Ah, self-employment. What could be better than the luxury of setting your own hours, managing your own time, working from the comfort of your own home? The pace and setting of the freelance lifestyle has always appealed to creative thinkers, and that’s especially true of the freelance copywriter. But here’s the thing no one tells you before you launch out on your own: sometimes the best part of self-employment can also be its greatest curse.
When you’re the only one responsible for how you spend your days, you have to be self-disciplined and find a way to stay motivated. It’s always easy to get distracted, whatever your job environment, but as a freelancer—the pressure is all on you.
How can you keep yourself focused and productive in order to achieve freelancing success?
Here are a few specific habits you’ll want to cultivate, giving you the ability to make the most of your time, increase productivity and ensure greater overall success!
Work When Nobody Is Watching
As I’d be the first to tell you, when there’s no boss looking over your shoulder and no regular 9-to-5 to set your pace, it can be all too easy to slack off, especially if you’re a copywriter dealing with dry keywords like firm grip gloves cut resistant. The minute you become a freelance writer, you should know this is what to expect. So counteract these challenges: set goals, and find ways to be your own manager to keep yourself accountable to them, whether through a specific schedule, a spreadsheet or an online time-tracking app like OfficeTime or Toggl.
It’s amazing how much small, everyday habits can affect your overall productivity—habits like keeping your workspace clear of distractions or rising at the same time every day. Figure out what works for you, but look for ways to stay organized. Do you work best early in the morning? Find a way to force yourself out of bed.
Know How to Market Yourself
Being a freelancer means no longer calling writing your only skill set—good freelancers have to become part writers, part managers, part really good salespeople because they’re always having to market themselves for new projects. If selling yourself feels very unlike you, at least do this: keep your resume updated; build a killer online portfolio and tell your contacts about it; reach out to connections about your availability; and find passive ways to keep marketing your writing services—through social media engagement, online bios, etc.
Budget for a Variable Income
When you make your living writing for various clients, there are times when your work is heavy and times when your work is slow—and financially, this translates into months of big checks and months of small ones. Establish a general budget based on what you think or know to be your average income across those peaks and valleys, and live off that. You can also plan ahead for dry spells by setting some funds aside in savings.
Follow Other Writers
Every day in my Google Plus feed, I see new articles that my connections are publishing online, whether to their personal food blogs or for B2B clients like the makers of packaging solutions for baked goods. Watching their regularly updating projects helps keep me motivated to follow their lead and churn out quality material—it’s like a simulated work environment accessible from my laptop. If you’re like me, watching what everyone else is doing can be just the kick in the pants to get you moving.
Establish Non-Work Time, Too
For some writers, the biggest problem with working freelance is not knowing when to stop working—feeling like there’s always something more to be done. If you’re one of those freelancers who can’t help working all the time, make sure you establish some sort of set non-work time where you get away from the computer and disengage. Not only will regular breaks help you improve your overall health and well-being, but also they may boost your ability to think more creativity.
Ask the Hard Questions
When you report to a manager or collaborate with a project manager, there’s often someone else to deal directly with the client. But as a freelancer, this task has to fall to you. To be successful, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions of clients, whether those questions relate to payment schedules or information needs or something else—if you don’t, you’ll be the one to face the consequences. Strive to be open to criticism and try not to take it personally when a client is difficult. This is just part of the business—and you don’t have to take another project from them again if you don’t want to.
Get in Community
There’s no denying the benefits of online community, whether on Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn or Facebook, but there’s also something to be said for offline connecting. Whenever possible, seek to befriend other freelance copywriters—they’ll be an invaluable source of encouragement, a place to bounce off ideas and sometimes a great source of referrals. Likewise, when you don’t have the bandwidth to take on a project but want to help a client out, it’s great to have a ready network of professionals to draw from.
Over to You
What do you think? Could these freelance habits help you? What do you do to stay motivated and productive?
(Image credit: © byheaven #33027189, Fotolia.com)