One of the keys to developing a successful freelance career is getting and staying organized. Freelance writing has chaotic moments. Assignments come in bunches. Clients change their minds. Checks arrive late. Your personal life clashes with your professional life. These things happen. Some chaos is to be expected, but the better you manage and organize your professional (and even personal) life, the better you’ll be able to deal with chaos when it comes and get back on track when it is over.
There are four key areas that need management and organization if you want your freelance writing career to run smoothly. Those areas are task management, time management, workspace management and money management. Here are the basics that you need to keep in mind with each of these areas.
Task management is essential to gaining control over your professional life. You need to keep a running list of all the tasks that you need to accomplish. This can be daunting, but it is necessary. Beyond just listing the things that need to be done, good task management means taking the time to think through and write down the steps you need to take to successfully complete each task. Another key to good task management is deciding what has priority and what you can handle. It is ok to list some tasks as “nice to have” or “when life gets less crazy”. Setting priorities is important. It is also good to realize what you can handle. When the mind is fresh and you have tons of energy, the most creative and difficult tasks should be worked on. When you are low on creativity or energy, it may be time to look at the simpler tasks that can be accomplished with minimal mental or physical effort.
Between time management and task management, I put a priority on task management. As a freelancer though, you cannot afford to ignore time management. Clients often set deadlines, and those deadlines must be met. In order to do this properly, you need to keep careful track of when items need to be turned in and set milestones for getting those assignments finished on time. This can be as simple as keeping a whiteboard list of milestones and deadlines. It is also a great way to make use of calendars, both physical and electronic.
Workspace management is quite simply the creation of a workspace that enhances your productivity. This can mean different things for different people depending on how they work. Some people keep all of their files on paper. Oother people prefer to keep everything in the computer. Most people strike a balance somewhere in between. The key to workspace management though, is to make sure that the things you need the most are available and easy to find. This means assigning spaces for specific items and tasks. It also means taking a little time each day to make sure everything is where it should be. If you make this a habit, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes at the beginning or end of the day.
Money management is especially complicated and especially crucial for freelance writers. Because you cannot count on a steady paycheck, and must instead rely on clients to pay you according to the terms that you work out. Keeping an emergency fund is the key to staying afloat. Many freelance writers pay their bills in advance. When a big check comes, the first thing I generally do is pay the mortgage, car payment, electric bill, and Internet provider for as many months ahead as I can. It makes it easier to keep working when I know that the four things I need the most are covered. Other people set aside the money and leave themselves flexibility for what they need to pay. That is great if you can trust yourself not to spend the money on anything foolish. Use the system that works for you, but take the time to get your finances in order.
For Further Reading
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- 27 Great Tips to Keep Your Life Organized
- 9 Things Freelancers Should Do Before the End of the Year