I love reading about other writers’ routines: Ernest Hemingway wrote at dawn, Maya Angelou wrote out of a hotel room, Alice Munro writes for three hours and walks for three miles.
Freelancers also need routines — and because we have multiple demands on our time besides writing, we need our routines to be a little more specific than, to quote Hemingway, “write every morning as soon after first light as possible.”
I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for six years, and having a daily routine — one that includes time for writing, rewriting, pitching and administrative work — has been one of the secrets of my success.
In fact, I’m pretty sure my routine has helped me earn more money. Here’s how.
If you don’t make time to send out pitches, you won’t book any work. If you don’t make time to complete the work, you won’t earn any money. If you don’t take time to do all of the administrative work associated with freelancing — following up with clients, keeping track of business expenses, maintaining a website — you won’t grow your career.
Turning my day into a daily routine helped me make time for all of the work that freelancing requires — and it also helped me avoid the decision fatigue that comes with asking yourself “what am I going to do today?” over and over again. I already know: I’m going to check the news, I’m going to check my email, I’m going to check social media and then I’m going to write for an hour. Knowing what you’re going to do every day helps you get it done.
2. A routine prevents procrastination
If you start writing every day at 9:30 a.m. (or at dawn, if you’re like Hemingway), you’ll get used to spending that time writing. You’ll be less tempted to spend it doing laundry or refreshing Twitter, because your mind and body already know that it’s writing time.
Building a routine is a great procrastination-buster, because you’ll be able to schedule time for social media and afternoon snacks and anything else you usually do instead of doing your work. If you spend a lot of time reading sites like The Write Life, for example, add 30 minutes of “reading time” into your routine — and then when “writing time” comes around again, you’ll be ready.
3. A routine keeps you balanced
I start every day with 45 minutes of yoga. I also take two 30-minute walk breaks: one after lunch, and one and at the end of my workday. (Alice Munro isn’t the only writer who loves long walks.)
These breaks are non-negotiable; I don’t have to “earn” them, but I don’t get to turn them into extra writing time, either.
Building yoga and walking into my routine helps me stay balanced. It also helps me feel like I’m able to handle multiple priorities: the work I owe my clients, and the breaks I owe myself. Most of us have multiple priorities, whether we’re balancing work/life, writing/family, or freelancing/day job. (Or all of the above!) Make sure your routine includes time for all of your priorities — otherwise, you risk burning out.
4. A routine sets limits
If your day includes 30 minutes of morning email, a writing block from 9:30 to noon, an hour for lunch, an administrative hour, and then a writing block from 2 to 5, you know you can only schedule as much writing as can be completed in those two blocks. Freelancers often have trouble knowing when to say no—an extra assignment, even if it’s a bad one, can bring in a few extra dollars, right?
Once you have a routine, you’ll know exactly how many writing hours you have per week — and once you know how long it takes you to complete a typical assignment, you’ll have a good idea of how many assignments you can accept. These types of limits help keep your freelance work from taking over your entire life.
5. A routine requires you to maximize your time — and your income
So you’ve built your routine, you have your daily writing blocks, and you know roughly how much work you can complete in a week. There’s one more step in the process: Maximizing your time by working for the highest possible rates.
Whatever you choose to do, let your routine be your guide. You know how much time you have available to write, so don’t sell yourself short — literally. Set your writing blocks, stick to them, and make sure you’re earning as much as possible. Then get ready to do the whole thing again tomorrow.
Do you have a daily routine? Has it helped you avoid procrastination, balance multiple priorities and earn more money?
The day you’ve either longed for or dreaded has finally arrived.
You check your email and see a message from your editor with the subject: Edits Complete.
Your heart skips at least a beat as you scramble to save your edited manuscript to your computer. Then you open that just-received document, hoping to see the few things you missed so you can finally get to the next step of your publishing journey.
Except your expected quota of errors for your entire manuscript is already exceeded within the first five pages.
The longer you keep scrolling through your marked-up manuscript, the farther your jaw drops. Before even reaching the end, you close the document, slap your hand on your desk, curse your dog and swear that “this writing thing” is a frivolous waste of time.
Ten minutes later, you’re back at your desk, looking through your edits.
An optimistic thought passes through your mind: I can handle this. In fact, most of these edits seem pretty helpful. Guess I just need to dig into my manuscript. Again.
Receiving edits, especially for a first-timer suffering, er, undergoing their first edit, can be a reality shock. Many authors believe that writing “The End” is the end. Truth be told, that’s just the beginning of the writing phase of creating a book. The editing phase could take just as long.
And don’t even get me started on how long the marketing phase takes.
To help you make the most of your time during that last mile of the editing phase, consider these seven tips on what to do after your edit.
1. Don’t freak out
Although your manuscript may be swimming in a sea of red, you won’t drown in it if you refuse to freak out. To keep your head above water, take a deep breath.
Realize that even good, experienced writers may receive hundreds of edits within a book.
Understand that this is part of the process. Consider a heavy edit as your rite of passage into the family of authors. This is how you grow as a writer.
If you wind up denying a majority of your edits, you need to let your editor know that. Either you hired a bad editor — it can happen — or your knowledge of grammar or publishing standards isn’t what you think it is.
