You all know the stereotype of the freelance writer: tapping away on a laptop in a hammock while island breezes caress your toes, then taking the rest of the day off after working your fingers to the bone for two hours. But the reality is that you’re more likely to live where the breezes bring snow, it’s tough to work while lying in a hammock, the sunshine glares on your screen and two hours of work a day just won’t pay the bills. You might be your own boss when you’re a freelancer, but that means you’re running a business. You want clients to view you as the best content writer around, and that means looking serious and reliable. Unfortunately, it also means working a regular schedule to meet your deadlines and answer to your clients.
Every working writer has deadlines. If you don’t deliver the goods on time, you won’t get paid. Working whenever the feeling hits you might be fun, but there’s no way you can do this and get your work done on time on a regular basis.
The only way to come through for your clients every time is by setting aside a set number of hours each day for work, and sticking to that schedule. The time of day you work isn’t as important as doing it every day, five or six days a week. Work from 8:00 to 4:00 every day, do four hours in the morning and four hours after dinner or write all night when everyone else is asleep. It’s your schedule, plan it for when the words flow smoothest. But do it every day.
The old political phrase Mission Creep means planning an attack or mission, then allowing the mission to get larger and larger just because it’s there. It works the same in freelance writing if you don’t have a set schedule every day. When you work at home, it’s easy to fall into that trap of “just one more article.” If work is plentiful, you’re probably tempted to keep working all day and night. After a while, the job never ends and you’re in danger of a major case of burnout. Setting your hours also includes setting your time off. At the end of your work day, shut down the computer and walk away. Your body and brain will thank you.
Family and friends sometimes have a hard time understanding the life of a freelancer. They think that since you’re home, you can watch their kids, accept their packages and run their errands. After all, you’re free to work whenever you want, aren’t you? Keeping a daily work schedule can avoid all these problems. If you’re scheduled to work until 6:00 each day, you’re obviously not free to pick up little Jamal from softball. Of course, since it’s during work hours, you may be willing to help out for the same hourly rate you charge all your other clients. Either way, you’ll get paid and the people in your life gain respect for your work day.
Victoria B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.