How To Stay On Track With Your Freelance Writing Business

by Anne Wayman

stayontrackIf you’re going to be a successful freelance writer you’ve got to find a way to keep yourself on track. This is true if you’re writing for clients or if you’re blogging or writing books for yourself.

I’ll admit, however, it can be tough. There are plenty of distractions to move you away from the computer and your writing. Here are some of the tricks I have used and still use to keep my writing on track:

  1. I have written goals for my writing business and written goals for each client. I use GoalPro and have for years. It has both a calendar and effective goal setting and tracking features.
  2. I know I write more easily in the morning than in the afternoon so schedule my writing then.
  3. I break large projects down into smaller pieces – chapter by chapter if it’s a book, number of posts if it’s a blog, etc. Each gets a deadline.
  4. I check my calendar every morning. Seriously, I use many of the features of the software so I know where I am on any given project.
  5. When I’m writing or editing I turn off the radio. Sometimes I’ll listen to music, but mostly I seem to work best in silence. (Yes, when I was a teen I could work with both television and radio going and yes, I’ve worked on a newspaper surrounded by noisy journalists and the press running in the background. Things change.)
  6. I bookend projects and parts of projects if I’ve got any resistance to doing them at all.
  7. If I see I’m going to miss a deadline I let the client know at once. I don’t do this often.

  8. I take time off. I rarely work weekends and I often do no writing on Wednesday. That keeps me fresh.
  9. I keep track of my income and expenses on a weekly basis.
  10. I have an accountability partner I talk with every week. The short form is we tell each other our goals for the week and check in on the goals we either accomplish or don’t the past week.
  11. I have a monthly mastermind meeting with two other writers. We talk with each other about our writing wins and plans and problems.

You may also want to read Discipline and Persistence = Freelance Writing Success.

How do you stay on track?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne October 4, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Hi-I have only been doing freelance writing for the last five months, and tried a few jobs that were a stretch for me; not in my immediate area of expertise.
Do you find that having a diversity of experience helps or hurts a freelancer?
I am wondering if by staying on track financially, I am getting off track in terms of buisiness development.

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Helen October 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Love this list! I”m downloading GoalsPro trial edition right now.
Helen recently posted..Jun 27- Ghostwriter NeededMy Profile

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Cathy Miller December 9, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Okay–make that LOVE this post–but, hey, if I can LIVE it, too, I’ll be doing great!! :-)
.-= Cathy Miller´s last blog ..Zero Value =-.

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Cathy Miller December 9, 2009 at 6:07 pm

I live this post, Anne! I have very similar habits it appears. The morning is definitely my creative time. Probably due to all the years of corporate work, I am an early riser. Get me my couple of cups of coffee and I’m good to go.

Since I am relatively new (1 year) to freelancing, I find I get distracted by spending too much time on reading all the ideas at the great sites. As long as I keep it to the afternoons when my creative juices slow down, it works out. I am definitely going to check out some of the goal-recording tools.

Thanks again for a great post.
.-= Cathy Miller´s last blog ..Zero Value =-.

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Jeanne December 9, 2009 at 10:46 am

Excellent tips Anne – thanks. I too break down projects into smaller bits, and firmly believe in taking time off. I find that I write better when I’ve had weekends off, even if I’m brimming with ideas on Saturday and Sunday…better to wait and give my mind (and typing hands) a break!

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Lori December 9, 2009 at 9:07 am

LOVE the idea of the day off in the middle of the week! I’ve been taking Fridays off, which means I work a little extra every day in order to clear the calendar. It’s so refreshing to have that little gift to look forward to.

I live and die around my Outlook calendar.

I don’t work weekends no matter how hard they try making me. It’s my career, my choice.

I post my monthly assessment on my blog at the end of every month. It’s my way of being accountable to someone else. It’s an open measurement of what’s working and what’s not. And it’s a way to get others to examine their own progress.

I have a system. Ongoing Project #1 in the morning – one to two hours. Lunch and some exercise. Other projects in the afternoon. And Ongoing Project #2 gets completed anytime between Wednesday and Friday (I have Outlook calendar set to post it as a recurring event).

My goals are rather simple. I set a monthly earnings goal that applies to all months. This year it’s been tough to reach it, but that doesn’t mean I amend it. It means I work harder.

I could use more attention to the taxes/earnings area, so that’s something I’ll take away from your post and try incorporating into what I’m doing now. Thank you.
.-= Lori´s last blog ..Spinning Wheels Require a Slip Differential =-.

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Anne December 9, 2009 at 10:12 am

I save something like 12% for self-employment taxes so I can make the quarterly – may have to up that this year.

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T.W. Anderson December 9, 2009 at 7:57 am

I usually book my projects 1-2 months out in advance, but I also have a daily dollar amount I shoot for. I use my booked clients to get as close to the daily dollar amount as possible, and fill in the rest with work from content sites like Demand Studios.

Ironically enough, I set out with a 2 year goal in mind when I started this career back in January of 2008. I have exceeded all of the goals on the list except for one: I had anticipated having my first novel draft completed by Christmas of 2009. I put the novel on hold back in June because my freelance career was literally going so well that I talked with my wife and said, you know what? If I can make this much money this easily, I might as well build up a reputation in the freelance market now while the market is hot, and worry about the novel a couple of years down the road when you are done with your Master’s.

As a side result of establishing myself as a freelance journalist and content/travel writer, I’ve been able to make it past the slush editors at fiction magazines with my short stories and talk directly to the editor-in-chief of almost place I submit. When you have a good cover letter and relevant experience in your field it lends credence to your ability as a writer. I’m still not selling everything I submit, but no one does :)

Ironically enough I exceeded all of the goals I set back in 2008 working part-time hours (4 hours a day…5 at most). I did work a few Saturdays here and there, but usually only if the wife had some clients of her own. Otherwise, I try not to work more than 4 hours a day, and spend the rest of my time being a European slacker :)
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..What is success, and how do I achieve it? =-.

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Anne December 9, 2009 at 10:11 am

Four hours is about all I can write in a day – the rest of the time is marketing, housekeeping, hanging out, naps, etc.

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Ronny December 9, 2009 at 4:18 am

I use a small booklet to write down my goals. You can download it at http://www.isetmygoals.com/goal-setting.html . It keeps me focused on my goals, i always have it with me and review it regularly.

Enjoy,
Ronny

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Anne December 9, 2009 at 10:09 am

Thanks Ronny, looks like a nice gift that could be helpful.

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Autumn December 8, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I have a giant desk calendar, and I write down the things to do for each day. I love to check stuff off so this sometimes is what it takes to make me get it done. I am also thinking of adding weekly goals to my calendar instead of just daily, since I notice I often do one day’s work on a different day anyway. I think that works well since some days I feel like writing about certain subjects, but I currently have several big projects made up of several smaller articles and blogs, so I feel like writing “write 20 of these articles this week” will help keep me on track for the overall deadline.

I also have an income goal for each day, and I use an Excel spreadsheet to help me keep track of it. I’ve used it for over a year, so I can just add up the total of the final line to find out exactly what I’ve made in a year. I’m always looking for more ideas to stay organized, though.
.-= Autumn´s last blog ..Take Your Writing Destiny into Your Own Hands During Downtime =-.

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Anne December 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

Thanks Autumn – I have monthly income goals – maybe I’ll try breaking them down even more.

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