A major pain point for editors is having their names attached to books that are ultimately published with errors that the editor initially corrected. If you find yourself rejecting a majority of changes, talk to your editor about it. Either let them rectify the situation or humble your writer’s ego to learn why their edits are correct.
3. Ask questions where appropriate
If you’re deeply unsure about an edit and you’ve attempted to research the question at hand, email a short question to your editor about their change. If you disagree with their edit, have a legitimate argument for your disagreement.
Unless you’re discussing dialogue or poetry, “It just sounds right” is rarely a legitimate argument with an editor.
4. Return your accepted edits to your editor
Because their professional integrity is also on the line when your book will be released to the public, your editor may want to review the final product before it’s released.
Some editors may stipulate in their contracts that you return all accepted edits to them for final approval. Some editors may not.
However, consider it a point of professional pride to send your accepted edits back to your editor for their final approval. They will appreciate your thoroughness and thoughtfulness.
Nowhere is this more important than when you have a finalized, fully edited manuscript residing on your computer.
Considering how much time and expense you’ve put into creating that manuscript, you don’t want to lose it. Save it to your hard drive, an external storage device and a cloud service, and then email it to a trusted friend.
6. Hire a formatter and a proofreader
While formatting tools have a come a long way even in recent years — consider my Vellum review — I still recommend hiring a professional book designer to format your interior for both print and digital versions of your book.
When you hire a true pro, your book’s interior will show it.
To ensure that you’re putting your book’s best face forward, hire a proofreader too. Contrary to popular belief, an editor is not your last line of defense against bad book reviews citing “bad editing.”
While an editor will certainly be responsible for catching a majority of errors, a proofreader is necessary to catch errors introduced after the edit. For instance, you may have inadvertently rejected an edit on a typo. Or the formatter may have unintentionally inserted a hyphen. Or ebook conversion software may have changed your curly quotation marks to straight quotation marks.
Because errors may worm themselves into your book after the initial edit is complete, a proofreader proofs the final formatted version of a manuscript to ensure every line is ready for publication. Traditional publishers employ this last step; so should self-publishers.
Once you’ve meticulously worked your way through your edits, your editor has signed off on the final product, and your manuscript is being vetted by your publishing company or being formatted and proofed by freelancers, take a moment to relish your victory.
You’ve endured the rite of passage every author must face. You’ve walked through your personal red sea. You’ve nearly arrived on the opposite shore, the Promised Land of “published author.”
And you have at least a few months, and maybe even a year or more, before you have to — get to — do it all over again.
Project proposals are an essential tool for any freelancer.
Being able to put together a document explaining just what you can offer your client and how much it will cost can help you secure business.
Keep in mind there isn’t one ideal proposal format for every project. Every proposal will be unique based on your client’s needs and your offerings, but they will all contain the same basic elements: A proposal of what you can do for your client, a description of how you’ll do it and an estimate of how much this will cost.
Read on to learn how to put together a project proposal.
Be sure to include basic information in your project proposal like your name, contact information, website, the date, the company you’re preparing the proposal for and your contact’s name.
You’ll likely want to submit it to your client as a PDF to ensure you don’t have any issues with formatting. You may wish to include graphics or visuals or keep it simple with just plain text.
However you submit it, make sure you’ve spell-checked and edited it thoroughly. Making a good impression is very important.
When putting the proposal together, you’ll want to outline the various components of the project.
If you’re creating a proposal for website copy, don’t just write “website copy.” That could mean vastly different things to different people. You might envision that as 2,000 words, while your client might see that as an open-ended proposal to write 100,000 words or more.
Instead, detail the components you are able to provide. Specify that you can provide 300 words of copy for the company’s “about page,” 200-word bios for five staffers, and three 500-word pages of text detailing the company’s services.
Of course, you’ll want to have some flexibility and to be able to change things to meet your client’s needs.
The proposal is just a starting point. You’ll want to have all the details completely hammered out by the time you sign a contract.
Scope of work
Be sure to outline the scope of work you can provide to avoid any misunderstandings later. Some clients may not understand the services you offer, so be clear.
If they need a website designed and you only provide writing services, be sure to specify what you can offer. Will you subcontract a designer? Will you source images for them? Will you edit HTML? Will you upload the copy into their CMS? Or will you just provide copy?
Be sure to be as specific as possible so they know what is and is not included in your estimate.
Also be sure to clarify the number of edits you will provide. It often works best to say you will work with one point of contact on a specified number of rounds of edits. If you don’t specify one point of contact, you may be dealing with a dozen different staff members with different ideas about what they would like. By having the company designate one person to compile the company’s thoughts, that should help streamline the process.
You will also want to specify whether you are talking about “light copy edits” or “developmental edits” so you are on the same page. You may need to explain what these terms mean to your clients.
Finally, be sure to define how you will submit the final materials. You don’t want to run into a situation where you think you’re emailing a Word document and the client expects you to input material directly into its CMS complete with links and formatting. Be sure to clarify exactly how you will submit materials and be sure to consider that in your pricing.
In your proposal, provide an estimate for a timeline. You may prefer to say something like “two weeks from contract signing” or list specific dates. Be sure to keep in mind that it may take a while to get from the proposal stage to the point where it’s time to begin the project.
