Freelance Success: One Writer’s Scary Secret You Should Copy

Carol Tice

Ever wonder what the secret to freelance success is?

You might think freelance success looks like this…

You’re always on, working around the clock…even on weekends, and checking e-mails at all hours.

That’s how you get ahead, right?

It’s kind of the status quo for a lot of freelance writers, entrepreneurs, and workaholics.

You’re afraid you’ll miss a deadline, fail to connect with a prospect, or miss an opportunity that could make you $$$. So you work…all the time.

Been there, done that chasing freelance success?

If you’ve even remotely found yourself thinking like this or working this way, it’s time for a change.

Want to know a ‘scary’ little secret about freelance success?

During my wonderfully restful winter break + working as a digital nomad I realized I’ve given a lot of advice about how to make a living writing.

But I’ve dished out a lot of writing advice over the years without discussing the one rule that’s really made it possible for me to achieve freelance success,  and become a well-paid freelance writer.

So I’m going to tell it to you now…

Fasten your seatbelts, because this one piece of advice will be the single most powerful thing I will ever tell you.

This one has the potential to completely change your life. If you’re the workaholic type, this might even sound a little scary.

Ready? Here it is:

Every week, from Friday sunset until Saturday after sunset, I don’t work.

Not ever.

  • I turn off my computer, my phone, my cellphone and whatever other devices are around that might lead to working.
  • I am not posting on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.
  • I’m not updating my Web site, prospecting for clients, filing articles, or conducting interviews.

Even more radical than not working for 25 hours each week…

During that time period I don’t think about work, either.

I don’t plan what I’ll do when I get back to the computer.

I don’t talk business with friends.

I slam the door on my business life and leave it completely behind.

Go ahead, copy me!

Each and every week, I take a complete vacation from working.

It’s called Shabbat, or the Sabbath. And it’s the most amazing tool for personal growth ever invented.

Without that time away to reflect, relax, unplug…we humans tend to just grind along, slowly getting more and more burned out.

We don’t progress as fast. We don’t fully realize our potential.

Freelance success requires time to recharge

When Stephen Covey made “sharpen the saw” one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he was echoing a timeless truth: we need time off to recharge in order to be our best.

There’s a reason we’re not called “human doings” but “human beings.”

We need time to just be.

To discover who we really are, apart from our ability to earn, meet deadlines, and take meetings.

To simply marvel at our good fortune at being alive in this beautiful world.

Discover the power of a digital detox

FYI…I’m not trying to convince anyone to practice my religious faith – Jews don’t seek converts.

But in today’s real-time culture of 24/7 connectivity, I’m finding it’s more important than ever to carve out a big block of time away from work each week.

Why? It’ll save your sanity, refresh you, inspire you, and make you a better friend, sibling, spouse, parent…and writer.

It may sound scary to take one-seventh of your time each week and commit to making it work-free.

When people start doing it, they’re often terrified they’ll earn less.

But the reality is you’ll probably earn more, because you’ll be so much more effective. Either way, I guarantee you’ll be happier.

Remember, nobody’s tombstone says, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

All I can say is try it, you’ll like it!

Maybe for you it’ll be Sundays, or Mondays, or it’ll start in the morning, or whenever. However you do it, know that you deserve a day off.

Take it, and see what happens. You might be surprised by the freelance success that follows.

Do you unplug to become a better writer? Tell us about it in the comments.

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35 Comments

  1. Patricia MacKinnon

    Hi,
    That sounds fantastic! I’m going to try it on my next days off.

    Do you have any suggestions for using Bluehost with a WordPress site? It seems very convoluted on how to get it to work.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Afraid I HIRE tech people, and am definitely not my own tech person, Patricia! I say delegate it to a pro, and take that day off. 😉

      Reply
  2. Deborah

    I’m in my first year of freelance writing as I pivot from software development, and I burnt myself out more than once last year. I did realize though, that I was more productive after those weekends when I didn’t do any paid writing at all and I’m determined to that more this year. I will definitely be giving weekly Shabbats a try.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      You’ll never go back, I promise, Deborah!

