The business side of freelancing involves a lot of moving pieces, which can become overwhelming and confusing if you don’t know how to juggle everything. Your currency is time, so by saving time you’re able to make more money, and thus become a more successful freelance writer.
But how do you get more done without working more hours? What are the best ways to streamline your to-do list? Can you really work smarter not harder?
Here are five strategies you can implement to become more productive as a freelance writer.
Work in Segments
I just celebrated the two-year anniversary of being a self-employed freelance writer and in that time the most influential thing I’ve done to improve productivity is to break each day into segments.
Based on my energy levels and work style, I’ve learned that I do my best writing work in the afternoons which is my peak productivity time.
The mornings are saved for admin tasks like replying to emails or checking in on social media. And the evenings are when my mind is the sharpest so that’s usually when I do editing and blog management work for clients.
Segmenting my day allows me to work efficiently since my energy and mind are optimized for certain types of work at specific times of day.
Give it a try! Experiment with your workflow and see when you you’re most productive whether it’s morning, afternoon, or evening. When do you do your best writing, editing, pitching, or emailing work?
Use a Time Journal
A time journal is much like a food journal when you’re dieting, in that it tracks how and where you spend your time each day. There are lots of different ways you can approach this, so be open to trying out different tools.
I use Google Calendar as a time journal and block off segments of time based on the type of work. Purple is for admin tasks, green is for blog posts and writing research, yellow is for editorial and blog management work, while blue is for personal tasks.
At the end of each week I look back and calculate how much time I spent on each task and how that stacks up to billable hours
If a digital calendar isn’t your thing, you can also use a time app like the FocusBooster Timer, which will track your time against your billable hourly rate, or RescueTime app which is more reactive in that it shows you where you spent your time, and what sites or activities were the biggest time wasters.
Set Up an Invoicing System
Getting paid for the work you do is probably one of the most important aspects of your business.
But spending time creating invoices, sending them to clients, and following up for payment aren’t activities you get paid for. So you want to streamline this process as much as possible.
Set up an invoicing system that allows you to clock hours and import the time into templates or invoices. I use FreshBooks because it offers this exact feature. Simply pull up the timer and choose the type of project you’re working on.
Once you’re done just press the button and it will be tracked with the other tasks for this client. At the end of the month you simply import those time slots onto an invoice and send it to your client.
The nice thing about using an invoicing system like FreshBooks (or Harvest is another good option) is that it also has a feature that follows up with your clients if they don’t pay you at the 30, 45, and 60 day marks. No more wasting time following up to get paid. The right invoicing software will do it for you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource Work
Obviously a great way to become more productive is to have someone help you complete everything on your to-do list. Double the hands means double the amount of work you can get done in the same amount of time.
What regular tasks do you do each day that can be outsourced to another contractor, or even streamlined through an online tool? You don’t always have to hire someone, as there are lots of apps and tools that can nearly do the same thing.
For example, if you need an assistant editor to help with polishing up writing assignments before submitting it, you could hire a part-time editor for several hundred dollars a month. Or you could work with a tool like Grammarly which essentially does the same thing but only costs about $60 a year.
The Chrome plugin attaches to your browser, then edits and proofreads your work for you. I’ve been using it for a few months and really like how it saves time and money on having to hire a contractor to do the work.
Reclaim Your Time
When you work as a freelancer there are often tons of things vying for your attention each day. You may not have a boss anymore, but you often have to answer emails or phone calls from clients, as well as dealing with friends and family members who think what you’re doing this as a hobby.
Find ways to eliminate distractions by having a dedicated workspace, preferably with a door so you can close it if you need time to focus on work. Draw clear boundaries lines in your personal life and openly communicate your needs with your friends and family.
Your work as a freelancer writer is important, but your time is also very important. Spend your time wisely by applying these productivity techniques and don’t be afraid to test out new tools or strategies that will help you work smarter not harder.