Note: In this post, freelance writer Mark Ellis describes how he developed his own best practices to maximize the quality and output of his freelance writing. I think we can all learn how to be more efficient and productive. Read on…
A few years ago, I started freelance writing for a living. I’d waited for that moment for what felt like a lifetime – in fact, it had been! Writing has been a passion for as long as I can remember and the thought of being paid to do something I loved deeply was beyond exciting.
Then, the big day came and something entirely unexpected happened; I lost my writing mojo. The words wouldn’t flow. I stared at the blank screen in front of me, looked down at the keyboard and wondered where all my inspiration had gone.
As it turns out, writing for a living is rather difficult and entirely different to doing so as a hobby. It requires focus, planning and a desire to bust through those inevitable instances of writer’s block without reaching instead for the TV remote.
I’m by no means an expert and I believe passionately in constant improvement, but since that fateful day a few years ago, I’ve developed a daily routine that best supports my writing. And I think it may help aspiring writers like you.
Here’s how I organize my day to best suit my writing.
I get up early
Confession time: I’m not a morning person. Far from it. It’s best to leave me until at least 10am when I’ve had a few coffees and the chance to get my head in gear before attempting a conversation. What I have discovered, though, is that I’m rather capable of getting some serious work done when dawn breaks.
My laptop is incapable of trying to start a conversation, which suits me just fine and enables me to focus on getting some words down. Do what I do and rise early every day of the week. It’ll be hard at first, but your body clock will soon adjust.
I use the right tools
It’s taken me a while, but I now have a solid writing toolkit I rely on every day. Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you, but once you find a word processor that feels right and enables you to work quickly – stick with it. I’d also recommend investing some time in planning techniques like mind mapping and apps that help with your personal time-management philosophy.
I turn off email
Email is a productivity killer – there’s no two ways about it. Turn it off until you absolutely need it. Would you put up with the postman walking into your office every 5 minutes clutching a bunch of letters? Of course you wouldn’t. Emergencies never arrive via email.
I get realistic about my to-do list
Each night before I head to bed, I’ll review my to-do list for the next day. When I first started out, I’d pack it full of blog posts and mini projects only to find that most of those tasks were continually deferred again and again.
Only list things on your daily to-do list that you can complete during that day. It sounds obvious, but it is a common mistake we all make. Never over-promise yourself – you’ll always under-deliver.
I take regular breaks
If you work for yourself, you’ll know that time is money and that every minute you spend procrastinating is a minute you’re not earning. Despite this, I now understand why it is so important to take regular breaks.
We’re only human, and the brain needs time to rest and readjust if it is to help you remain consistently productive throughout the day. Fifteen to twenty minutes is all that’s required to keep your mind healthy.
I get some exercise
Most of the breaks I take will simply consist of a trip to the kitchen for coffee or tea, but I’ll also take the dog out for two or three walks throughout the day. A swift stroll in the fresh air has the most incredible effect on my ability to head off any onset of writer’s block.
If the words in front of you begin to resemble nothing other than a random collection of letters, get outside and take a walk. It’ll all make sense when you return.
I set myself mini challenges
Each day, I’ll set myself a challenge to complete a certain number of blog posts before lunchtime. And, when I hit the goal, I’ll treat myself with a particularly nice lunch or quick blast on the Playstation. You really can do a lot worse than gamify the time you spend doing your freelance writing.
I take time to read others’ work
As I alluded to at the start of this post, I’m intent on continually learning my craft and I’ve found the best way to do so is to read the stuff other people write. Consider this part of your working day and you’ll quickly find opportunities to slot it into your to-do list.
A regular scan through my favorite blogs and people I admire on social media provides inspiration and an invaluable reminder that I still have plenty of techniques I can learn and apply to my own work.
The process of freelance writing for a living is joyful, but it is one of the hardest things I’ve done. If truth be told, I wasn’t really prepared for the changes I’d need to make to my working day, nor the focus I’d have to retain, but I hope the techniques I’ve learned will help you forge your own path in this wonderful career.
Mark Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in copywriting, blogging, and content marketing for businesses of all sizes. Mark’s considerable experience at director level and deep interest in personal and business success means he’s ready to comment on anything from freelance writing to workplace dynamics, technology and personal improvement. Follow him on Twitter: @businessfiction.
Do you take Mark’s advice? What do you do to enhance your freelance writing productivity?