeep your butt in the chair,â€ that might not be enough to help you win at freelance writing.
That advice translates to: Stay focused and avoid distractions. It works. But only if youâ€™re completing work that deserves to be done in the first place.
Iâ€™m talking about work or tasks that further your writing career, such as posts for your blog, podcast interviews, letters of introduction to prospects, and of course client work youâ€™re getting paid for.
But spending hours researching a 200-word article or shopping online for office supplies? I donâ€™t think so.
If you want to get more out of the time you spend writing, researching, and marketing your freelance writing skills, you need a game plan.
Want to see my playbook for earning a six-figure income as a freelance writer?
Hereâ€™s how itâ€™s done:
1. Set Goals
Before you decide what you need to get done today, take a big step back.
Consider your income goal for this year
- How much do you want to earn?
- Is that financial goal realistic, given what you made last year?
- If itâ€™s too low or too high, can you tweak it a bit?
Calculate how much that annual goal equates to on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. How much work do you actually have to bill every day to reach your target figure?
Crunch the numbers
It’s an important number to know, because it helps you assess whether youâ€™re using your time productively. If your annual revenue goal is, say, $75,000, thatâ€™s:
- $1,453/week (assuming you work all 52 weeks and donâ€™t take any time off)
- $291/day (for a 5-day workweek).
Calculate your financial goal, and break it down. Why? It provides metrics for how youâ€™re doing income-wise.
Setting a financial goal is a great place to give your freelance writing career a jump start. But other goals matter too, like, write for certain publications, work with certain clients, or to land a book deal.
- What other goals and accomplishments are on your to-do list for 2019? Make a list to refer back to.
Note: Iâ€™ve been surprised by how effective reflecting on my daily income productivity has kept me on track. Before calculating my daily goal, I figured it didnâ€™t really matter how I did on a daily basis as long as I hit my monthly goal. But itâ€™s so much easier to stay on track when you regularly check your progress.
2. List current projects
What’s your game plan to complete your current client work? If you don’t have one (a lot of writer don’t), it’s all too easy to squander away time, then scramble to meet your deadline. That’s not a winning strategy in my playbook.
Here’s what I recommend if you’re just starting out, or you need to get better organized:
- Make a list of all the current assignments or projects youâ€™re working on, the deadline for completion, and the money youâ€™ll earn.
- Determine priorities. Next, rank your list of projects from highest to lowest priority. Your highest priority projects might be the ones due the soonest, or perhaps theyâ€™re the ones with the highest payments. You get to decide.
- Schedule the work. Now that you know what needs to be done and when, take out a weekly calendar â€“ at least thatâ€™s my preference, you can also use a monthly view â€“ and divide up the work by day. Assign tasks to certain days, with no more than three major tasks per day.
- Estimate your productivity. As youâ€™re scheduling different activities, keep in mind how much time you think each task will take. For example, if you expect writing a 2,000-word article to take you six hours, you wonâ€™t have much additional time that day to devote to other big projects. Are there other shorter tasks that can be slotted that day? (Granted, there are some days when youâ€™re on deadline and have to make the schedule work no matter how many tasks are on your list.)
3. Carve out time for big goals
How many times have you thought about pitching your dream client or dedicating time to write that book? If you don’t have a game plan to make it happen, guess what? It won’t happen.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Don’t do that, OK?
Once you have your billable work scheduled, look for days when you expect to have some extra time available. Thatâ€™s where you can start assigning tasks related to your larger annual goals.
Here’s an example:
If one of your goals is to write for the New York Times, break this down into weekly tasks, like this:
- Week 1. Read the paper and identify potential departments where your work might run.
- Week 2. Research which departments are open to freelancers.
- Week 3. Hunt down the names and email addresses of the editors of those departments.
- Week 4. Research and write a pitch. And send it off. When you land the assignment, plug it into your current projects timeline to get it done.
Note: Each week your plan should be to take a step forward toward achieving at least one of your writing goals, even if you only spend 15 minutes on that effort. Anything you do to achieve that goal will move you that much closer.
4. Build in breaks
While being productive does require a steady pace of work, you canâ€™t work 24/7, nor should you.
Some of the most productive writers make time for relaxation and rejuvenation, even if itâ€™s a walk at lunch or an early evening movie. Your eyes and your brain need breaks from the work in order to be most productive when you do sit down at your desk.
- Do you take breaks to boost creativity and productivity?
5. Avoid the Parkinson’s law predicament
Ever heard of Parkinsonâ€™s Law?
Here’s the definition: Every task expands to fill the time allotted. That means that if you give yourself a full day to write a 500-word blog post, it will take you all day.
It doesn’t have to be that way.Â If you push yourself to get it done before lunch, or in two hours, it will take you closer to two hours.
Instead of being a victim of Parkinsonâ€™s law, use it to set a shorter deadline than usual. Work hard. Then reward yourself with some time off if you meet your deadline. It’s a benefit of freelance writing for a living you should enjoy.
Create your playbook to boost productivity + income
Think ahead. Plan out your work day and week. Set financial goals. Make time for your dream projects. Achieve your income goals. With the right plays, you can create the time you need for marketing, client work, special projects, and still have time left over to enjoy the freelance life. You can do this.
What’s your game plan for freelance writing success? Leave a comment below, and let’s discuss.
Marcia Layton Turner ghostwrites business books, magazine articles and blog posts for media and corporate clients. She recently launched the Freelance Writer Planner, to help writers write and earn more.