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Time Management for Freelance Writers…You Thought It’s Going to Be Easy?

Here at WritersinCharge you can find a vast array of advice on different aspects of being a freelance writer; turning your passion into a career; and earning a living (how to find clients, how to bill them, and so on). This post, however, is not about making a living, it’s about staying alive, more or less.

I know that the above sentence sounds a little vague, so bear with me as I explain what I mean.

Freelancing isn’t about spending most of your time staring at a blank screen and struggling with writer’s block, nor is it about going through a never-ending stream of emails, or running around at a loss about what to do next.

Even though I’m sure you can agree with the above, you also have to admit that some days are just not very productive. You struggle to put some decent words together, or maintain a good workflow throughout the day. I know because it happens to me as well.

So what follows is my approach at getting some things done, in other words – time management (habits, tools, systems, software, methodology) for freelance writers.

Start by writing in the morning

This is an idea I’ve been pitching for quite a while now. You can even check my post on Daily Blog Tips on this issue alone (Writing First Thing in the Morning).

The reasoning behind this is to create a habit – to wake up and start every day by writing one thousand words (or more). When you continue to do this for one month or so, at some point it will start to feel much more natural and require much less effort. This will result in better writing, and this is what we’re all after.

Also, there’s always some morning confusion we have to deal with. We always require some amount of time to get in the groove of working. However, when you know that every day starts with writing, there’s no confusion any more. So you won’t find yourself browsing Facebook for two hours out of the blue….

Warm up!

No matter if you’re doing physical exercise or writing an article, you always have to warm up before starting the main phase of the work(out).

So how to warm up before writing? Just do some other writing that doesn’t require any preparation or effort.

For me, writing a personal journal is the perfect warm up activity. It gets my mind in the right state. It’s enables me to think and get the initial words out.

And you don’t have to write much, just 200-300 words is enough for a personal journal entry.

Now about the software (well, you can always use pen and paper, but since it’s the 21st century …), I can recommend Penzu. It’s free, secure, and easy to use.

Use a system

There are many time management systems available for you to choose from. Essentially, they all work as long as you’re willing to learn how to use them.

I can recommend Getting Things Done (GTD). This is a methodology invented by David Allen, and it is what actually made him famous.

If you’re already using something else that’s working for you, there’s no need to switch to this one. But if you’re not using any methodology at all (having a simple to-do list is not a methodology, by the way) then GTD is what I urge you to check first.

I need to make one clarification; this methodology is not simple. I can’t explain it in one sentence. This is a really complex system, and you will have to spend some time learning it. But it’s well worth it.

Use additional tools

GTD and other methodologies are not focused on tools. They concentrate mainly on setting the right trends and cultivating   the right habits. You have to figure out the tools on your own, based on your individual needs.

For GTD, I find these tools quite efficient:

  • Remember The Milk – for all kinds of list and task management.
  • FreeMind – a great mind mapping software, perfect for planning and brainstorming.
  • Google Calendar – I’m sure you already know what this is.
  • Dropbox – to keep all your resources, content, and other work synchronized in a safe place.
  • Windows Live Writer – great piece of software for writing blog posts offline, and then sending them straight to a WordPress blog. A real timesaver. (I’m actually using it now.)

Don’t do emails all day!

I know that emails seem important. It seems like you should be able to respond to every message within minutes. So I have to let you in on a little secret…

No, you don’t!

Email is the biggest productivity and effectiveness killer of them all, and I really mean it.

The following is probably the most useful time management tip I can give you, so here goes: Check your emails only twice a day. You’ll be amazed how much more stuff you can do in the meantime.

And please don’t install any Firefox or Chrome plugins that will keep you logged in to your Gmail permanently. These plugins are the first step to becoming addicted to emails.

Use smart relaxation

Not every form of relaxation is smart. Even reading a book might not be smart at times.

The thing is, when you’re working (or doing any other activity) you’re basically operating inside one of three areas: physical, intellectual, or emotional.

For example, socializing with your friends is emotional, working out is physical, writing is intellectual.

Now the trick is that you can’t really relax unless you change the area for a moment. For instance, if you’ve been writing and now you’re reading a book then you haven’t switched the area, and you’re not really relaxing.

The simple version of the advice: Always switch the area of your activity if you want to relax. The complete method and explanation: Are You Really Relaxing During Your Relaxation Time?

So there you go, my 6 time management tips for freelance writers. I’m recommending these tips because I’ve been working like this for quite a while now (easily over a year), and it’s been working perfectly.

What’s your take? How do you go about time management and being productive as a freelance writer?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, blogger and online entrepreneur. Feel free to visit him at for structured online business advice. Also, check out one of the most lively topics recently, his review and advice for people who are planning to buy Market Samurai.

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Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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