One of the biggest challenges of a freelancing career is organization, at least in my experience. There’s a fine line between being organized yet flexible; after all, flexibility is one of the best perks of being self-employed. However, if you don’t stay focused on some level, all kinds of things can fall through the cracks and become lost and wandering. This, friends and neighbors, can cost you money and inspire a level of frustration in which you invent scathing swear words not fit for human ears.
There are some things to keep in mind when you’re embarking on a freelance career. It’s not as simple as just reaching for a pen, keyboard or crayon and scribbling away. You have to think about an online presence; marketing; pricing; accounting; prospecting, and at long last, writing. (And you thought you were just going to be writing, didn’t you? Hah. A freelancer must wear many hats.)
Becoming organized is different for every person. What works for one person might not work for you. The trick is to try a combination of things and figure out a way to maximize your work day to achieve your full potential. Once you get into a routine, your days become smoother and more productive. (That’s the theory, anyway. Work with me here, people.)
I can tell you some of what works for me, but to be truthful, it’s a work in process. I’ve learned a lot about my work habits over the last year or so, and instead of fighting them, I’ve embraced them. Know thyself, and to thine own self be true — just because you might not fit into the mold of writer you’ve read about or admired doesn’t mean you don’t have your own mold.
Making a list: I am a strong believer in making a list. Actually, I make several lists. I’ll detail out a weekly list of the goals or deadlines I need to meet, but I usually don’t write out a daily list until the night before. Sometimes, not until the very morning in question. Since things have a habit of changing on an almost hourly basis, I retain some flexibility and yet have a plan of some kind in black and white to which I can refer. My daily list may look something like this:
- Finish the edits for Chapter 4.
- TSB prompt (D/L Sunday.)
- Post for WW.
- Post for OF.
- Check work sites.
- Pimpage and networking.
- Newsletter shite (D/L 1/16.)
I keep in mind my weekly goals and deadlines, and what I don’t get to on this day will roll over to tomorrow. I don’t obsess, but I do keep in mind what’s looming up, and by loosely scheduling certain actions, I keep ahead of my deadlines, which take priority over ANYTHING else. I use a calendar (actually, several, if you must know — I have a sickness regarding calendars, I can never have enough calendars…gah.)
Discipline: There are so many things that can distract you from your primary purpose, no matter your best intentions or what purpose you have scheduled for the day. As I may have mentioned before, research is especially seductive to me — oh, the siren’s call that echos! The enticing information that lies just beyond the next click! The answers to all my burning questions that are contained on just that next website! There are so many fabulous resources on the ‘net, and we’re not even talking about games, shiny things, and tempting tasty tidbits regarding your favorite hobbies, interests, or passions. Have a question about some obscure factoid you can’t quite remember? So, so easy to go to Google search to scratch that itchy brain. But beware! It’s entirely possible to fall into a timesink and next thing you know, it’s four hours later and you’ve lost some productive hours.
Exert some self-control! Schedule time to pursue such fascinating ‘net vistas, such as after you have completed some task you planned for the day. Set a timer or alarm on either your cell phone or on your computer, and when it goes off, proceed to your next project immediately. Scribble the burning question on a pad you keep on your workspace, and refer to it later. You might be surprised at the level of self-accomplishment you feel when resisting the pull of the non-work related internet and getting back to business.
Networking duties: Actually, you are always networking as a freelancer. If you’re not, you should be. That being said, in order to make my day more productive, there are certain programs I keep closed until I know the bulk of my work is done for the day, or until my brain cells start emitting smoke, fire, and a weird screaming sound that won’t stop until I take a break.
For me, networking is one of the best parts of this business. I love people, I love talking to people, I love sharing tips, bon mots, and great links to visit. HOWEVER…I know if I keep certain programs open, I will be sucked into the time/space continuum and I will lose hours, days, weeks…not to mention money and opportunities, so I try to keep track of how much time I’m Facebooking, Twittering, checking email and generally socializing. It’s a fine balance, and it’s taken me some time to figure out what works best for me.
Keep your desktop, email, and bookmarks organized: I know, this is funny to me, also. Still, it only took a couple of times for me to waste precious HOURS digging through files and photos to find exactly what I was looking for to teach me to file it correctly the first time, or at least clean things up more than once a year. Not only does it make things easier to find and saves you time and stress, it also has the added bonus of making your computer run quicker when it has less to sort through when booting up. I’ve organized all my files into folders, then incorporated all my folders into one master folder, which is the only thing on my desktop besides assignments that are due this week. Not only is it less stressful to look at a busy desktop, booting up now is a lot quicker.
These are the things that work best for me as far as getting organized. Got any hot tips? I’m willing to try anything once, so leave your suggestions in the comments and I’ll be very grateful. Until then, I hope something here has helped you out, and I’d love to know if that were the case.