7 Essential Productivity Habits of Successful Freelance Writers

Carol Tice

7 Essential Productivity Habits of Successful Freelance Writers. Makealivingwriting.comStepped 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!–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. 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.

4. Write

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 let’s discuss!

Writing for money - Double your writing income. LEARN HOW! Freelance Writers Den 2X


  1. Anne Wayman

    Hmmmm… usually Carol and I agree, but not this time… or maybe we do after all. I actually track my income and expenses on a daily basis and I do do that before I write – consider it part of my spiritual practice… along with meditating… but I don't invoice then. No, writing comes next… the first working act of my working day.

    That's because I know I can only write well for three or four hours – anything beyond that and it all starts to fall apart. That writing takes me to lunch usually, and then I invoice – which I don't do often because of the nature of my work… ghostwriting books so I get bigger chunks every month than many.

    And then I market or do whatever else needs to be done.

  2. roclafamilia

    Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!


  1. 50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics - [...] writer. Now she blogs for BNET, Entrepreneur magazine, and about the business of writing on her Make a Living…
  2. 50 Techniques To Write Kick Butt Blog Content Learn With Mario Garcia - [...] writer. Now she blogs for BNET, Entrepreneur magazine, and about the business of writing on her Make a Living…
  3. viralsocialmarketing.com » 50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics - [...] writer. Now she blogs for BNET, Entrepreneur magazine, and about the business of writing on her Make a Living…

Related Posts

How to End A Blog Post: 6 Easy Options

How to End A Blog Post: 6 Easy Options

If you're wondering how to end a blog post, there are a few things you should keep in mind. What should you say? Should you do a call to action? Should you write a conclusion? Should you pitch a product? All of these answers might be correct, depending on what your...

Ghostwriting 101: What You Need to Know

Ghostwriting 101: What You Need to Know

At some point in your freelance writing career, you'll come across ghostwriting gigs. You might be wondering what they entail, how they work, and if they're worth pursuing while you're building your writing career. While ghostwriting gigs can be fun and pay well,...