Is the Internet Stealing Your Precious Time?


To become a successful freelance writer or editor, you need solid technical skills. However, you also need to dedicate a certain amount of time each day to the marketing tasks required to develop your business. At least you do if you are not earning the money you want to earn.

Let’s say you want to work 20 (or more) billable hours per week (billable hours are hours when you are working on paid assignments; they do not include the time spent issuing invoices, writing pitch letters or sorting files). And let’s say you are currently working zero to ten billable hours. I suggest that you dedicate the difference (at minimum) between the number of billable hours you are working and the number of billable hours you want to work to marketing your services and developing your business.

Do you feel yourself resisting? “I am a born procrastinator. I do not know how to manage my time.” If that’s what you are thinking, then you should understand such resistance is natural. But it is your job to make resistance futile. Start by taking a deep breath. There. Doesn’t that feel better? (If it doesn’t, it may be because you forgot to exhale!)

Unless you manage your time effectively, you will have difficulty developing your business, or meeting deadlines when you land gigs. Your business priorities should be based on billable tasks that editor or clients are willing to pay for and on non-billable tasks that generate billable work. Your productive but non-billable tasks can be found in your Marketing Plan, which you should have if you want to succeed in any business.

If you don’t have a Marketing Plan—a road map for generating work—you may find that the Internet, email in particular, will become (has become) a great time waster.

Do you, like many freelancers, turn on your computer at the beginning of day and spend considerable time reading and replying to personal email, reading electronic newsletters and online newspapers and surfing the Web? If not, congratulations. The Internet is not stealing your precious time. However, if you start your day reading non-business e-mail and other material (do you really need to read three newspapers every morning?), allow me to ask you a simple question:

Why are you allowing others to steal your time?

Many freelancers (website designers, graphic artists, consultants and small-business owners) start their day wasting time because they do not know how they should spend their time. They may have some vague idea of what they aspire to, 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 and that assignments will fall like manna from heaven. If you have been a freelancer or an independent practitioner for a number of years, occasionally a former editor or client might 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 e-mails?

If not, start your day doing marketing tasks (developing ideas, pitching editors or prospective clients) that will generate billable hours.

If you need to, or want to, make more money (or, quite frankly, if you want to write the next great Canadian novel or accomplish anything else your heart desires), set a plan and stick to it. Don’t let the Internet thwart your efforts. Don’t sacrifice your time on the altar of email when you have work to do or a business to develop.

Paul Lima is a freelance writer, writing trainer, and author of The Six-Figure Freelance: How to Find, Price, and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments and other books and short reports on the business of freelance writing and business and promotional writing. Visit him online at


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