Look at your calendar when providing this estimate and realistically see when you have other big projects due, any upcoming vacations, or other plans that may require a reduced workload for a time.
Be sure to also provide deadlines for the company to provide information, interviews, edits, and other necessary information and feedback.
Remember these dates will likely change as you move forward toward a contract, but it’s good to have an estimate of how long each step will take as a starting point.
Pricing your proposal
Typically, when pricing your project many writers prefer to develop a project fee rather than provide an hourly rate.
To set your project fee, estimate how long a project will take you and multiply that by your hourly rate. You may wish to add a bit of a cushion if you think it may take a bit longer. The Editorial Freelancers Association has a good list of rates for different types of projects.
A flat fee for a clearly defined scope of work minimizes the chances of financial surprises for you and your client. If you complete the project a bit more efficiently than you expected, you earn more per hour. If it takes you longer, your client won’t have to pay extra. Of course, if you do quote a flat fee, it’s important to have a really good idea how long the project will take you so you don’t end up scrambling or feeling short-changed.
After you submit your proposal, be sure to follow up promptly. Depending on the urgency of the project and your relationship with the potential clients, you might want to follow up as soon as the next day (or even the day of submission if it’s urgent) to see if they have any questions or you can provide additional information.
Give them a little time to mull it over and reach out again to see if they’re interested in moving forward or if they have any additional questions.
Many freelancers prefer to have a signed contract before moving forward, and many require at least a partial payment up front. Find out what works best for you and go from there.
However you put your proposal together, just remember that it’s only a starting point. Collaborate with your potential client to make sure the details work well for both of you. Don’t be intimidated by putting together your first project proposal. The more you write, the easier they will become.
Whether you cover technology or hockey, it’s important to know what’s going on and stay on top of the latest news in your field.
Knowing what’s going on in your field can help you land more stories, and it might help you become your editor’s “go to” person for related topics.
Follow these techniques to stay on top of your beat.
1. Use Google Alerts
Writers use Google Alerts in all sorts of different ways. You can use this free service to subscribe to companies, people or phrases, and Google Alerts will send you an email notification when the keywords appear online.
Many writers have a Google Alert set up for their name so they see when they’ve been mentioned or have an article published.
This is also a useful way to stay on top of your niche and the main subjects you cover. If you cover technology, you might want to set up an alert for a specific technology company or a specific kind of technology or an aspect of the field.
Of course, when you receive an alert, that means someone else has already covered the topic. This is a great way to stay on top of current developments in the field, but not the best way to break the news yourself.
2. Subscribe to journals
Whether you cover penguins or parenting, there are likely at least a few research journals that may be of use to you. When you subscribe to academic journals, you can read studies and articles about your field and stay up to date on the latest research.
Joining a society or organization in your field is often a good way to access these journals as many memberships include a subscription or a way to access one or more relevant journals.
You can also read many subscription-based journals for free at a local public or academic library.
3. Network and use your contacts
In order to stay on top of the latest developments, cultivate great sources and have a chance to break some news yourself, it’s important to network and have contacts in your field.
If you cover aerospace, reach out to leading aerospace researchers and ask them to keep you up to date on their latest developments. Ask to be included on their public relations media list. However, they are busy with their research and reaching out to the media is likely not one of their top priorities, so you will have to be proactive.
Check in from time to time and see what’s new. They may be able to give you a heads-up on the research they are currently working on or an upcoming newsworthy project. See what’s going on and check in later to stay on top of their work.
Be sure to clarify with your subjects what is “on the record” and what is “off the record.” Some may give you a heads-up about a project coming down the line in a few months but not be ready to officially comment on the topic.
4. Attend industry conferences
While cultivating individual relationships with the top experts in your field is important, it takes up a lot of time to track down a dozen or more individuals and stay on top of what each one is doing.
In order to optimize your time, consider attending industry conferences and events to see a number of prominent experts in one place. Use the time to network, cultivate contacts and learn everything you can about the field.
Industry conferences are different from writing conferences. Writing conferences include writers, editors and agents, while industry conferences feature scientists, researchers and top industry experts sharing their knowledge.
Conferences typically host panels, speakers, and events where you can also get story ideas. Be sure to check with conference organizers and presenters to see what is “on the record.”
Sometimes, these types of events involve presentations on in-progress research and other developments they want to share with colleagues but aren’t prepared to share with the wider world. You don’t want to get on an important contact’s bad side by sharing preliminary results without the proper context, so be sure to make sure the findings are ready to publish.
Staying on top of your beat will take a certain amount of time, but it’s invaluable to cultivate important contacts and learn as much as you possibly can about your field.
When you know the people, the latest developments, and understand the field thoroughly, you can make yourself a “go to” reporter on the topic.
Though working solo has many benefits, everyone has moments when they wish they could stop by a coworker’s desk to ask a question, get feedback on an idea or simply share a crazy client story.
I worked on my own for several years before going in-house as a staff writer for a personal finance website. And, while I missed the freedom of working remotely, I loved the daily banter with my colleagues. Not only was the camaraderie enjoyable, it often sparked my creativity.