      Reply
  3. Olukayode

    Hi,I want to be a better writer and I want to specialize in copywriting with the intention of attaining financial freedom. IAM looking for a mentor or caoch to put me through.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Well, start with taking a day off each week, I say, Olukayode!

      If you’re interested in my coaching programs, at this point I only coach Freelance Writers Den members — take a look at the community and get on the waiting list if you’d like to join: https://freelancewritersden.com

      Unlike some coaches who want $10,000 or so, I often open up my coaching sessions for a tiny fraction of that. And in the meanwhile, you could self-study all our copywriting courses. We’re an all-you-can-eat learning platform!

      Reply
  4. Joe Polivick

    It’s the ebb and flow of life: work and relax, exercise and rest, eat and fast.

    I love this post.

    Reply
  5. Wisdom

    I ‘ve followed you for a very long time now and still have not made any earnings. And your still sending me details and has not considered helping me make some profit from content writing. What an effortless attent I’ve made following your site

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Wisdom…it appears from this post that you’re not fully fluent in English. That is perhaps why you’ve struggled? Consider writing in your own language. We have plenty of resources, both here and in Freelance Writers Den… but not everyone can be successful as a writer in a second language. Few truly do succeed at it.

      Here’s a post with some ideas for you on how to find income more easily: https://makealivingwriting.com/open-letter-esl-writers/

      Reply
  6. Byron Lee Sanchez

    I am consistently more productive than 98 to 99% of the 30 million Grammarly users and I also observe the 7th day Sabbath from Friday at Sundown till Sabbath Sundown. I completely unplug from secular pursuits for that 24 – 26 hour period and all of my personal contacts and business associates know that I am unavailable for rat-race-related activities. Thank you for sharing this. I think it is good for us to remember that God’s principles work. He knew what we needed when He made us.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      So… 7th day Adventist or Jew? We both keep the same day. 😉

      I’m dying to know how you know you’re more productive than other Grammarly users?

      Love that you get it about taking a SERIOUS day off. They don’t call us human DOINGS — we’re human BEINGS. It’s funny how freaked out a lot of people get if you ask them to spend one day just BEING. Just breathe all day, smile, see friends, and say… I am enough. I don’t have to DO, right now. I have enough. It is the single most transformative thing you can ever do, in our consumer culture!

      I also don’t engage in commerce on Shabbas… you?

      Reply
  7. Margarette

    Great content, Carol! It’s true how writers should slow down at least once a week. I found myself working best this way, too! I use my “days off” to disengage from my work so I can recharge. Thanks for this article.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      My pleasure! At this point in my life, I couldn’t imagine going back to working 7 days a week. Just no!

      Reply
  8. Larry Bernstein

    Love it, Carol.
    And I’m with you.
    I look forward to the Sabbath – it’s indispensable to me in so many ways.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Right on, Larry! A taste of the World to Come. Take a break, people! It’ll change your life.

      Reply
  9. Lisa Cunningham

    I do this on Sundays, which is my Sabbath. I do not even do laundry on Sunday.

    You’re right, it’s heavenly to unplug for at least 24 hours. Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  10. Corwin LM

    God in all His perfection had to rest after working for six days – what more his imperfect creations. Writing tires various body parts, the mind, eyes, hands and bottom. It can be emotionally draining as well. Unfortunately, many writers are unaware or disregard this, to their own detriment.

    Many thanks for sharing (and reminding us of) this often overlooked secret to successful writing.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Exactly, Corwin! We Jews have a saying: The manufacturer is familiar with the product. If you believe you were G-d designed, with a plan to rest every 7 days… why wouldn’t you do it? Advice from on high!

