How I Became a Productive Freelance Writer — After Failing in Year One

Carol Tice

plan b strategy option alternative planning business symbol black board isolatedBy Kim Jansen

When I graduated from college, I knew a 9-to-5 position was not for me.

I had dreams of becoming a happy, productive freelance writer — working at my own pace, toting my laptop to my favorite coffee shop, paying my bills with my ideas…

But it turned out that I knew nothing about freelancing.

See, in college, I landed some pretty impressive internships. I thought “My luck will transfer over to post-grad life. I’ll never hurt for work.”

But I was wrong. The only places I knew to look for work were content mills.

Several months and $20 later, I realized the work was painstaking. And frankly not worth it. I had to pick up other jobs. A stint at Macy’s. Teaching music classes. A restaurant position.

All the while, I still tried to freelance, but time kept running away from me. A year flew by, and I’d earned basically nothing from writing.

Getting organized

This year, I gave myself one more chance to get my freelance writing business off the ground before I officially called it quits. And I’ve been succeeding.

How? All it took was a new way of approaching my freelance writing business. Here’s what I do differently now:

  • Schedule each working hour. Before I would slack on my to-do list and only complete one task. Now I have an old class schedule sheet I found; I make copies and can fill out every hour from 8am to 9pm during the week, but I only plan one day at a time. This way, I prevent some of that pressure a full week schedule gives me, but I actually complete most of my tasks by being specific.
  • Spend time improving my craft. I want to continue delivering impeccable content to my clients, so every morning I spend 30 minutes on free writing, vocabulary and grammar, and sentence structure exercises. I also find that doing this every day clears my brain for the heavier client assignments and makes writing easier overall.
  • Avoid content mills and bad websites. It’s easy to get wrapped up in Google searches of “freelance writing jobs” and hunting for opportunities on Craigslist. It never worked for me, so I just started avoiding it altogether. It opened up hours to market myself to jobs that would actually pay well.
  • Invest in professional development. Not only am I a member of Freelance Writer’s Den, but I also subscribe to several top-notch experts in the writing industry, and I carve out an hour every day to learn from these experts.
  • Stop researching magazines and companies — and start pitching them. Maybe it was fear of rejection, but I used to waste a lot of time trying to find magazines I could pitch. But I never pitched them. Research is still important, but now, armed with the know-how on writing queries, I actually pitch. Sometimes I get nothing, but I wouldn’t ever get anything if I didn’t pitch.

Now that I’ve learned to become a more productive freelancer, I’m seeing growth in my business. I’ve made money through my own blog, had several posts published to use as clips, and done paid projects for a couple of clients, all within weeks of starting these methods.

How do you stay productive? Tell us in the comments below.

Kim Jansen is a freelance writer who loves working with clients in the retail, wedding, small business, and music industries. She blogs about friendship over at Savvywifey.com.

Freelance Business Bootcamp

30 Comments

  1. John

    It is not easy to make your profession as a article Writer in this time. But If you work hard it is possible and some time you need a long time to success.

  2. Cassandra

    Thank you for sharing this! I graduated in June and am starting to get into freelancing as well, and it’s very slow (and I’m doing more collecting of places to submit than actually creating material to submit). I really liked the idea of using exercises to improve your writing. I’ll have to try it. 🙂

  3. Sabita Saleem

    I can definitely relate well to what your just mentioned Emelia. I literally get devoured by reading blogs of the experts to seek actionable advice. Its really enticing but I mostly get off track and it hurts my schedule badly.

    Timing my day on an hourly basis is what pay off and its a tried and tested method as far as I am concerned.

    I am learning to draft query letters and as soon as I make one presentable, I have already decided not to think more and just shoot it there. I have high hopes.

    Sabita

    • Carol Tice

      I meet too many writers who never press ‘send’ — so that’s a good way to go. It’s a numbers game — send more queries rather than second-guessing yourself.

  4. H. Raven Rose

    Great post! Working on our craft is essential as is approaching every endeavor as any business person would (marketing, professional development, the need to take action and avoid procrastination through unending research and so forth). Happy writing~* 🙂

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