Many writers struggle to balance their time between freelance writing assignments and pursuing personal writing goals such as writing a book or entering writing contests. Freelance writing can be very demanding. As you build up clients the workload generally increases rapidly. What can you do to better manage your paid writing assignments to give you more time to pursue your personal writing dreams and goals?
When you have a large client base you have to plan out your time carefully because all clients have dead lines and it is important to provide frequent updates on progress. This can take up a lot of time apart from the writing itself.
Between the actual writing and providing feedback to clients your time and energy erodes leaving you precious little time to focus on your own work.
I don’t know about you but I thrive on variety. I have found that if I alternate between professional writing assignments and working on a personal writing project that really interests me I am more creative and write better copy for my professional assignments. This leads me to strategy number 1 for how to balance your professional and personal workloads.
Do not Categorize Writing Work
If you maintain a strict division between client projects and your own writing projects it will leave you competing against yourself all day, every day. It can be very helpful to see every piece of writing as contributing to your overall portfolio. It may be less fun to research and write about health care than working on a novel in your mind but both are equally important to building up a solid portfolio to attract more clients in the future that offer projects you are more in tune with. In doing research, you may discover a new technology or real scenario you can use in a personal writing assignment. Look for things in professional assignments you an utilize in personal writing and things from your personal writing that can improve your professional writing. Often, it is also helpful to switch gears and take 10 or 15 minutes to focus on a personal project in order to re-energize your mind and creativity. In the long run you may find it helps speed up the writing process for your professional articles.
Only Accept Clients Whose work You Believe In and Trust
If you do not believe in what your client is promoting it will be very hard to write convincing copy. If, however, you believe in the value, products, or research your client is requesting you will not resent the time you spend writing for them. It is important to be able to buy into the mission of your clients. It makes a world of difference in terms of the writing outcome and you will not feel cheated out of time that could be spent on your own personal projects because you will be vested in your client’s success as well as your own. Their projects will begin to feel like “your projects” leading to a better balancing of your personal and professional workloads.
Look at Professional Assignments As Exercises and Opportunities to Improve Your Own Writing
Writing for clients helps to hone your writing skills and prepares you to write more clearly, expressively and more concisely. When I write for a client I have to meet specific word counts and that forces me to choose words carefully. I am often writing for a specific audience and reading level. All of these requirements help keep my own writing more focused and targeted. Doing research has helped me learn how to find more obscure references and information that I can use in my personal writing. I find it really helps me to balance my workload when I focus on the benefits I derive from professional writing assignments because I resent them less and they become an important part of my personal writing evolution.
Realistically Evaluate Your Daily time Availability and Plan Accordingly
I am guilty of taking on more than I can realistically write in a day. With time and experience I have become better at realistically assessing how much time it willtake to research and write an article. When I plan accurately it reduces my stress levels and allows me flexibility in my daily schedule to accommodate all of my professional and personal needs.
A part of good time management is learning how to organize your work. In the beginning I would just start on a project and continue on to the next in no specific order. I soon realized I was missing an opportunity to be more effective by failing to batch my work. Now I sort work into categories and work on related topics in a longer stretch of time. Often the research I do for one project can be used in part for a similar or related piece I am writing saving me time and extra effort. I have also learned to set aside a specific time to read and respond to all emails and a specific period of time to deal with phone calls or messages. By organizing my time I have become infinitely more efficient and I have more time flexibility. Planning out time may mean you do not work on each client’s project more than one a week so it is important to communicate with your clients so they understand what to expect and what is possible each week.
Know Your Own Rhythm
I think understanding your own daily rhythm is crucial to working efficiently and effectively. For me, I am not well focused in the early morning but I tend to think very creatively early in the day and late at night so those periods of time I devote to personal writing projects or client projects requiring a high level of creativity. Mid-morning and early afternoons are my best time to do detailed research and technical writing so I try to schedule such projects during that period of the day.
Later afternoons I tend to lose some focus and find that the perfect time for a coffee break and tasks such as email, telephone, invoicing and other similar tasks. Then I can return to more technical writing in the early evening. It is important to re-evaluate your scheduling, your personal rhythm and your daily productivity from time to time because things can change due to a variety of reasons including aging, family commitments, physical injuries and emotional states. Taking inventory of your own productivity and efficiency helps keep your workload balanced and optimizes your time and energy.
It seems true for most writers that the more assignments we take the more opportunities follow. The main thing to remember is that quality counts. Well done work regardless of whether it is creative writing, a report or even a product description can generate many more writing opportunities. When we give our best effort to every job and commit to making every project our own, our writing improves and our lives as writers become more and more satisfying and fulfilling.