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Freelance Writers and Time Management

Generally when you tell people that someone’s a freelance writer, the first reaction is, “Aah, so he is doing nothing”. Others, who do realize that freelance writing is actually work, think that it’s easy working from home. While the fact is that working from home is much harder than working outside your home. When you go out to an office as an employee, your timings are set. You work a certain number of hours in an environment of work and bring home a check of a set amount. But when you’re a freelance writer, things work differently. You have to set your own working time in an environment that has many distractions. Work is deadline-based; and if you don’t hand in your projects on time, you lose your clients and your work.

The most important thing in a freelance writer’s job is time. Quality work has to be handed in on time if a writer wants to keep receiving assignments. In order for this to happen, proper time management is essential. Here are a few time management tips that I personally have found to be very useful:

1.   Organize a working environment. This is very important in order to be more productive and efficient. Set up a room or a corner of your house as your working space. Besides your computer and internet access, keep all your printed references and writing materials in that place. Your project records, bills and other papers should also be in place properly filed. This not only creates a productive environment, but also keeps you in one place without having to search for things all over the house.

2.   Set writing time. Working from home has many distractions, so it’s very important to set aside time for writing. Allocate a certain number of hours every day for writing – no watching TV, talking to friends over the phone, or doing grocery during those hours. Only writing. How many hours to set aside depends on the project you’re working on. Some projects require more working hours, others less. So, you can either vary your writing hours from project to project, or you can keep the same number of hours, depending on which works better for you. Establishing a regular writing routine increases both productivity and quality.

3.  Plan ahead. Planning ahead always saves time. You know the deadline – so, schedule time for research, writing, and the revision and proofreading. Always keep an extra day or two free before the deadline – this gives you some extra time for improving your work, as well as give you some leeway in case time has been lost due to an unforeseen distraction or emergency.

All freelance writers know how important it is to maintain a reputation of efficiency and reliability if they want assignments to keep coming in. And this is only possible if quality work is handed in on time. Hence, the importance of time management.

How do you manage your time? I’d love to hear from other freelance writers.

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Origin of the Word ‘Freelance’

A conversation with a friend last night prompted me to write this post. While talking about writing and freelancing, she jokingly asked me if freelancing meant “lancing freely”. When I said yes, she thought I was joking, too, when in fact I wasn’t. Do you know the origin of the word “freelance”?

The word first appeared in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe in 1819:

I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them—I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.

As you can see the word was originally two words – free and lance. Sir Walter Scott coined the words to mean mercenary soldiers; that is, free men who used their skills with lances for any person who hired them. Hence, the words free and lance. The people who hired the free lances were generally noblemen or feudal lords who needed extra hands to fight for land or property.

Ever since the term appeared in the novel, free lances began to be used for mercenary soldiers. Gradually the two words became one word – freelance – and was used only as a noun. It wasn’t till the early twentieth century that the word became a verb as well. How the word came to mean a person who sells his work or services is not clear, but it wasn’t seen in this sense till about 60-70 years ago.

Do you know how the word freelance changed its meaning? Please share your thoughts here with us.

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What Not To Do As a Freelance Writer

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The journey of a freelance writer is not smooth – the road is fraught with pot holes and sharp bends. The slightest mistake and you end up in a mess. We’re all humans and we all make mistakes. I, too, have made quite a few in the beginning of my career. But time has made me wiser and I know now how to avoid them. Here’s what I learned –

 

1. Don’t treat writing as a hobby: When you’re working alone from your home, you tend to take things a little lightly – but don’t, because this is the root cause of all mistakes. If you have made writing your career, then treat it like a career – not as a hobby. Treat the people you write for as your clients, not as friends. Make rules for your business and follow them strictly – never break them. Keep records of everything – your clients, your payments, your receipts, your drafts, copies of all the correspondence and written assignments, everything. You never know when you might need them.

2. Don’t procrastinate:  Always reply to all your e-mails as soon as you read them. Never delay, even if your clients are slow in writing. Keep to your deadlines. Your deadlines are your absolute commitments, commitments that should never be broken. Getting things done on time is what makes your reputation, and your reputation is important for the success of your business. It’s what shows your clients how reliable and competent you are. It’s what makes your clients return to you with more assignments.

