I am in several writing and freelancing groups on various platforms, including Facebook and LinkedIn.
I enjoy the community of other writers and seeing how others use software, how they approach issues with clients and more.
There are also a lot of newbies in those groups who have a ton of questions about finding clients, determining pricing, dealing with rejection, and scheduling.
I came across a GREAT question in one of the groups and really think it’s something many freelancers deal with. So here I am to give YOU this info!
Here is the question:
I have kept her name out for privacy’s sake.
Here is the answer I wrote to her:
It took me a while, but I learned to turn it off on weekends (unless I was under a deadline).
Here’s what you need to start doing: When you receive new work, whether from a new client or a current one, acknowledge receipt via email and ask when the deadline is.
Instead of just immediately starting, start having specific deadlines and then craft your workdays around them. If you have 3–4 weeks to dev edit a 50k-word draft, you know your pace and can start to set a schedule, such as “edit 10 pages per day” or “12,000 words per week,” etc. Build a schedule instead of just opening an email and starting work ASAP.
One thing that works for me is every single Monday morning, the first thing I do before starting any work is write down my to do list for the week. What projects need working on? Do I have any hard deadlines this week? Is there anyone I should be following up with? Any invoicing to do? I write a list by hand in a notebook I keep on my desk. Then I also have the pleasure of checking off things I complete “Edit 50 pages of X project — CHECK” or “Write press release and send to Y for review — CHECK.”
Having a visual list right in front of you that you can scratch out and add to as the week goes on, and then use it to push things forward to the next week as needed.
Let’s discuss this further.
When you first start freelancing, it’s easy to keep on top of everything. You’re typically not super busy yet, or haven’t put together a schedule yet, and can easily just check your email throughout the day.
You respond immediately to all new inquiries. When you get a new project, you jump right in and start working on it.
Maybe you have some organization and tools set up, maybe not.
Since the very beginning, I have used Google Drive to organize and house all of my projects. While these days I have to pay a bit (maybe $20 per year) for extra storage, that organization still works for me.
But you’re not super busy yet. And you probably haven’t really instituted a schedule.
Heck, maybe you’re still working from the couch or from bed!
Freelancing can be a full-time job — with a full-time salary.
But in most cases, that is because you treat it like a job. Like a business.
Don’t just do whatever whenever you feel like it.
- Get on the phone with clients and discuss deadlines, deliverables, and payment terms.
- Get a signed contract before starting ANY work. (Here is a copy of my contract you can use!)
- Know your value, and don’t undersell yourself.
- Set up a workspace in your home where you can work and be comfortable and focused.
- SET SCHEDULES & REMINDERS.
I do not know how to tell you how important it is to have a schedule for work and deadlines!
I use my Google calendar to put down deadlines on the dates projects are due and then use my weekly physical checklist to list out specific tasks that need to be done that week. Every week is a new, fresh page, even if the previous list still has unchecked items. Those things get moved to the new page.
Set a reminder in your calendar to check in with clients and give them brief progress updates on the project. Mine is usually a brief email to let them know I am on track to meet the deadline, and then I include anything additional, like if I need more information, access to something, for them to review something, etc.
Let yourself rest on weekends! That email can wait until Monday; it is most definitely not a writing emergency — and even if it is, enjoy one of my favorite quotes:
“A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”
*chef’s kiss* what a beautiful sentiment. You’re allowed to stop working at a reasonable hour and not answer unexpected calls or emails at 10 pm!
If you TREAT freelancing as just “Oh, my side gig for a bit of extra cash,” then that’s all it might be.
But if you take it seriously and treat it like a job, even a part-time one, you are more likely to succeed faster.
So, find your rhythm. Create a schedule, make deadlines, organize your work and your space, and take weekends to yourself.
You’re going to do great!