So, when I returned to freelancing a year ago, I wanted to bring a bit of that feeling along with me — and I started a writers mastermind group.
What is a mastermind group?
Napoleon Hill, author of The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich, is largely credited with introducing the word “mastermind” in the 1920s, though the concept has been around far longer than that.
Organized by entrepreneurs across industries, a mastermind is a group of peers who meet regularly to set goals, overcome challenges and use their collective brainpower to accelerate business growth.
Famous mastermind participants include Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates — even the Knights of the Round Table!
And they’re still very much in vogue today. As the legendary online entrepreneur Pat Flynn writes: “A mastermind group is mandatory to achieve online success… I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for the mastermind groups that I’ve been a part of.”
My mastermind consists of five female freelance writers. We meet once a month over Google Hangouts to share highs and lows, resources and encouragement.
I always look forward to our call, as it’s one of the only times I get to have honest conversations about writing with people who understand what I’m talking about. I also learn so much from my fellow group members, and love the support we provide each other.
5 steps for starting a writers’ mastermind group
Becoming part of a writers mastermind can certainly be a boon for your career — and your mental health.
So, rather than waiting around to be invited to one, why not start one yourself? Here are five steps to follow.
1. Outline your goals and rules
The first thing to figure out is what you want to gain from your mastermind. Collect your thoughts in a Google Doc that you can share with potential members.
For example, here was my mastermind’s main goal: “To grow our writing careers while traveling the world — and without going crazy.”
In the document, I also included secondary goals about accountability, perspective, support and inspiration, as well as the proposed schedule and rules. Some examples: “Show up every month (if you miss three calls, you’ll be asked to leave the group)” and “Listen openly and without judgment.”
Though I’m generally not a stickler for rules, I thought they were important to mention. That way, potential members would take the group seriously, as well as understand the type of environment I hoped to create.
2. Determine your meeting cadence
Most mastermind groups meet once a week or once a month.
My mastermind meets from 3-5 p.m. EST on the first Wednesday of every month. Having a regular time makes it easier for us to fit the meeting into our schedules (and to remember when it’s occurring!).
Determining your meeting cadence will also determine your meeting structure. In many weekly masterminds, for example, each member offers a brief update, then one person is in the “hot seat” with the rest of the meeting focused on their business and goals.
Since my mastermind only meets once a month, we all take turns sharing our highs, lows and goals, then it’s an open floor for any member to discuss challenges they’re facing.
3. Choose your tribe
This is the most important step in creating a writers mastermind: Who are you going to invite?
Here’s some common advice for choosing your mastermind’s members:
Invite three to five other people: Any more, and your sessions will go too long; any less, and it’ll be overly detrimental if someone can’t make it.
Choose peers: Try to find people in similar stages of their careers. If someone’s significantly further along, it’ll probably feel more like a coaching session for them — rather than an open exchange with peers.
In terms of the type of writing your members do, I’ve found it helpful that all of my mastermind’s members are freelance writers. I purposely also chose people who enjoy traveling, since it’s something we can all bond over.
To find my members, I turned to my personal network: Three were writers I’d met at conferences, and one was a friend of another member.
4. Create a shared space
You’re going to need somewhere to record the ideas generated during your calls and continue the conversation in between.
For my mastermind, I created a private Facebook group where we ask questions and share resources. We also have a few documents where we’ve written out successful pitches (though, to be honest, we don’t use this as much as we should).
If you’re not into Facebook, you could do this via Slack or another platform; choose what works best for you.
5. Get going
Now all that’s left to do is get started! It probably won’t be perfect, but you’ll be able to fix any bumps along the way — with the help of your new mastermind buddies.
Or, as those in the tech world would say, “Ship fast and iterate.”
One year into our writers mastermind, we’re still figuring out how to improve our processes. For example, we recently began assigning one notetaker per meeting, since so many good ideas are shared in the moment (and it’s tough to remember them all).
Bumps aside, starting a writers mastermind group was one of the highlights of my year.
It’s been so helpful to chat with these fellow writers; to know they’re on my side when I’m having a rough day (or month), to know they’re there for my silly questions and to know we’re all helping each other progress in our writing careers.
This may be my first mastermind — but I can tell you with confidence it won’t be my last.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!
Professional creators should use professional tools.
After all, how would you feel if you went to a restaurant and noticed the food was being cooked in cheap microwaves by chefs using low-quality equipment? You would probably rightly assume the output from substandard tools would be a substandard meal.
Writers are no different.
To produce the best work possible, it’s vital to find the right tools for the job.
How many writers do you know who still use a standard word processor app like Microsoft Word? Perhaps you even do yourself. Why? It’s often due to a lack of knowledge about what else is out there.
I still remember the day I found something better and tried it out for the first time.
That something better was a writing tool named Scrivener.
Here’s how this tool has made a major difference to my writing process.
1. Better research and planning
The self-publishing marketplace is more crowded and competitive than ever before.
In the past, it was possible to release a hastily written book containing the minimum of research, and still experience success. Those days are gone. Success in the current climate requires careful and conscious research.
Research isn’t easy. We live in an era of unprecedented information and ideas.
Curating the best and most suitable concepts for your book is no easy task. Yet so many writers make it even tougher than it needs to be by taking a scattergun approach to the collection and storage of information.