      Reply
  11. Lisa Sicard

    Wow Carol, I haven’t done that in a long time, take a whole weekend off. I try to take 3/4 of Sundays off but doesn’t always work. You make great points though to do it and it does help when you take short frequent breaks too. You need creativity and you can’t get it sitting in front of the computer all day, day after day! Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Lisa, all I know is of all the writers I’ve encouraged to begin a practice of taking at least one whole day off every week, ZERO have told me they wanted to go back to working 7 days a week. Working every day is a recipe for burnout! You’ve got to refresh at some point.

      I think the magic is not just the not working but developing the practice of NOT THINKING ABOUT WORK on the day off. That ability to truly turn your attention elsewhere is what’s restorative. Try it, you’ll like it!

      Reply
      • Lisa Sicard

        I like that, not thinking about work for a day 🙂 I hope to try it out soon. The problem is I get up early, can’t sleep – so I work several hours and then go back to bed before actually getting dressed and ready for the day.

        Reply
        • Carol Tice

          I don’t see how that keeps you from taking one whole day completely off? Doesn’t matter what schedule you keep — just take one day for rest.

          Reply
  12. Luther Cavendish

    nice that works for you. Not a plan that fits with me since I sometimes work in various locations. I have been a staff and biz journalist for more than 30 years.

    Reply
  13. Tom Groenfeldt

    Several top writers such as Stephen King, Steven Pressman and Julia Cameron say you should write every day.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Sure. Obviously, I’ve heard that one before. I subscribe to a different approach, and it sure has worked for me.

      Also, if I really wanted to, I technically COULD write 7 days a week, because I could write AFTER the Sabbath ends at sundown Saturday. But personally, over the years, I found that didn’t allow enough refresh time, so I stopped coming back online Saturday nights. To each his own! Certainly, writing on a regular basis, nearly every day, is how we improve.

      Reply
  14. Stephen Barber

    I like this as a method of structuring my time. Have been free from work (regular job) for seven months and been struggling with being productive even though I have plenty of time. Time management has always been one of my issues and this is an excellent tool. One day off per week which I have to look forward to as a reward for being productive the other six. I will do this. Thanks for the tip.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Stephen, when you LIMIT the available time you can write in, it’s amazing how it concentrates the mind to get things done. I also believe in setting business hours and rarely wrote after dinner when my kids were home. Ask any new mom who has to work around a toddler’s schedule how much they can write during a 45-minute nap. It’s amazing! You just put your head down and GO.

      Reply
  15. Tony ray martin

    This is insightful advice, thank you.

    Reply
  16. Richard Simpson

    Thanks Carol. I’m trying so hard to get on the technological playing field that I just can’t stop kicking the ball around every day for 10 hours, I’m a techno-klutz. I struggle even to fill in an online application form and attach the right documents. Do you have any advice. I’m 73. I love the way you live and write.
    Rich Simpson.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Sure — stop appyling to online job ads! In my Freelance Writers Den community, we teach you how to go identify and pitch your own clients. Tends to have much better results than sending a resume that will compete with 500 others, on some mass job ad!

      Reply
  17. Linda H

    I’ve known you unplug for shabbat every week for years. I commend you for it. I don’t unplug for shabbat, I unplug for my Sabbath on Sunday mornings for worship and on Saturdays to simply enjoy a day of relaxing, watching tv, or taking a trip. I unplug too. And yes, it makes all the difference in the world. I detox on work and when I return after my rest I’m fresher, have better ideas, am more organized and disciplined.

    I agree, Carol, taking time off to detox and enjoy life is a refreshing. It’s always been taught that we can work six days, but we should take one full day to relax, enjoy family and life, and get rested. It’s the one best tool a freelancer can should use. And it’s free.

    Reply
  18. Leila Rodrigues

    Thanks for this article.

    Reply
  19. RENIK JAYANASEN FAIR

    Thank you for this insight. i’m a Christian and I’ve long known that the Sabbath is very important to recharge our batteries. Though, unfortunately, I’ve not put it into practice. Thanks for the gentle reminder. Something I need to do just like when God rested from all His work.

    Reply

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