How to Plan Ahead as a Freelance Writer
When you are a freelance writer, it can often seem as though your days disappear in a haze of coffees and keyboards, doggy cuddles, spontaneous naps … And also deadlines, money worries, family tension and imposter syndrome.
It can be a bit of a bipolar kind of job, and if you are not prepared for the freelance writer lifestyle, it can soon take a toll on your time, your health, and your family life.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when things such as family events, health issues, and sudden emergencies come up and inevitably disrupt your workflow and schedule.
Luckily, for the freelance writer, the natural remedy for overwhelm is simple: Plan Ahead. Although we cannot predict what may come up as we go, we can put certain measures in place to make life easier when things pop up unexpectedly. And while planning ahead might seem like a headache in the present, you will thank yourself later because when you are in control of your schedule, you can pencil in those much-needed breaks in advance.
Ready to make planning ahead as a freelance writer easier and more effective? Follow these five steps and take control of your work/life balance.
1. Figure Out Your Priorities
Planning ahead is a whole lot easier if you know what is important in your own life.
It may sound blatantly obvious, but trust me — sometimes working in your comfortable home office leads to more cookie baking and movies with the kids and fewer completed work projects. And yet again, sometimes the opposite is true — more work and less time with the family. Either way, balance is essential for harmony, in both your family interactions and your professional ones.
There is no giving up one or the other, so it is important to realize and accept that when you are a freelance writer, you will always need to work around them and make time for each.
Figure out what the important things are in your life — kids, work, date nights, relaxation, fitness, entertainment, calling mom … Whatever you need to do.
And then, figure out what is not important, and cut it out. See what happens now? You suddenly have more time to fit in the good stuff — the birthdays, the weddings, the gym, the family outings.
Which leads to our next step …
2. Make a Schedule
Yes, there is that word again.
I stand by the effectiveness of having a weekly or monthly schedule and sticking to it. Now that you have your priorities sorted, you can start laying them out and making sure you allocate enough time to do everything you need to do.
Schedules are awesome to keep you focused on the jobs that you need to do now, and ensure that you are spending most of your time during working hours on the most relevant and urgent projects.
But do not forget the other priorities on your list. When working from home as a freelance writer, work and family and day-to-day life can easily become wrapped up in one other and sort of merge into one big freelance masterpiece (or messy blob), but the purpose of your schedule is to nudge you towards the work of art and away from the splattered finger painting.
It may sound awful to have to consciously schedule in time with your family, but when life starts whizzing by, it can be easy to mistake dinners in front of the TV as quality time together.
Pencil in everything on your priority list.
3. Look at The Big Picture
What I mean by this is get yourself a wall calendar. A year-at-a-glance wall calendar, like these ones, will work perfectly.
Note that this wall calendar serves a different purpose than your schedule. While your schedule should be a weekly or monthly, more detailed description of your priorities, which sits on your desk or within reach every day; The wall calendar supplements your schedule and provides you a bird’s eye view of all the important events coming up for the remainder of the year.
All scheduling and no play makes Jack a dull freelancer. But, when it comes to every-year things like Granny’s birthday, your kiddie’s school concert or your annual doctor’s check-up, you do not want to be nastily surprised the week before and have to reschedule things to fit around them. I mean, scheduling once is bad enough, right? These things are (thankfully) fairly predictable, and should be easy to work around if you are aware that they are coming up.
Paging through days in a diary to remind yourself of what is happening next week or next month can be frustrating. Seeing all your big commitments at a glance makes it super easy to schedule them into your weekly or monthly diary in advance, which means you have already set aside the time and can work around them much more easily.
4. Set a Budget
Budgeting is the financial form of scheduling. Yes, it is a pain, and yes, it can be complicated, but it saves a whole lot of stress and last-minute freaking out.
When you are a freelance writer, it can be a little tricky to budget when most of us do not have a set salary coming in every month. It is all fine and well when you know you are working with 24 hours in a day, but when you are not really sure when or how much money is going to appear in your bank account, this one can be tough.
Remember, things like birthdays, date nights, outings and health issues, unfortunately, have a financial impact as well. So, while it is great to be aware of them (as far as possible) on your calendar, financial considerations need to be made as well.
This does not have to be super complicated — using an app like this one can save a lot of time and worry. Keep track of where you are spending your money, cut down on unnecessary purchases and put some extra cash aside as an emergency fund. Trust me — you do not want to be caught out.
Plan ahead for birthday gifts and holidays and allocate a certain dollar amount per month or week towards entertainment, groceries and day-to-day stuff. Soon, you will start to feel more at ease with your finances.
5. Have a Meeting with the Boss
Yes — that is you.
Pencil time into your all-important schedule to actually sit down, reflect on the past week and plan your week ahead.
10 minutes of thought and reflection on how your week went and 10 minutes of figuring out your life for the next week will serve the dual purpose of making you more aware of what you are actually doing. Through this process, you may also become aware of new ways to improve and change your methods in order to make life easier.
Preparation is key when it comes to avoiding feeling overwhelmed as a freelance writer. Make yourself a coffee. Reflect on the wins and losses of the week. Psych yourself up for the coming one. Remember why you do this and what you love about it, and then go ahead and take a couple of days off, away from the schedule and the screen, to recharge for the week ahead.
If all of this sounds difficult to implement, check out this list of handy apps for freelancers. These make planning ahead a breeze, and ensure that you have all the info you need right at your fingertips, whenever you need it.
Now that you know how to schedule like a pro … Sign up to become a Job Hunter PRO to find and apply for the best remote freelance writing jobs the internet has to offer.