This is a guest article by Indiana Lee. If you want to submit a guest article of your own, be sure to read the guest article guidelines.
As a freelancer, being a great writer isn’t guaranteed to bring you success. Yes, it’s an important part of getting the job done and building your reputation. However, it’s certainly not everything. Rather, it’s vital to ensure your writing skills are underpinned by a strong set of supportive abilities that keep you productive and in demand.
One of the most important of these support skills is solid organization. With good practices in place, you’re likely to find it more practical to juggle multiple projects. It can also help you to balance your time between writing and the dull, yet essential, administrative tasks. Being organized doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but with a few steps, it will help you thrive as a professional writer.
One of the most important components of staying organized as a freelance writer is effective prioritization. In all likelihood, you’ll have several projects running simultaneously. Obviously, you can only write one piece at a time, but the knowledge of your significant workload can become overwhelming if you can’t establish the best order to tackle them in.
Therefore, at the beginning of each week and even at the start of each day, some of the things to consider include:
Deadlines get a bad rap as a looming presence in a writer’s life. Yet, deadlines can be your friend. After all, they provide you with clarity on when each piece of work must be submitted by, which provides you with a guideline for more organized working practices. You should take the time to rank your tasks in terms of when they need to be completed.
Your projects are not always going to be quite as simple as completing a simple piece of content. You may find that you have a combination of shorter articles alongside larger, more complex, or more research-heavy writing tasks. As a result, you can consider prioritizing your tasks in ways that reflect each project’s needs. For instance, while a complex project might not be due for a while, you may choose to prioritize planning and researching it over a simpler writing task so you can give yourself space to develop your ideas well in advance.
Maintain an editorial calendar
One of the worst organizational mistakes you can make as a freelance writer is trying to keep all your tasks, deadlines, and clients contained in your head. This can very quickly see your working practices devolve into chaos by forgetting elements or double-booking yourself, among others. Therefore, it’s important to externalize your schedule by maintaining a solid editorial calendar.
The good news is, you can create an editorial calendar using Google Docs relatively simply and for free. It’s a functional tool that’s highly customizable to your needs. It’s also particularly useful if you’re collaborating with others, as it’s stored on the cloud. To get started, you just need to head into your Google Drive, click the “new” button, and select Google Sheets. From here you can start merging the cells to delineate each day of your working week and create bordered blocks to split your calendar into months.
The key is really how you utilize the calendar once you’ve created it. Establish methods that enable you to use it practically and consistently. For instance, you can create a color key that allows you to highlight your tasks for each day in terms of priority level or whether they’re in the draft, editing, or submitted stages.
It’s important to remember that staying organized as a freelance writer can be dependent on your attitude to your work practices. An element that it can take writers a little while to grasp is how setting solid psychological and practical boundaries can directly impact your productivity and success. These enable you to both keep focused on the tasks at hand and protect yourself from disruptive influences.
Some areas you could consider setting boundaries include:
Let’s face it, as a freelancer writer it can be really easy to become waylaid by distractions. This may include social media, household tasks, friends and family members, or just boredom. If you don’t manage these, you may find you start to miss deadlines or work longer. It is vital to be strict in setting boundaries here. This may involve requesting loved ones not to interrupt you during certain times of the day. It could involve keeping your smartphone – probably the most distracting invention of the contemporary era – in another room for set periods.
Working hours and environments
Without clear delineation between your work and home, those blurred lines can very quickly lead to stress and even burnout. This can then derail your organization processes, your efficiency, and ultimately your mental wellness. Set strict working hours and don’t go beyond these. Indeed, you should be protective of your break times, too, as not getting enough rest can disrupt creativity and productivity. Wherever possible, clearly separate your working and personal environments, perhaps by creating a home office you can leave every day or joining a local coworking space.
Client expectations and behavior
Retaining clients is vital to success, but so is setting strict boundaries around them and other collaborators. Make certain you discuss the working hours you keep, so they don’t have unrealistic expectations of communication or work at personal times. It’s also okay to say no to clients that are too demanding, exhibit toxic attitudes, repeatedly delay payments, or frequently request unreasonable alterations. After all, their actions disrupt your productivity and well-being.
Staying organized is essential to being productive and successful as a freelance writer. That being said, a career as a freelance writer is not always consistent. Markets, client needs, and even the technology you use may change over time. Consequently, you need to regularly reassess your organizational practices to ensure they’re still fit for purpose.
About the author: Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3.