My grandfather used to always say…
More work = More money
He was a true laborer…he worked harder than anyone I knew until he passed at the age of 93. I used to watch him toil in his garden, walk 6 miles a day and pick up scraps on the side of the road, restore this junk and re-sell it for a price.
My grandfather was no stranger to hard work and I believe his work ethic kept him so vibrant, even into his elderly years.
But, I often wondered if he could have relaxed and enjoyed his life a little more instead of working so hard, all the while still getting the same amount done.
Many years ago, mid-20th century laborers were paid according to “piece work.” Basically, they got paid for each “piece” of work they completed. So if you were assembling one area of a bicycle, when you finished your part of the work, you would be paid a set amount. The faster you worked, the more you assembled, and the more money you made.
This is exactly the kind of story my grandfather would tell my family. Sounds logical, right?
It may be logical, but when it comes to freelance writers, working faster and harder does not necessarily equate to making more money. In fact, the opposite is usually true.
Working too hard results in BURNOUT. And burnout leads to decreased productivity and loss of creative inspiration. Your creative mind is your money-maker. We need to keep it in tip top shape!
The good news is that you can still earn more money with the same amount of time you currently have, without working yourself harder and burning out. It’s called…
Working SMARTER, not harder.
Here are some of my best strategies to help you speed up your time and manage it more effectively. This, my friends, is how you work smarter!
Daily Task Sheet
A wise man once said that a piece of paper is the most powerful weapon in the world of business. When you write down your responsibilities and goals, it holds you accountable. It’s a simple, but powerful tool.
Before you begin work for the day, list everything you need to accomplish on a sheet of paper and keep this in front of you on your desk. You can even do this the night before or at the end of your previous work day.
Once you complete your list, prioritize your tasks. By the end of the day, you should have completed every task or at least the ones that were a priority. If you did not finish everything, move the task to the next day.
Be careful when moving those tasks though! Don’t use that as an excuse not to get everything done. Only push to the next day what you weren’t able to complete due to shifting other priorities.
Without your daily plan you will remain in chaos and work on projects that are not a priority. This creates more unnecessary work and, in turn, will cost you money.
Once you graduate from using the old-fashioned paper method, try using one of my favorite online tools, Trello. It’s free and it allows you to see a visual of your week and gives you the ability to mechanically drag around your tasks on a board.
If you are a visual person like me, you will LOVE this tool. I use it not only for my professional life, but also for my personal planning and organization.
In the example below, the board represents two weeks of work with each column listing the weekly tasks as well as a “Done” column in the middle. There is also an “Upcoming” column which is handy if you like to jot down things to remember for the future and you want to keep these ideas all in one place. Once you are done with a task in your weekly list, you can simply drag and drop it to the “Done” column.
I like to set up one column per day and I recommend you start doing it like this too. This will help you stay productive daily.
When an item is done, instead of dragging it to a “Done” column, you can “archive” it, which essentially means to remove it from the board. Trello also has colored labels so you can further organize.
The best way to get used to Trello is to try it! I guarantee you will be hooked once you get in there.
There are so many possible setups you can try but ultimately it is up to you what works best. The idea here is to work smarter by getting everything that is in your head onto either paper or a more sophisticated program like Trello. This way you can spend less time and stress worrying about having to remember everything, and get rid of some of the mental chaos.
If you have been following my teachings, you know that I recommend freelance writers use social sites to help build their reputation and brand and attract high-quality clients. But, social sites can be a huge time-suck if you don’t know how to limit your time on them.
I understand how distracting they can get, so what I do is spend my time on these sites first thing in the morning. I set a timer and stop when the timer is up. If I did not finish, then I will re-visit the sites once I finish the work I have on my Trello board for the day.
It’s so easy to get pulled into social sites, especially Facebook. Limit your time on these sites, except for professional use at specific times of the day, and you will notice that these sites no longer control you. If you really want to check your Facebook or Instagram, schedule it on your breaks. Use your web surfing as a reward for a productive day.
Turn Off the Internet and Your Phone
Once you complete your social media tasks for the day, shut down any connection to the internet (including your phone), except for what you need to research and write.
What I do is turn off my phone and close all social media windows for at least two hours. Once I get a handle on my day, I give myself a reward to spend 10-15 minutes online catching up with emails.
Be careful though! That 10 minutes can turn into 60 minutes easily. The longer you spend away from your work, the harder it is to get back into it. Make an online timer your best friend. Use one to schedule out your day and your breaks.
Collaborate with Other Writers
As you build your social media base, you will become friends with other freelance writers.
Freelance writing can move in cycles. For example, you might be swamped one month to the point that you can’t keep up with all of the work. The next month might be slow. Collaborating with other writers can help you fill up the slow times if writers have more work to give up, and you can also help writers when you have too much work and cannot keep up.
Another advantage to collaborating is that you can learn a lot from other people. They might have tools in their arsenal that you can use to build your business and vice-versa.
Target Higher-Rate Work and Raise Your Rates
I started out making a few cents a word with content mills. I worked very hard to make the money I needed for my home on a weekly basis. As time passed, and my experience grew, I realized that if I land better paying projects, I could work less and make the same amount of money.
I targeted people on social media that I knew owned online companies and could use my expertise. I went on forums and I posted on blogs. Before long I had clients knocking at my door asking for my services.
Soon I was raising my rates, making 10 cents a word, then 20, and upward. I’ve had jobs that have paid me $100+ an hour for my writing. This can and will happen to you.
If you want to learn how to raise your writing rates the right way so you don’t lose clients or your reputation, check out this article.
It doesn’t happen overnight, though. It’s a process. But if you persevere and don’t give up, you will reach your income goals.
With a few changes in your daily time-management routine and some retraining of your habits, you can work smarter, save time and make more money. Your family will love you for it, you’ll be healthier and you will have more time to do what you love.
Now isn’t that why you became a freelance writer in the first place?