The One Thing You Must Do If You Want to Be a Successful Freelance Writer
Why you'll need to create a schedule and stay focused -- or quickly find yourself out of work
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The following excerpt is from Laura Pennington Briggs' book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound
The freedom of freelancing makes it easy to think that you can work whenever you want to, right? Although this is true, it's going to require a lot of self-discipline, especially as you move out of a traditional work environment and into a freelance one. Many well-meaning freelance writers struggle to get their business off the ground after they leave a traditional job and don't have a plan in place for that transition.
If you're like me, one of the biggest reasons you're looking to grow a part- or full-time business as a writer is because you don't like being on a schedule. While you don't have to commit to spending 9 to 5 in front of your computer every day, having clear working hours helps you stay focused and ensures that you can begin stacking up those small wins.
Related: The 9 Skills It Takes to Succeed as a Freelance Writer
Some of your key tasks will include:
- Communicating about instructions and deadlines with clients
- Editing and proofreading
- Delivering work to clients and sending out invoices
- Answering questions from clients
- Completing revisions for clients
- Sending out pitches to prospective clients
- Posting content on your blog or your LinkedIn profile to attract new business
All these activities can be extremely valuable for developing your freelance writing business, but all of them are also unique tasks, which is why dividing them and blocking out your schedule is a solid way to accomplish each of your ongoing goals.
When you build your schedule as a freelance writer, it will vary based on whether you have existing obligations (school, parenting, work) that pull away a lot of your focus. You can probably find some time at night, on weekends, and in other pockets, such as when you have child care. Once you know all the possible hours you have free, do your best to schedule your freelance writing activities for when you are most focused during those available hours.
You know your body best, so try to mesh up all the open time in your schedule with the time when you're most likely to be alert. I loved early mornings because no one else was up and I could use a lot of my brain power in the 90 minutes before starting my day job, but for you, there might be a critical hour after you put the kids to bed for the night when you can get the most done.
Dividing your time as a freelance writer
Speaking of schedules, one of the most important distinctions between a new freelance writer and an existing one is the amount of time spent on marketing activities vs. the time spent doing client work. In the beginning of your freelance writing business, you'll spend approximately 80 percent of your time marketing the business and only 20 percent or less completing client projects. This is simply because you haven't built up your client roster yet and need to drum up a lot of business.
To ramp up your new business, the best thing to do is to create a schedule for your marketing. Otherwise, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and fall short when landing clients. Since marketing is the most important aspect of your new business, a schedule keeps you accountable.
One of the easiest ways to stay on top of your marketing goals in your freelance business is to make a time-based commitment or a pitch-based commitment. Having specific numbers to reflect on gives you something to work toward and can also help you redirect your efforts if you've fallen off track.
As you develop a numeric goal, be realistic. While it might be exciting to think about the prospect of sending 50 pitches in a week or carving out 15 hours in your schedule to market your freelance writing business, far too many new freelancers shoot for the moon and are never able to keep up with the rigorous schedule they've established.
Related: 3 Ways to Attract Top Freelancers to Your Company
Even 30 minutes a day of marketing activity can make a difference, but only if you do it every day. Remain committed, and don't get deterred from hearing "no" from prospective clients. Eventually, you'll convert people into paying customers and develop those trusting relationships that can lead to future work, referrals, and testimonials.
In the beginning of your freelance writing business launch, it will seem as though all your efforts are spent on marketing, but this is the greatest way to build momentum. A small bit of work accomplished every day and every week will begin to compound on itself and set you up for success in the future.
Make a numeric goal that you can stick to. Realistically, how many minutes or hours per day can you dedicate to marketing? And what will be the most efficient way to schedule those particular minutes to get the most out of them? You might need to, for example, remove all distractions from your desk, phone, or mind during the time you market.