Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eight Tips For A Productive Freelance Writing Career

by Lisa Abellera

Organization and time management are a freelance writer's best friends. Freelance writers who are new to its lifestyle will love the freedom and independence. Rather than cubicle walls, freelancers can work in the outdoors, a Starbucks, library or even the beach. However supporting this lifestyle requires discipline not unlike working in the corporate world. Although you tossed that suit for sweats, you may be struggling with productivity and finding it difficult to take on more assignments. In the freelance writing world, the faster you can complete an assignment, the more money you can earn. Try these tips to create a more productive freelance writing career:

1) keep a daily notebook specifically for your freelance writing work, which may feel odd at first, especially in an age where information can be stored electronically, but studies have shown the hand and finger movements of writing activates the areas in the brain which engage in thinking, language and working memory. Write the date on the top of a page in notebook and list out tasks or "to-do's" in bullet points. Check off each task as it is completed. Add new assignments or tasks to this list throughout the day.The next morning, date a new page, write out the "to-do's" still left from the day before, and repeat the process.

2) Organize your home office workspace by eliminating clutter of scratch paper and sticky notes. Hang a white board on the wall and write on it your current and upcoming freelance writing assignments or project and their deadlines, and use your daily notebook to write down anything normally jotted down on a sticky note. A notebook with tabs works well for those freelance writers who prefer to separate their daily "to-do" list from notes on research, client discussions, appointments and other freelance writing activities.

3) Keep track of your time each day working as a freelance writer, whether your activities involve marketing your skills, corresponding with clients or actual writing. Make note of the actual time of the day you started and ended work.This seems counter to the principle of freedom in freelance writing, but it is essential to see how much of the day is spent truly working, since you are your only employee.Tracking work hours helps in gauging time spent on an assignment. If you are spending more time on a project than originally anticipated, this is telling of either project or client, and can help in calculating the hourly rate for similar writing projects or in determining whether or not to take assignments from this client in the future.

4) Work according to your natural mental state. Some freelance writers are more mentally alert in the morning and run out of steam in the afternoon, while others are barely functioning by their second cup of morning coffee and hit their stride in the afternoon. The best time to write or do tasks which require mental focus or critical thinking is when you are most mentally alert. More routine activities like reading emails, bidding on projects, researching, and invoicing should then be done when you find it difficult to dedicate your attention to filling the screen in front of you with compelling, intelligent words.

5) Plan to work while you work. Use the time after you "clock out" as a freelance writer for personal activities.When mixing work with paying house bills, walking the dog, going grocery shopping or other personal errands, it is more difficult to assess how much time is actually spent on freelance writing jobs. Also when you congregate work hours in 3-4 hour blocks, you tend to be far more productive than when having to pick up where you left off several times during the day.

6) Get out of the slippers and pajamas and get dressed. It's important to see yourself as no different than your counterparts working in cubicles under artificial light. It doesn't necessarily have to mean putting on a tie or wearing heels, but maintaining the ritual of dressing for work helps to promote a sense of value and self-respect for your freelance writing career.

7) Turn off the television and program the DVR. Television just creates another distraction for your brain to have to sort out in order to concentrate on the task at hand. For freelance writers who like having sound of the television in the background while they work, consider playing music on speakers rather than picking up that remote.

8) Get out of the house. If you don't have a separate office at home in which you can close the door from outside, non-freelance writing diversions, try working a few hours outside of the house. Do a little research and test out the different Starbucks, Peets or other local coffeehouses to determine which ones provide the best working environment for you. Besides convenience and comfort, look for Wi-Fi availability, customer density and noise levels during the hours you'll be there working.

For the freelance writer, time truly does translate into money.The more efficient use of your time and the more organized your home office is, the more productive you can be, which means a greater earning potential and better success for your freelance writing career.

Lisa Abellera is a freelance writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco. Her poetry and short fiction has been published or is forthcoming in several literary journals and in an anthology of creative travel writing. She is the cofounder of a graduate-level writers workshop group and is hard at work on her collection of short fiction. For more about the writing process and the craft of writing fiction, visit

In addition to creative writing, Lisa enjoys her work as a freelance commercial writer, where she specializing in research-based custom SEO article writing, article rewriting and quality content development for websites and blogs.