Successful Freelance Writers Do These Small Things Early

by John Soares on April 21, 2014

Courtesy Eran Finkle

Courtesy Eran Finkle

Planning is essential in all aspects of your life, including your freelance writing. My focus here is on the little things that make a big difference when you do them early.

This cuts two ways: some things done early result in a big payoff you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, while some things done late will have some major bad consequences.

Four Do-Early Writing Tasks

1. Sending Queries for Seasonal Articles

You want to submit these at least 6 months before Christmas or the summer travel season. Editors often have long lead times, especially for seasonal material. Wait until January to pitch your idea about spring-break beach fashion tips for college women and you’ll likely find all such assignments already given to other writers.

2. Conducting Interviews

Contact all the people you need to interview as soon as you know who you want and what you’ll ask them. Wait too long and they may not be available, or you won’t get the interview completed in time.

3. Asking for Testimonials

If you want people to write testimonials for a book or product or website, or to recommend you on LinkedIn, let them know immediately and give them all the information they need.

4. Sending Book Proposals

Create a solid proposal and get it to publishers or your agent ASAP, especially if you won’t finish the book without a contract or you need the advance for living or research expenses.

8 Do-Early Tasks in My Freelance Writing Niche

In my main freelance writing niche I create lecture outlines, test and quiz questions, and other educational supplements for college textbooks. Here’s what I do as promptly as possible for a project:

  1. Submit my signed contract
  2. Make sure I have the latest page proofs of the textbook
  3. Make sure I have all other materials I need, such as the previous edition of the textbook and the previous editions of the specific supplements I’m creating/updating
  4. Create templates in Word, PowerPoint, or Excel that I will use for the entire assignment
  5. Send a sample of my work to my editor so I can get any necessary corrections and feedback before proceeding with the rest of the work
  6. Put all work due dates in my calendar
  7. Put all invoice submission dates in my calendar
  8. Follow up on any missing information or payments

Four Do-Early-and-Life-Is-Easier Tasks

1. Making Reservations

For planes, for conferences, for restaurants, for concerts—anything important where reserving too late means you either can’t do it or have to pay a premium price.

2. Paying Bills

Pay them late and you pay late fees. Wait too long and you’ll hurt your credit rating and your reputation.

3. Canceling Services

You may have various services set up on automatic payment through your credit card. If there’s one you’re not using, be sure to cancel before the next billing period.

4. Purchasing Gifts and Cards

Keep birthdays and anniversaries in your calendar. Buy gifts and cards well ahead of time, when it’s convenient for you and you’re in the mood. If you wait, you could forget entirely, or have to make a special trip and not be in the right frame of mind to make thoughtful choices.

The Take-Home Message

Develop a list of the small but important things you need to do on regular basis. Integrate these into your planning system so that they get done early.

Your Take

Do you take care of the small but important things early, or do you wait until they become big, important, and urgent? And what would you add to my lists above?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cathy Miller April 21, 2014 at 7:33 AM

I used to be terrible in my corporate days for taking care of the personal stuff, like gifts and cards. I’d always purchase them early but then end up overnighting them because I forgot to get them in the mail.

The FedEx guy at my mom’s place got to know my California address. I was a road warrior in those days. I used to say the gifts got as many frequent flyer miles as I did as they flew with me from state to state.:-D

I occasionally still do the same thing in my freelance life. Work still tends to get the front part of my brain. On the other hand, I am the team captain for our 3-Day Walk for the Cure team. I always have our housing and rental vehicles arranged far in advance.

I think it’s all about my subconscious priorities.
Cathy Miller recently posted…Random Twitter Tidbits


2 John Soares April 21, 2014 at 7:52 AM

Cathy, I’m still a mixed bag at the personal stuff. I write birthdays in my daily planner at least a month in advance, and I make reservations for hotels and restaurants well ahead of time — I can always cancel those.
John Soares recently posted…How I Chose My Freelance Writing Niches


3 Paula Hendrickson April 21, 2014 at 8:16 AM

This was a great reminder, John. I have a bunch of Halloweenish article ideas I’ve been meaning to pitch, so I better get them out this week.


4 John Soares April 21, 2014 at 8:23 AM

Smart move Paula!
John Soares recently posted…When a Freelance Writer Gets Only Silence from an Editor


5 Anne Wayman April 21, 2014 at 8:16 AM

I do better on these things than I used to… progress counts!
Anne Wayman recently posted…3 Things Freelance Writer Must Know About Online Writing


6 John Soares April 21, 2014 at 8:24 AM

It’s a process for all of us Anne. I’m definitely not perfect at it!
John Soares recently posted…How to Align Your Writing Income with Your Career Goals


7 Gene Burnett April 21, 2014 at 9:42 PM

Good post John. I’m amazed at how many people don’t even have schedule or appointment books…and then they wonder why their lives are filled with such drama and hassles. I think they secretly thrive on that crap so they don’t have to feel what’s really going on in their lives…but that’s another topic. I’m not a free-lance writer but having a schedule book, seeing things coming and making notes in that book to handle them at the appropriate time, is so helpful to me in my life. I usually pay bills the day they arrive and handle other such things asap. It keeps my plate clear for things that matter more to me and require more thought and energy. But then, I’m clear on my mission. If a person is not…I think all the great tips you present won’t matter that much, since that underlying stuff is still unclear. I think if your mission is clear and it’s really your mission and you really want to succeed at it, you’ll either already be doing these things or you’ll jump at the chance to implement them when you read this post. ;~) GB


8 John Soares April 22, 2014 at 7:17 AM

Very good points Gene. High motivation to achieve a goal definitely makes it more likely we’ll do everything necessary to achieve it. But we also need good planning systems to ensure we do everything when we should.

Also, having a good planning system in which we record all of our to-do’s as soon as we think of them leaves our minds free for the important stuff, rather than just trying to remember all of those to-do’s.
John Soares recently posted…Why Freelance Writers Often Miss Deadlines


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