Time management for freelance writers (and other independent practitioners)

[Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know about Freelance Writing – http://www.paullima.com/books/everything.html]

Is the Internet eating your precious time?
… I want you to examine your relationship with one of the greatest productivity tools ever created. And I want you to examine your relationship with one of the greatest time wasters ever created. Ironically, the productivity tool and the time waster are one and the same: the Internet.

How do you start your business day?
If you are like many writers I know, you turn on your computer and spend an hour or more reading and replying to email. You may also visit your Facebook page, check tweets on Twitter, write a blog entry, read online newsletters and newspapers, and surf the Web.

Does that sound like you?
If not, congratulations. The Internet is not eating your precious time. You do not have an Internet time leak to plug. If all the email you read and all the Web-surfing you do is directly related to conducting your business, then, once again, congratulations. You are managing your time well. (If you are not making the money you want to be making, you might not be managing it as productively as you can be managing it, but at least you are not wasting it.)

If, however, you start your business day with lengthy personal or non-business-related email and Web-surfing sessions (such as spending social time interacting with friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter), allow me to ask you a simple question: Why are you allowing other people to set your agenda and steal your time?

If you have assignments, requests for quotes, research material, feedback on first drafts, and other business-related information landing in your in-box daily, then you should start your day reviewing work-related email that generates billable hours. If, however, you are launching your freelance business, or if you are attempting to boost your freelance income, time spent reading personal email and surfing the Web is, in short, time wasted.

How should you start your day if you are not working the money-making hours you want to work? You should start your day conducting marketing tasks (that will be outlined in this book) that will generate billable hours.

Why do so many freelance writers (website designers, graphic artists, consultants, and other independent practitioners and small-business owners) start their day wasting time? Many think their problem is one of poor time management. If you think that, then you have bought into the time-management myth: “You are a born procrastinator who must exercise supernatural will to overcome this insidious malaise.”

Frankly, most writers (and other independent practitioners) waste time because they do not know how they should spend their time. They may have some vague idea of what they aspire to do, but they do not have a road map to lead them to that destination. They do not have a business vision. They have no goals. They do not have a marketing plan.

Such people fritter away valuable hours hoping that work will find them—that assignments will fall like manna from heaven. If you have been a freelance writer for a number of years, occasionally a former editor or client may call. But can you afford to sit back and wait for that to happen as you read newspapers, watch TV, play computer games, surf the Web, or read personal email messages?
Which leads me to ask, how many emails are in your in-box right now?

Keep your in-box empty
Believe it or not, your goal should be an empty in-box at the end of each day. Can you achieve this? Yes, you can. I am living proof. I empty my in-box by the end of each business day. However, if you need further proof that you can, and should, keep your in-box empty, read these emails I received from someone who took The Six-Figure Freelancer workshop, based on the first edition of this book.

July 4: After taking your Six-Figure Freelancer workshop, I was sceptical about the importance of emptying your in-box every day. Then I found a book that also recommends emptying your in-box every day. It reinforced all you said. I am going to try it. Only 3,589 more email messages to go!

August 1: I did it! I cleaned out my in-box and now I’m keeping it that way! Take that, 3,589 emails! I can’t believe it! I feel like this gigantic weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Focus on work-related tasks
Email messages in your in-box can move your focus off the tasks you are supposed to do to develop your business. They can also lead to an overwhelming and overpowering sensation that you have so much to do and no time to do it.
How do you overcome the problem, and the associated feelings? When you receive email, do one of the following:
• Read and delete.
• Read, reply, and delete.
• Read and file (in an appropriate folder).
• Read, reply, and file (in an appropriate folder).

In Microsoft Outlook, as well as many other email applications, you can create folders for personal email and each publication or corporate assignment you are working on, and you can move relevant email into appropriate folders. In Outlook (the Office version, not Outlook Express) you can also move email into Tasks and Calendar.

Tasks allows you to schedule tasks (like replying to the email you moved into Tasks). A reminder can be set to pop up when the task is due.

Calendar allows you to block time for meetings, interviews, cold calls, and so on. A reminder can be set to pop up days, hours, or minutes before the scheduled event. Say you have to shower and dress before you travel for 30 minutes to get to a meeting. Set your reminder to pop up two hours before the meeting so you have time to do all that.

I am suggesting that you can use Calendar and Tasks (or equivalent applications in your scheduling software) to keep your in-box empty and to schedule your time more effectively.

The use of these applications—or a paper-based to-do list and calendar—also comes into play as you land assignments. You will have to set deadlines, schedule interviews, and book time to conduct research. Plus, as you will see, you can use these tools to schedule your marketing tasks.

But I’m busy working!
Perhaps your time is already filled with paid writing tasks. That’s cool. But are those writing assignments generating the kind of work you desire or the revenue you want? If not, ask yourself this: How much time do I spend looking for better-paying assignments or clients who value my writing and pay me appropriately?

If you are not writing as many articles as you want to write, doing the volume of corporate writing you would like to do, writing for markets you would like to break into, or writing for markets or clients who pay a decent rate, then you should start your day engaged in tasks that will generate the work you want to do.

Whether you are looking for a lot more or a little more work, different types of work, or better paying gigs, look at how you spend your time now and, as you go through this book, look at the ways you should be spending your time if you want to make a go of it as a freelance writer. In other words, set your priorities based on what you want to do, and dedicate your time in a disciplined manner so you can turn your writing business desire into your writing business reality.

[Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know about Freelance Writing – http://www.paullima.com/books/everything.html]

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One thought on “Time management for freelance writers (and other independent practitioners)

  1. Pingback: Mission Statement | avakarenina

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