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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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The Lighter Side of Freelance Writing

Setting freelance writing rates.  (Courtesy Inkygirl.com)

Cartoon 3

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What Not To Do As a Freelance Writer

mistake 1

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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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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Freelance Writing versus Creative Writing

“So, you’re a freelance writer?” she asked with a smirk on her face.  No, I’m not telling you a story. This is something someone asked me recently. More than the question, it was the way it was asked… as if being a freelance writer was something awful. This person who asked me this isn’t the only one. I have come across many people who think that freelance writing isn’t really writing. These people believe that creative writing is the real writing. Well, they may be right if they consider writing what you actually want to write for yourself to be real writing, and writing for someone else as not being writing. This will naturally come from non-writers, because anyone who knows anything about freelance writing knows how much work goes into it. This is typing 2not in the least bit belittling creative writing. I would never do that because I am both a creative writer as well as a freelance writer. To me, both are equally important and I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other.

What is then the real difference between freelance writing and creative writing? Freelance writing is when you pursue a career as a writer without committing to a single employer. In other words, you write many different things for different businesses and publications according to their requirements. Freelance writers write to earn a living. Creative writers, on the other hand, write only for the purpose of expressing his/her thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They write only for themselves for the love of writing, not for money. I guess this is why non-writers think creative writing is better… because creativity is involved here. But it’s not always possible to pay your bills with creativity.

Did you notice I wrote “not always”, and not “never”? Why? Because now it is possible to be both creative and earn a living, and this can be done by creative freelance writing. You may or may not have heard of a creative freelance writer – a combination of a creative writer and a freelance writer. It’s a way of being creative and making a living by taking on different projects at the same time.  Quite a few people are taking up this career these days.

Some of the fields that a creative freelance writer can pursue are:

  • Ebooks – a great way of being creative and write for others at the same time.
  • Speeches – writing a speech for someone is a great creative outlet.
  • Scriptwriting – this is another great outlet for a creative mind.
  • Songwriting – this is ideal for poetry writers.
  • Ghostwriting – a great field for the storyteller.
  • Greeting Cards – another good place for both the creative prose and poetry writer.
  • Publicity Material – this can be brochures, pamphlets, flyers, or slogans.
  • Magazine Freelancing – you can submit your stories and poems to one of the many print or online magazines.

Can you think of any other field or genre where you can pay your bills by creative writing?


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How to Be a Successful Freelance Writer

How to be successful freelance writer, tips on succeeding as a freelance writer, freelance writing tips…. much has been written on these and similar topics. New or beginning writers these days find it so easy to start a career in freelance writing by going through such tips. But things weren’t so easy when I started out on this career… this was over 20 years ago. Twenty-two years to be precise.

Twenty-two years ago there was no internet (here I mean I didn’t have access to it since it wasn’t very common back then). As a result – no tips for me, no finding jobs online, no knowing how to go about finding work.  Neither was there anyone among my friends or acquaintances who was a freelance writer who could guide me through. I did know a couple of journalists, but to be very honest, they weren’t very helpful. Whatever I did, I did on my own… whatever my gut feelings told me to do. I must thank my stars here that whatever route I took – with only my talent for writing in my hand – it led me to success. How I managed to get my first assignment, and the assignments after that, will go in other posts. For now I’ll just give some tips on how to be a successful freelance writer. They may be similar to what others say, but as for me – I am just going by my own experiences. Here they are:

  1. Pay attention to the details of your client. You are not writing for yourself, but for your client. So go through the requirements and follow all the details. If during the process of writing you need to know anything more, don’t hesitate to call. Communication is important.
  2. Know the topic well. Research the topic thoroughly. Most topics have already been written about, so try and bring in something new (keeping in mind your client’s requirements). Never ever plagiarize.
  3. Give your best to each assignment. Take each assignment as a challenge and meet it as never before. It should be a perfect piece of writing.
  4. Keep to deadlines. This is very important for your reputation as a freelance writer. No one wants to hire someone who doesn’t meet deadlines. Shortage of time is the reason given most of the time for not meeting deadlines. So, what becomes important here is time management. Manage your time well and there’s no reason you can’t complete the job on time.
  5. Keep your rates reasonable. If your rates are too high, you won’t get much work. If they are too low, then it’s proof of your not being good enough. So, keep it somewhere in between.  
  6. Be versatile. Being an expert in a field is good, but if you want assignments to keep coming, you have to be versatile. It may be a little difficult in the beginning, but with time, as you learn with each different assignment, you will be able to do many different things with equal ease.
  7. Keep looking for new assignments. Don’t wait for one to complete before looking for another. This will waste a lot of time in between. You should have another job ready to start on just as you finish one.
  8. Maintain good relations with your clients. This is very important if you want them to come back to you with new assignments.

I would love to know about your experiences. How did you learn tricks of the trade?


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