Before I discovered Scrivener, my research process typically involved a mess of folders, files and illogically named documents. Even worse, leaving my writing software and accessing my research disrupted my creative flow and led to procrastination and distraction.
Scrivener helped me to collect, organize and access my research in a way I never even knew was possible. Within Scrivener, you have all of your research directly available, next to the actual writing environment itself, as seen below.
Being able to see all of your research without having to leave your writing software is an incredible time-saver and productivity-booster. You never have to run the risk of forgetting about a useful piece of research while in the throes of creation.
Some of the best research and planning features of Scrivener for fiction writers include the ability to create, store and access detailed character notes, create a detailed and useful outline of your story, and to store images and ideas related to setting and location.
2. Writing well
Any specialist writing software worth your time and money needs to offer functionality and benefit when it comes to the actual activity of writing itself.
While research and planning are important, the core activity for writers will always be, unsurprisingly, writing itself. Thankfully, Scrivener does not disappoint in this area.
Some of my favorite aspects of writing while using Scrivener include –
The ability to write in a distraction-free fullscreen mode
The option to use a template created by another writer to structure my work in a tried and tested way
Being able to quickly and easily rearrange chapters and scenes as I write
Write without distraction
If you’ve ever struggled with the problem of being able to zone in on your writing and get things done, you will appreciate the full-screen composition mode offered by Scrivener. It’s a way of digitally tuning out the distractions of the world and zoning in on the vital process of stringing sentences together.
As you can see from the above image, Scrivener blocks out everything but the words you are writing. If you combine this with a time period where you turn off your internet and cellphone, you will truly be able to focus on your writing. The full screen mode shown above displays a plain background, but you can also customize the image seen. Views of nature are a popular choice.
Use templates for successful structures
One of the toughest challenges for me was knowing the proper structure to use when setting out to write a book. This is another area where Scrivener excels.
You can easily download, import and modify Scrivener templates. This gives you a predefined structure for your manuscript and research which allows you to focus on the act of actually creating.
Using templates in Scrivener can also give you the confidence to try out a style or method of writing you may not have experience with. For example, if you’ve wanted to write a screenplay, but haven’t known exactly how, a template can be your best friend.
The above image shows the template selection available when loading up Scrivener. You can always add and modify templates depending on your personal requirements.
Set targets and monitor progress
Almost every writer has a unique approach to measuring progress and monitoring projects. If you like to set targets for your writing, and ensure you stay on track, Scrivener makes it easy. You can easily set writing targets for an individual writing session, or an entire project, and quickly monitor your progress towards them, as seen below.
You can see that the progress box floats over your writing and shows both your overall and session targets.
Scrivener also allows you to quickly combine, separate and rearrange the individual pieces of a writing project. If you are rewriting nonfiction, and aren’t exactly sure of the order you want your chapters to be in, it’s easy to switch up the sequence, as seen below.
3. Formatting and sharing
Have you ever experienced the joy of seemingly finishing a writing project, only to experience unexpected frustration when finding the right format for your work, and exporting it, becomes a nightmare?
This is especially true when writing in software like Microsoft Word. It can be tricky to impossible to find a way of easily converting your work into the right file format. Even if you do manage to export to the file type you need, there’s often no guarantee that your work will look the way you wanted in its final form.
In Scrivener, you can ensure that your writing project will look exactly as you intended after you export it. Some of the options for doing this can be seen below.
Scrivener also supports a wealth of export file formats, which are suited to different types of writing.
Some of the file format supported by Scrivener include –
* .epub (used for Google, iBookstore, Nook and Kobo)
* .mobi (used for the Kindle store)
* .html (used for webpages)
* .PDF (used for Adobe Reader)
* .doc (compatible with MS Word and Google Docs)
This powerful export capability can save both time and money. Exporting with Scrivener can save on the need to hire a freelance worker to carry out the format process for your book. It also can help you to avoid having to invest in a separate piece of software to get the file format you want.
As well as being great for full ebooks, this file format versatility is well-suited to blogging. Bestselling author Michael Hyatt decided to switch to Scrivener for all his writing projects, not just his books. While you may not decide to go this far yourself, it’s good to know that Scrivener is suitable for whatever type of writing project you decide to engage in.
Better Books With Scrivener
Writing a book is a demanding endeavour requiring software that is up to scratch. Scrivener not only produces a better final product, but also makes each and every stage of the writing process easier along the way.
If you have any questions about Scrivener, feel free to comment and I’ll be happy to respond. I’d also love to know about any awesome Scrivener benefits you’ve discovered that I haven’t mentioned here.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!
My brain’s too foggy. The kids stressed me out. I don’t feel good. I’m too tired. My to-do list is calling. I only have a few minutes. The house is a mess. I need coffee. I’ve had way too much coffee. It’s better for me to write in the morning. I have no good ideas. I’m not good at writing. It’s too loud in my house. The kids will be up soon, anyways. I don’t know what to write. My desk is cluttered.
Do any of these sound familiar? Am I reading your mind? Are these types of thoughts keeping you from writing?
I could list 100 or more of these thoughts.
