Stepped into my Wayback Machine and found this post from 2010 on productivity habits. And you know what? It’s still current. These habits have helped me and many other freelancers move up and earn more. Enjoy!â€“Carol
Time. We’ve only got so much of it each day. For freelance writers who are also parents, we’ve certainly never got enough of it. Or if you’re working a day job and freelancing on the side, you know you’ve got to use your time wisely.
Whether you have a wide-open schedule or just a few hours a day for freelancing, your productivity habits can have a huge impact on your writing career.
What’s the best way to spend your precious work hours? I’m often asked this question by writers during coaching calls. I had one say, “I wish I could follow you around all day and see how you do it!”
While I don’t think that would be pleasant for either of us (and might reveal an embarrassing amount of screwing off and/or snacking on my part!)…I realized that after a decade of freelancing, I have developed some strong opinions on productivity habits for freelance writers.
Here are what I consider to be the seven most important productivity habits a freelancer should spend their time on, in order of importance:
1. Send a bill
Have you finished a project, but not billed it yet? Stop everything and send that bill out right now.
Every day a bill isn’t received by a client is a day it can’t be processed and paid. Many companies only cut checks once or twice a month, so a little dithering on your part could easily result in an extra month’s wait for your money.
2. Finish a project
Do you have a project you’re almost done with — say, an article that’s ready to write? If you don’t have another immediately pressing deadline, then write it today, even if it’s not due now.
Clearing mostly-done projects out of the way has a number of benefits — it means a chance to send a bill sooner (notice a theme here?), you write while the topic is fresher in your brain, and getting that assignment off your plate declutters your brain to focus on other pressing tasks.
3. Find sources
This is one productivity habit I have to admit I am guilty of procrastinating on sometimes…but you shouldn’t.Â Locating great sources is often key to writing great stories.
The longer you wait to start your search, the more pressure you’re under to find someone, and the more likely you are to settle for a less-than-ideal interview subject.
Start early and you’ll have the time to hunt down better sources. You’ll also be able to schedule their interview times when it’s most convenient for you, as you’re not in a rush.
Once you’ve billed your client, wrapped up anything close to completion, and done whatever source-finding is needed for upcoming stories, you can look at other writing you might want to get done.
The more you write, the better you get at the craft. This is one productivity habit that helps you avoid writer’s block. So find as much time for writing in each day as you can.
This is the point where your personal blog might get written, or you might write ahead on a big project that you want to rewrite and polish up a lot before deadline. (If you’re a designer, substitute “do design work” here, or whatever else it is you do as a freelancer.)
5. Market your business
Even if it’s just a half-hour of connecting on your social-media sites, try to spend a little time each day spreading the word about what you do. Send one query. Sign up for one networking event. Whatever is in your marketing plan — break off a little chunk of it today and do it.
6. Do interviews
If you looked for sources early and left time to prepare for your interview time, you should be ready to rock your interviews and get fantastic quotes and information. You can schedule your interviews or research time for current assignments after your marketing time because you planned well.
7. Analyze your progress
This is an often-overlooked but critical step to building a lucrative freelance career. Every month, see what you billed, and what you received.
The gap between those two gives you a quick snapshot of your month-to-month trend — is it going up or down?
Compare this year to date with last year to date, or this month with the same month last year. Data about earnings, and about how your client mix is changing, can help you budget better based on what income is really coming in the door, and can also help shape your marketing strategy.
The power of productivity habits
Have you mastered everyone of these productivity habits? For most freelance writers, it’s a work in progress. It might be hard at first to drop old habits, but it’s worth the effort. The more you consistently make smart choices about how you use your time, the more likely you are to move up and earn more.
What productivity habits have helped you as a freelancer? Visit my Facebook page and letâ€™s discuss!