How to Become a Better Freelance Writer by Managing Your Time Better
One of the most important skills for a freelance writer is COMPLETION. Can you finish what you start?
Do you finish your projects?
Do you know when to stop analyzing and when to start wrapping up? Or do you get stuck in analysis paralysis and need a bit of nudging, direction, or help to close it out?
Do you prioritize and finish the most important projects and leave less important ones for later (or even leave some of these open)?
Do you finish writing projects on time?
Starting projects is easy. It’s the fun part!
The middle is fine. Once you have a direction, it’s easy to work away and make progress.
But finishing. That’s the tough part.
Are you the type of person who can take a project that’s not perfect (most projects are not perfect) and tidy it up, pull it together and wrap a nice bow on it?
It’s great to be a starter, but it’s the rare person who’s also a good closer.
Be a closer.
Here are a few tips to help:
1. Prioritize Your Workflow
You need to learn how to determine priorities in scheduling your time.
It takes some time to learn how to do this well.
I remember feeling overwhelmed when I got started as a writer. However, once you learn how to prioritize and multitask well, it becomes much easier.
These days I use timelines to help keep projects prioritized and on track. These work great, not only for us at the agency but also for our clients.
Obviously, emergencies take first priority… things like when a client has a timely announcement to make on their website and it needs to be live by a specific date. Or they are having an issue with their reputation and need content to publish around various channels., etc.
There are other tasks that are not project-based, but rather what we consider to be maintenance related, like checking social media interactions with your published pieces or replying to comments. I’ve found that identifying a day or two of the week for items like this helps me take care of the client’s needs while staying on track with larger projects.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of making the client aware of the time it will take to complete a task. Something that may seem fairly simple to them. But it isn’t always the case.
Usually, after identifying the amount of time required to complete a complicated task, I will refer to the client as to whether or not they would like to move forward. This shows my awareness of the client’s budget and needs – which they can appreciate.
2. Use Keyword Research Tools
This is my non-SEO trick: Keyword research inspires me and keeps me going.
Somehow, looking at words and phrases people type into Google’s search box pushes me to look for solutions to their problems.
I use keyword research to write up the structure of my future writing project, then I fill each section with content.
SE Ranking provides a smart keyword suggestion tool that includes keyword clustering, i.e., grouping keywords by similar intent. Depending on your settings, each group can be one single writing project (if you set the intention to be the same), or several groups can be included in one project in different sections. These will be the main keywords that I use as the subheadings/subsections of my content.
Another helpful tool is Text Optimizer. It generates related context for my keyword based on semantic analysis:
3. Determine the Reasonable Amount of Time for a Given Task
Freelance writing is a weird job: We get all sorts of different assignments depending on a project and a client. We get to do brainstorming, keyword research, crafting marketing emails, writing articles, books, and research papers, editing, social media promotion of our writing, and even blogger outreach to get it noticed.
You may also want to read: How To Have Your Outreach Emails Ignored… And How Not To
How do we determine the reasonable amount of time we need to dedicate to each task (and price them accordingly)?
Proposing the number of hours a task will take is mainly driven by experience. Use this handy and free time calculator to log the amount of time you dedicate to specific tasks and improve your time as you get more comfortable with completing them!
4. Get to Know Each Project Well Before Committing
First step: get to know the project inside and out! Every little detail counts. And oftentimes, the smallest of details can change the entire scope of a project – especially when it comes to turnkey content marketing projects.
Most people that are not involved in content creation and promotion do not understand just how complicated the process can be. However, it’s also our job to help educate our clients about the process so they can understand just how important every little detail is. The more information, the better!
For bigger projects, get on a call with your client and ask a lot of questions. Take a lot of notes.
Make sure you are not committing to a project that would potentially take more time than you have and will hence slow down everything else.
5. Use a Task Management System
With many clients, I use Zoho. It’s an online service that helps our entire office stay up-to-date on projects and tasks. It’s useful for what it is, but you still need that human element to manage things. There are many more productivity apps to keep you organized, as well as WordPress plugins to make you a more productive writer. So choose one that works best for you!
Tasks are ALWAYS changing, and you have to be ready for the unexpected. Obstacles occur on a daily basis – dealing with them well is the key to good project management.
Whether I sign my content with my name or blog anonymously, I do my best to be proud of every writing project I work on.
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