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5 tips to manage your time as a freelance writer

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As a freelance writer, you’ll have a lot of things to do at once. You’ll need to manage your time effectively.

You need to write content for your clients. Then you’ll need to do your own content and promotion. You’ll need to handle your billing system, and you’ll need to make sure you pay any bills due. There is just so much to do as a freelance writer, and you can end up finding some tasks are more time consuming than others.

Some of the tasks are billable, like your work for clients. Others are non-billable, and not even with the aim of getting clients in mind. Yet they are all important. You just need to know the best way to manage your time to get everything done and spend the right amount of time on each part of your job.

Are you struggling to get everything done? Here are my top tips to manage your time as a freelance writer.

Write it all down

You need a diary. I have a paper one ($), but there’s nothing wrong with an online one.

My paper one is always on my desk and is split up in time blocks. I know when I’m working for clients, the personal projects I need to get done, and any appointments that I need to fit in during the day.

I’ve tried online systems to save paper, but they just don’t work for my mind. They may work for your needs, though. I would love an app that is just like a physical planner but I’d need it on my desk all the time, and that’s where I struggle.

Write it all down. You don’t forget it then! You don’t spend half the morning trying to remember all your projects.

I do my diary the night before. Just before I turn my computer off.

Have a good idea on time

How long does it take you to get through a freelance writing project? Once I’ve done the research or picked my topics, it will usually take me 30 minutes to write a 1000-word piece.

I admit I type quickly. I’m a touch typer with a writing speed of 100–105 words per minute.

It’s okay if it takes you longer to do your projects. There are all sorts of reasons you’ll be slower, and this isn’t a competition. It’s just about figuring out how much time you need.

Work out how long it takes you to do your projects. You can then plan your day a little more effectively. Leave some time for projects to overrun, and give yourself some breaks.

The lack of breaks is where I used to slip up. I’d plan my day going from one project to another, but my body needs to move!

Rearrange your day as you go to manage your time

I haven’t always stuck with the same system. Rejigging things is good to help keep the brain working as you find what works for you best.

At one time, I would do my blog work in the morning and then the client work in the afternoon. Then I moved to a system where I concentrated on one client or project per day for each day of the week. After a while, that stopped working. I realized I needed to do my client work in the morning and my blog work in the afternoon.

Switching around your diary will help you work more productively as your needs change. Now I get up a little earlier on a morning to get things started early, but in the past, I used to find working in the evening was better.

We change, and so should the way we manage time.

Turn off the distractions

Whether it’s emails dinging, IM going off, or people ringing me, it’s a distraction I don’t need. And they’re distractions you don’t need.

Turn off everything you can that can cause distractions. I only have my IM on for a few hours a day, and only if I really need to. Emails are still a good form of communication, but I have a system in place to check on those emails.

I only check my emails are regular intervals—once an hour usually—and will avoid Facebook unless I need it for some topic ideas. My phone is the only thing that’s on, but the ringer stays off. I have it by my desk in case the school calls for one of my kids.

When you cut out the distractions, you’ll soon find your productivity goes up. You can manage your freelance writing time so much easier!

Learn to say no to manage your time

One of my biggest issues eating into my freelance writing time was taking on too many projects at once. I felt like if I said no, I wouldn’t get an opportunity again. Instead, I was causing problems for current clients and finding great ones for other projects.

It’s time to learn to say no to people. I recently had one potential client want hundreds of SEO articles within a couple of months. And he wanted them dirt cheap. A project that size in that time frame was impossible, and I told him that.

A few years ago I would have probably taken it on, reached breaking point, and wished that I wasn’t a writer. In fact, I did once do that. I didn’t have a day off for a month straight and ended up resenting my job. I took a week off to get back to normal.

No is such a powerful word. It leads to people changing their requirements to suit you, raising their budgets, or walking away. The SEO article potential client walked away (and I’m kind of glad), but I’ve had others coming back with new budgets to entice me.

When you learn to say no, you create more time for your own things.

MORE: 4 things people forget about freelance writers

How do you manage your time? What are you struggling with as a freelance writer? Let me know how I can help you in the comments below.