Productivity outside of an office is doubly difficult for freelance writers, thanks to the many distractions and interruptions from all over. It’s easy to lose focus because no one is breathing down your shoulder, and you’ll only realize you have spent so much time browsing social media feeds or seeking out new recipes to try when you check the time and see that it's close to your dreaded deadline.
Of course, all work and no play will make you a dull writer. So how can you achieve work-life balance when you are your own boss? Veteran freelancers say that changing your routine, even the small stuff, can greatly help make every minute count. Here are some tips to even out your freelance writing time with your downtime:
- Make a game plan... So as not to overload your schedule, planning is vital. This doesn’t mean a vague, “I will do my best for this project and make it within the deadline” kind of thinking, but writing the specific details down on paper. When you have your assigned tasks, make a weekly and daily plan to help schedule each task for a specific day and specific hours. Post your plan in a prominent place, so you could check at a glance how and where you are with your tasks and make sure that you are on track.
- ... and make it a habit. The weekly plan is vital to this. After you're finished with your work day, look at your schedule for the following day and make a task list that you can check and tick off each task as it is being completed. This way, your task list doubles as a progress bar; seeing a 100% completed task list at the end of a work day is a satisfying feeling. The list also comes in handy when you have to make revisions for ongoing assignments; you can easily check where you can fit those small projects without compromising your whole week.
- Work smart via flow charts. Even if your writing topics vary from day to day, some writing processes, from checking sources to making outlines, are routine. Create a flow chart to establish a routine, check for repetitive tasks, and identify what chores are redundant so you can trim them down.
- Working with templates is not a sin. For smart writers, one way of ensuring that their time is not wasted is through the use of templates. For routine paperwork, such as invoicing clients, requests for proposal, or query letters, you can write a template. Since you will likely use the same format and verbiage, the template can serve as a ready pattern. Templates for common writing jobs can save you time since you don’t have to waste precious minutes writing from scratch each time.
- Learn to say no. If you're just starting as a freelance writer, the thought of working on several projects at the same time to earn and build your portfolio can add a lot of unnecessary pressure. If you struggle with deadlines and have started to accumulate unfinished jobs because you bit off more than you can chew, it might be wise to step back and assess your bidding practices. Before you accept a project, check if you already have your hands full, and ask yourself if this additional job will cause problems with your current workload. If it does, then it’s probably best to say no and reject the offer.
- Spot and manage distractions. The Internet is a huge distraction, but you can control it with self-discipline. If you're always distracted by always checking your social media tabs, why not have two laptops, with one that isn't connected to the Internet? This way, you can do your online research on the first and focus on your writing on the disconnected one. If the buzzes are hard to ignore, go to your social media settings and mute them, or just turn them off when you're working.