I come up with new ones every single day (if only I were so creative in my writing!). I have not written anything for about two weeks and this perpetual way of thinking really flatlines my writing efforts.
Most of the time, I feel like I am just waiting for the perfect conditions for writing. And as you would expect, those magical conditions never happen.
It’s like I am putting off getting what I need to done until the sun and the moon and the stars align just so.
Then, and only then, I believe I will be able to sit and write with no worries and the words will just flow effortlessly out of my brain and into my fingers as they tap delightfully on my keyboard. And nothing will distract me from my incredible focus because my brain is fresh and clear and I’ve had just the right amount of caffeine to keep me going until every last thought has been captured in the most eloquent way possible.
And yet, even the cosmic rarity of the sun and the moon meeting in a total solar eclipse was not enough to get me to write. Not even one word.
The truth is, the conditions will never be perfect.
I mean, they might have been if I had chosen to be single. And if I had been independently wealthy. And maybe if I lived in some beautiful remote location, with not a care in the world and even a personal chef to boot!
But I’m not and I don’t. Sigh.
I have 3, soon to be 4, kids and a husband who runs his business from home.
My house is loud and disorganized. I don’t even have a desk. Well, actually I do, but I had the brilliant idea to set up my writing station in the kids’ playroom. As if I would have been able to work while the munchkins screamed and played and climbed all over me. Now the desk is so deeply buried that I couldn’t even sit there if I wanted to.
Talk about imperfect conditions!
So, now I’ve come face to face to with reality. All my “perfect condition” requirements are just fantasies that are preventing me from getting into the nitty gritty. The hard aspects of writing. The sitting down and actually doing it, without the reasons and excuses that I allow to hold me back.
The hard part
Writing is an exercise that must be strengthened with practice. Is it hard to sit down at the computer and write while the kids are playing (or screaming or fighting or worse)? Yes.
Is it frustrating to be interrupted just when you’ve gotten to a really good stage of the writing process? Yes.
But, if you don’t work at it, you will continue to get the same results. Day after day of blank pages.
How can you get past the excuses and learn to write no matter the weather? Try these three tips.
1. Recognize the BS thinking
Learn to catch the habitual thoughts in action and recognize them for the excuses that they are. Just doing this removes their power.
Take “The house is a mess” for example. Is it really true that you can’t write until the house is clean? Or, perhaps, you can recognize that the urge to tidy up might be because it is easier to do that than write, and set a goal to pick up the house after you’ve accomplished a writing goal.
2. Stop taking your own temperature
Letting your mood dictate whether it is a good time to write is a quick way to end up not writing. It’s time to stop being so concerned with whether you feel “right” enough to write.
Writing is hard work, especially when you don’t have a formal job structure to keep you on target. Setting strict deadlines and blocking out dedicated times to write can really help get you past the excuses.
And with that, you can get back on track. A writing schedule keeps me committed regardless of how I am thinking or feeling about the task at hand. My silver spoon fantasies still linger but I know what happens when I heed them. Nothing. Nothing at all.
What is your most creative (or ridiculous) excuse not to write? Or, if you’ve conquered your own excuses, share your successful strategy to help other writers.
As a freelance writer, it can be tempting to take every gig that comes your way.
Turning down a freelance gig can sometimes feel like you’re tempting fate to take away all future opportunities because you said no to one. When you think about how hard you work marketing yourself and making connections and inquiries, something about turning down a viable gig feels wrong. Just know that you’re not alone. I did the same thing when I first started out, and I still get tempted to do it now. But along the way, I’ve learned that it’s OK to say no sometimes. In fact, you should. Not every gig is worth your time or effort. The trick is to differentiate between one that has value and one that’s more trouble than it’s worth.
Here are six questions to ask yourself before you say yes to a freelance gig.
1. Is it worth the money?
Think about the time required to complete a project. Is it worth the money they’re offering?
Money isn’t everything, especially when freelancing, but it can go a long way to helping you decide if the gig is right for you.
Remember that your time has value, and the time you put into something that doesn’t pay well can mean less time for those opportunities that do.
2. Will it give you solid exposure?
Sometimes the gigs that give you the best exposure are the ones that don’t pay as well.
Like I said, money isn’t everything. If you can get your name out there by doing a project or writing an article for free or next to nothing, it might be worth it.
Then, you can move onto higher paying gigs once you’re more established in your niche market.
I once had a column where I wrote five articles a week for over a year because it was great exposure. It didn’t pay well, but it helped to get my name out there and increase my credibility as a freelance writer. That was invaluable.
In fact, because of this column, some of my work was featured on the New York Times blog.
3. Will it be the perfect addition to your portfolio?
The plain and simple truth is that to get high quality freelance gigs, a strong portfolio is an asset.
So, maybe the gig you’re considering doesn’t pay well, and it doesn’t give you a ton of exposure, but the piece will be a strong addition to your writing portfolio.
If so, it just might be yes-worthy.
4. Are you comfortable being associated with the company/website?
Perhaps the gig pays well and it will give you some exposure, but you’re uncomfortable with the site or the company itself.
Remember that your reputation is more important than money you can make.
I recently turned down a gig as a regular contributor for a relatively well-known site. I was tempted to take it, and I tried over and over to convince myself that it would be fine, that I would make it work, but I had to be honest with myself.