3. Don’t restrict yourself: By restricting, I mean don’t keep to one kind of writing – diversify to several areas and subjects. This way you’ll never be out of work. If your client wants you to write on a subject that you feel you do not know, or on a genre you haven’t attempted before, don’t refuse. Do research. And by research I do not mean just read one page of reference or explanation, but go to several sources to learn – books, websites, experts in the field, as many sources as you can think of. Clients appreciate writers who are willing to learn. Diversifying opens you up to more market opportunities.  

4. Don’t forget to follow up: Don’t forget your clients once you have completed the assignments. Keep in touch with them through e-mails. If you are one who forgets names, then write them down, but don’t forget to let them know what a pleasure it was working with them and how you look forward to more. You could even suggest a new idea that can prove to be beneficial to the client’s business. The reason for doing this is simple – If you don’t follow up, it won’t be long before they forget who you are.  

 

What lessons have you learned the hard way? Why don’t you share them here with us, so we can all learn from each other’s mistakes?

 

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Freelance Writers and Writing Genres

Genre refers to a category of works that share a common style, form, or content. A literary, or writing genre, to be write 2more specific, follows the same technique, content, or tone. Examples of literary genres include fiction, non-fiction, satire, and poetry. These can further be sub-divided. For example, fiction may be sub-divided into short stories and novels (which can even further be divided into romance, mystery, tragedy, history, etc.); non-fiction into biography, journals, essays and so on; and poetry into lyric, epic, dramatic, etc. Genres have often been a subject of debate as different people have different ways of dividing the different types of writings. But whichever way, the fact remains that there are genres; and each writer follows one or more genres of writing depending on his/her expertise.

 

A freelance writer, too, generally follows a genre or more. The most likely (based on demands) are the following:

  1. Business writing – This involves any kind of writing done for a business. Examples: letters, brochures, presentations, newsletters, plans, etc.
  2. Copywriting – This is writing done for the purpose of promoting or marketing a business, product or service. Examples: ads, information brochures, white papers and so on.
  3. Technical writing – This refers to any writing that is done to instruct or inform people of a technical product or service. The most common examples here are writing manuals or white papers.
  4. Ghostwriting – This is any writing done on behalf of someone else, using his/her name and allowing credit to be given to him/her. This may be in any genre.
  5. Grant or Proposal writing – This involves writing proposals, which also includes research, budget, accounting and so on.
  6. Speechwriting – This is writing words that are to be spoken in front of a live audience.
  7. Critical writing – This is done to review, analyze, or interpret something – which may be a book, a product, a movie, or music.
  8. Non-fiction writing – This may be an essay or article for educational or journalistic purposes.
  9. Web or content writing – This writing is done specifically for the internet. It includes articles, product or service descriptions, online columns, and e-zines.
  10. Blogging – This differs from web writing in the sense that it is done specifically for the purpose of community building, or directly promoting a product or a service. It is done on a regular basis and allows readers to add comments. Blogging may either be for businesses or for individuals.

A freelance writer may follow any of these genres depending on his/her interest or expertise.

Are you a freelance writer doing any other kind of writing? Which genre are you following?

 

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Qualities of a Professional Freelance Writer

This is for all those who want to pursue the career of a professional freelance writer, as well as for those who think anyone can be a freelance writer (believe me, there are many people who think so).

Being a professional freelance writer requires a lot of talent and hard work.  In addition to having a love for the language, a questioning and analytical mind, and a depth of imagination, a freelance writer must possess the following qualities:

1. Ability to write. This is the most important quality of a freelance writer. The ability to write doesn’t only consist of perfect grammar, correct spellings, and a good vocabulary. It is much more than this. It is having the skills to paint images with words, just like a painter does with a brush.

2. Professionalism. Like the name implies, a professional freelance writer must be professional in his/her approach. This means being able to deal with different clients, evaluate their needs, meet their requirements, and present neat and accurate work on time. This is what creates a good image.

3.  Organization. Working from home and having flexible hours has its disadvantages, too – one tends to be lax and put things off for later. But a good freelance writer is disciplined – knows how to handle time; keeps a record of projects, documents, meetings, etc.; and meets deadlines.

4. Perseverance. A freelance career has many ups and downs, with periods of no work and rejections. A freelance writer does not give up and is able to look for work in all the right places. He/she is also able to face rejections in good spirit and learn from them.

5. Marketing skills. For a writer, his work is his product. He/she is able to project and market his product well. He/she has the ability to convince the client why he should give preference to his/her product over others.

6.  Ability to handle accounts. Knows how to invoice clients, balance accounts receivable, and keep careful records of money earned.

Have I left out anything?

 

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