My own road to freelance writing wasn’t a straight path, but rather one with twists and turns, trials and errors. The one constant of my career, however, is the flexibility of freelancing. Traditional nine-to-five or eight-to-four jobs were not ideal for me, a morning person, who works best from five in the morning until one in the afternoon.
Calling freelance work flexible can be a double-edged sword, especially with the plethora of sites out there trying to sell courses to people, promising them a full time income for part time work. And while this can be done, the reality is that you still need to keep some portion of regular business hours in your work day, as client calls and quick emails with questions and directives are a part of the job; I don’t have many clients who want to wait a business day to hear from me, nor do I think it’s okay to make clients wait. And before I begin to get pushback, my clients are vetted, so I don’t work with anyone who is unnecessarily communicative; in fact, I sell myself as a hands-off freelancer, who clients can assign work and need not hand-hold to get things done. For the most part, however, freelancing is flexible, and allows us to [mostly] work during our more productive hours.
Organization is key to managing a freelance schedule that works for you. I’m a visual person, so my paper planner is one of the keys to my organization. Juggling multiple clients requires both time and project management, which is why I draft each week of assignments in my planner for reference. Whether done on Fridays, over the weekend, or Monday mornings, I loosely sketch what projects I’ll be working on each day of the week, and if need be, block out time slots for each. By putting my work flow down on paper each week, I can easily glance at the calendar to see what’s next in the queue or quickly determine if there’s time to take on another project. Doing this isn’t much different than a manager setting staffing schedules, making sure that there’s adequate coverage each week.
Create a buffer
Allot more time than you’d expect for projects, as you never know what may pop up throughout the week. I typically aim to beat my deadlines by two days, as it gives my client time to contact me for edits prior to their deadline, as well as leaving a buffer for unexpected schedule changes. For example, this winter has been an especially harsh one, and my son has had more snow days and delays than I can count; leaving wiggle room in my schedule allows me the flexibility to take snow days off without adding too much stress to my already busy schedule.
Schedule time for passion projects
Many writers enter into the realm of freelancing in order to have more time for personal writing projects. I view my freelance writing jobs as a way to both pay my bills and keep my writing muscles strong. However, I often find myself over-scheduling paying jobs, leaving little to no time for the personal writing projects that keep my passion alive; it’s an easy trap to fall into, especially with feast or famine cycles. I can tell when I’m doing this because I become easily distracted and fatigued from client writing quickly. Make it a point to schedule personal passion projects into your work week, even if it means planning an especially long writing day or two, or working a weekend day — you’ll thank yourself for it, and find yourself revitalized as a result.
Time management and organization really are the key to having a flexible freelance career. And if you’re like me, the more work you have on your plate, the more organized and productive you are. Just don’t lose yourself to a rigid schedule and drain the joy from the freelance career you’ve chosen for yourself.