Their website’s new focus was all about shock and fear. They wanted clicks instead of interesting or helpful content. I decided that I didn’t want my name associated with that sort of site.
As soon as I turned it down, I felt relief. I had made the right choice.
5. Will the client be too difficult to work with?
If the freelance job pays well and it would be great exposure, it still might not be worth it if the client is difficult to work with.
The problem with this one is that it’s difficult to spot in the beginning. It comes down to looking for red flags. If you see some red flags, consider if it’s worth the time, the money and the stress.
If not, move on and leave your schedule open for an even better opportunity. But if it’s the best opportunity you’ve had, the difficult client may well be worth the money and the exposure.
When I wrote that column for a year (for the exposure), I was approached by one of the readers. He wanted me to write content for him, too. I was on board and ecstatic. Then I started noticing some red flags. For example, I hadn’t even signed the contract yet, and he wouldn’t stop calling me and emailing me. I soon learned that he needed a lot of personal attention, and that’s not something I was interested in. I just wanted to do my job in peace, so I ended up turning that opportunity down, and I’ve never regretted it.
6. Do you have the time?
Freelance writers are notorious for overloading our schedules.
Before accepting a freelance job, ask yourself if you have the appropriate amount of time to dedicate.
Again, your reputation is important, and you don’t want to sully it because you don’t have the time to devote to doing your best work.
Saying no to a freelance gig can be hard, but it’s the only way to create the presence and reputation you want. Remember that you need something out of the arrangement, too, whether that’s adequate payment, a boost in exposure or something strong to add to your portfolio. Don’t overburden yourself with opportunities that won’t meet your overall career goals.
Leave time in your schedule for the best jobs, the ones that will help you pivot and lead you to a higher plane.
You’re worth it.
What do you look for before saying yes to a freelance gig?
It’s crazy to think about when I first started my freelance writing career.
I had just moved to a new city and was searching for jobs when I stumbled across an article about freelance writing online. I had no idea what it really entailed but I dove right in because I had always loved writing, so I figured, why not?
But jumping right in without looking may have been a mistake.
Freelance writing is a much more difficult career to get your start in than many other professions. Essentially, you’re starting a business. Your service is your writing and, like any other business, you have to market, build a positive reputation and grow.
And also like any other business, it’s going to take a while before you start gaining traction.
At first, you may not be able to secure jobs. It might be a while before you even land your first high paying client. The fact that you’re not making a full time income right away can be very discouraging.
It was for me. There were countless times I wanted to throw in the towel and just quit.
But I persevered, hunkered down behind my laptop and remembered a few key lessons that prevented me from giving up.
Now I’m a full time freelance writer and can honestly say that sticking to it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Unless you have a lot of connections, you’re going to have to build your client list from scratch.
And as you can imagine, this takes time.
You’ll have to research publications in your niche, pitch different clients, send out samples and provide high quality work that people will want more of. Doing this — and doing it right — can take a large chunk of time.
And not everyone you pitch will want to work with you. Sometimes they just don’t need the work and other times they might not be all that impressed with your experience so far. This might feel like a kick to the gut and believe me, you might want to quit after your first few — or dozen — rejections. I sure did.
Having been in this game for a few years now, I’ve noticed a few tactics that help increase the odds of success. This is what I do personally that might help up your chances of clients responding to your pitch or rehiring you for future work:
Produce a very clean, grammatically correct pitch
Make sure your pitch follows the publication’s guidelines
Send high quality samples
Respond to emails in a timely manner
Put forth your full effort in each piece provided
Turn out your articles in a reasonable timeframe
Ask questions if you’re not clear on instructions for a piece
Doing the above can help clients see how serious you are about working with them and it’ll also increase the likelihood of them wanting to work with you on a continuous basis.
The goal for freelance writing is to have a decent list of clients you can work for long-term. This will provide you with the stability you need to feel secure.
2. If you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded
Many people love the idea of being a freelance writer because you can work from the comfort of your home on your big cozy couch in your PJs. However, because you can have so many luxuries at work, you have to have one hell of a work ethic.
You need to be able to force yourself to work and be productive even on days when you’re feeling super lazy or tired or just bored with the topic you’re writing. If you don’t work, your business as a freelance writer won’t grow.
Think about it like a salesman who works for commission. The person who’s going to make more will be the one who makes the most calls and gives the best pitch.
The amount of work you put into growing your freelance business will be directly related to how much you get out of it.
So before you decide to quit, ask yourself if you’re giving it your all. Are you expecting too much while not putting in the work to support those ambitions?
Just remember that if you work hard to meet your goals, you’ll reach them much faster than you would if you continue to sit about contemplating giving up.
3. Be patient — building a business takes time
Most businesses aren’t overnight successes. It can take a while to see growth. You’re starting new with next to nothing on your freelance writing resume.
That’s like new businesses trying to sell a product without having any reviews. How likely are you to purchase something when you have nothing to ensure you that you’ll like what you get? Probably not very likely.
That’s why businesses take a very long time to get off the ground.
The same is true for your freelance writing career. If you’re expecting to make a full time income in only a month and land every client you pitch to, you’ll be very discouraged and disappointed when that doesn’t happen. This mindset can actually be sabotaging your potential success.
