A freelancer’s journey, part 2: resources to help you stay organized

Most people think you need to hoard industry secrets in order to hit it big. But I believe in giving, just not too much. I’m sharing my journey to becoming a freelance writer in a multi-part series. This series will continue to grow as I continue to make mistakes grow as a writer and person. If you’re a budding freelance writer, I hope this series is of help to you. Now go toast to your dreams with that bottle of wine you’ve just bought with the change you just found under your sofa!

As a freelancer, you no longer have a boss. Sure, you have editors, deadlines, and bills to pay, but you’re on your own when it comes to motivating yourself to stay on task. So in order to be able to do your job, you need to stay on task.

You may even accept jobs where you’re expected to self-edit as much as possible. Some places are extremely strict about deadlines even if you have a real emergency that wreaked havoc on your schedule. Plan accordingly.

Here are a few things that have helped me stay organized and focused.

  1. Exercise and eat healthy. I know how strange this sounds, but you need to work out whenever you can. Eating excess junk food is detrimental to your health and could make you feel sluggish. As a freelance writer, you also don’t have a commute and have less excuses to go outside than you used to. A nice walk, job, or an exercise routine that you learn thanks to DVD’s or YouTube tutorials can help you go outside, move a bit, and have some time in which you don’t focus on your writing. Eating healthy can also be tricky and expensive, but check out 7 Ways to Eat Good on a Hood Budget by Stic from Dead Prez to find tips on how to eat as well as you can on a budget.
  2. Change clothes. It’s true that a lot of freelancer love the idea of working in their pajamas all day, but a year I decided to go against this. I still have sweatpants and other comfortable clothes that I enjoy working in, but I do have a habit of not using my pajamas to work. Changing my clothes as if I’m going to “the office” helps me change into work mode.
  3. Have a work schedule. One of the great things about being a freelancer is that you have flexibility and may be able to take classes during the day, run errands in times when there’s less traffic, or even schedule boring things such as going to the doctor. However, having a steady work schedule is important. This will force you to say no to things that would interrupt your work, and if you don’t have paid work to do and are working on that novel, screenplay or other personal project, you can pencil it in. Plus, unless you really need the money, you can force yourself not to check emails after a certain hour.
  4. Use a planner. Doesn’t matter if it’s an old-fashioned one, an app on your phone, or Google Calendar. Keep track of deadlines and personal commitments so you’ll be less inclined to panic when things come up.
  5. Learn how to use organizing sites. I recommend having an account on sites such as Trello and Slack. Many websites, blogs, and companies likely to hire freelance writers may expect you to use this during your work, so if you already have an account and already know how they work, you’ll be a step ahead.
  6. Read. Books, articles, essays, blogs by writers or people you admire. Read as much as you can so you won’t forget what you want people to feel when they read your writing as well.
  7. Learn to keep track of your activity. This means you need to keep track of your budget, the freelance clients that may owe you or that you’ve worked with so that you can thank them, use them as references, and even ask them for more work.
  8. Plan for writer’s block and distractions. There are days when I wake up and know that I have a looming deadline, but can’t bring myself to type anything. I try to plan for these moments because they tend to happen when I least expect them.

These are only suggestions, and if I’m honest I can say that I’m not always good at sticking to these things 100% every day, but having some sort of structure has actually helped me be a better writer. Do you have other ideas to stay organized and focused?

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