I had really high expectations right off the bat and when I was rejected time and time again for failing to have experience, I wanted to stop. I even looked at other 9-5 jobs before I realized that this is just a part of the process.
Just remember that building your business might take longer than you initially anticipated. Have a little patience and keep working toward your goals.
Freelance writing is not an easy career choice but it is worth it if you’re willing to put in the work. You’ll have some ups and downs along the way but remembering these few things can help you stick with this career so you can live the life you truly want.
How many of you have ever felt like throwing in the towel when it comes to freelance writing? What made you stick with it through the tough times?
Starting out as a freelance writer can be confusing and overwhelming.
There are so many options and there’s no traditional path to follow meaning you’re on your own to figure out the right first step.
But the truth is that first step doesn’t need to be as complicated as it seems.
You just need to take one action that gets your business off the starting line and moving in the right direction, giving you a little momentum.
Here are eight of the simplest first steps you can take right now to start your freelance writing business and finally get the ball rolling.
1. Sign up for a free WordPress blog and publish a short post
The simplest and easiest step you can take to start today is to create a blog and publish a post about a topic you care about.
This doesn’t cost any money – you can sign up for free — and a simple 300 to 500 word post is enough to get started.
Don’t get caught up in the self talk that says it needs to be a perfect blog post, or that you need a professional site. All of that comes later.
You just need to start.
2. Generate three ideas for niches you’d like to write about
Knowing which freelance writing jobs to apply for is difficult.
Job boards and freelancing sites are filled with hundreds of posts and the high amount can leave you suffering from choice paralysis. Having so many options that you take none.
That’s where choosing a niche (or niches) can help you out. It allows you to filter out the jobs that don’t apply to you and focus on the ones that do. Here’s a quick exercises to help you do this:
Set a timer for 60 minutes. Take a look at where you spend your time and where you spend your money. Do you invest lots of hours each week doing a particular activity? Or, do you spend a consistent amount of money on a particular non-essential area of your life?
Then, with whatever time you have remaining, send a message to some of your closest friends asking if they can think of any areas of life where you stand out.
This introspection can show you niches where you’re what’s called a relative expert. Meaning you’re an expert relative to a beginner. You’ll have an above average level of knowledge or experience in that niche, have formed strong opinions about it and can at least teach the basics.
Write the three niche ideas you’ve generated down and use them as a reference to help you filter out the jobs you do or don’t want to apply for.
3. Find five blogs that pay for posts and bookmark them
You’d be surprised at how many sites pay for guest post submissions and it’s often a good indicator of whether a niche you like is going to be profitable or not to work in.
Once published these pieces also work as solid portfolio pieces, so if you can get paid for them it’s a real win/win in the long run.
4. Bookmark five job board listings you think you could write
Job boards are a great place to start getting a feel for the job market.
You can see lots of businesses actively seeking freelancers and see what’s available to you.
Head to one of these 10 jobs boards and look for five listings that you think you could write. Pop them into a spreadsheet or bookmark them to save them for later. (Don’t leave it too long though; the earlier you pitch the better).
5. Find a local business directory and identify five potential clients
If you search for your local area and the words “business directory” in Google you’ll find an entire database of the business near you. For example:
Jacksonville, FL + Business Directory
You can then work through the list and look for businesses that you think you could work with. These could be in your favorite niches, or ones with professional sites and content marketing systems.
6. Email a local business and ask if they’re interested in freelance writing services
You can either use this step in conjunction with the last one or on its own.
Head over to Google and do a quick search for business near you. Provided you don’t live in the middle of nowhere, there should be more than a few.
Click onto their site and use the Hunter tool to grab their email address and send them a quick message asking if they’d be interested in hiring a freelance writer to work on their site. (Either now or in the future).
This can be done without a website, knowing your prices or having a portfolio in place. You’re just getting a feel for what opportunities are out there.
Do this once every day and you could have your first client in a few weeks.
7. Write a short Facebook post asking if anyone needs a writer
Your Facebook friends list is full of potential first clients. It could be someone you know, or somebody they know, but there is almost always a connection there.
My first two local clients — a translation company and a skills center — were friends of my cousin who he connected me with because of a simple ask I made on Facebook. I’d probably never have found them otherwise.
You don’t need to post anything fancy, you can just go for the straight-up shameless ask and see what comes back to you.
If nothing else you’ve stated to your small community that you now have a business that you run. That should be enough motivation to get the wheels turning.
8. Find a Fiverr designer and design your business logo
Logos have the power to turn your business from an idea into reality, making it a useful place to make a start.
Find a cheap and cheerful logo creator on Fiverr and get them to create a design for you. Once you’ve got the final design you can add it to your email signature and blog to give you a professional feel when you head out and start pitching.
By breaking down starting your freelance writing business into little chunks, you find it becomes more manageable. What was once a daunting task is now a simple five to sixty minute exercise you can easily achieve.
Whilst seemingly small and easy to achieve, these tasks can help you build real momentum going forward, without having to take any dodgy shortcuts or hacks.
So, now it’s over to you! Pick one of these options and let me know in the comments which one you’re going to do.