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Make Money Writing: Time Management for Freelance Projects

Updated on December 9, 2013

Time Management for Increasing Income

Finding your most productive times of day and using them, cutting out time-wasters and habits that cost you money, and creating a productive work routine can take your writing out of hobby status and turn it into a full-time money earner.

Whether you're just starting out as a freelance writer, blogger or webmaster, navigating a course between enjoying the freedom that attracts many of us to freelancing -- or entrepreneurship -- and the discipline essential to success presents challenges.

Creating a plan for making the most of your time, dealing with distractions and setting and achieving your goals may seem daunting, yet if you treat it as a series of experiments, you can relax more and find what works best for you.

Instead of trying to fit yourself into a time-management system, improve your productivity and make more money by harnessing your peak production times, organizing your work to fit your needs and cutting out time-wasters.

Managing your most important asset: you, gives you freedom, time and money. Master freelance time management, and you can immediately boost your writing income.

Productive Times: Instant Productivity Boost

Keep track of your work times. Use a calendar, a clipboard or software -- any system is fine. Clock in and out for several days and keep notes on what you accomplish during your work sessions. This process will help you discover when you're the most productive. I have two time windows per day when I get the most writing done with the least effort.

Use your peak productivity times for the most important tasks that bring in money. This is an instant efficiency improvement. Getting in the habit of clocking in to write -- or take care of whatever part of your online business is paying the bills -- pays off right away.

Shift lower-priority tasks to your non-peak hours. I make 90 percent of my income writing for clients, so I write during my most productive work times. I do the side work that goes into completing assignments -- finding more assignments, researching, and selecting pictures -- during off-peak times. Whatever writing work you perform to make money, give top priority to the part that most directly affects your income.

Develop a Routine

I'm not a fan of schedules, yet I believe in the power of routine. I once asked an elderly man how he managed to get all his sidewalk-display antiques back into his shop. He told me, "I do it the same way every time." That simple wisdom became the core of my approach to developing routines that help me meet my goals. Here's a system you can use for any kind of online money-making venture.

  1. Set a goal. Make the goal specific. I pick my dollar amount per day for upfront-pay writing assignments. Some people set a goal for the number of articles to write or the number of words per day. What matters is that you set a specific, measurable quantity.
  2. Plan your day. Include enough work time to meet your goal, with breaks. As most people who work for themselves discover, you can't meet a quota if you allow other commitments and people to take you off-course. Plan your day to include a balance of activities -- such as relaxed meal times, exercise and time with other people. This improves productivity, reduces the risk of guilt, reduces stress and helps to prevent burn-out.
  3. Track your progress. Take a few minutes at the end of the day to go over what you accomplished and notice what you can improve. I write down the time I finish each assignment. If I notice an unusual gap between assignments that wasn't a planned break, that shows me where I'm losing time. When you're self-employed, losing time means losing money.
  4. Write down a solution. For the situations where you lose time in your day, whether it's people dropping in, surfing, social networking, phone calls or habits you have of letting things around the house become distractions, decide how to deal with them. I noticed when I started working at home full-time that going out to do yard work could mean lost hours. I set a rule that I have to put on my watch before I walk out the door. It took getting used to -- and it works. By always wearing my watch when I leave the house for a break from writing, I broke the habit of using yard work for procrastination.

Time Management Resources

University of Minnesota Duluth: Time Management Principles

Time management principles for students also apply to freelancing. This short article covers study time, taking breaks and doing the most difficult tasks first.

Clemson University: Time Management: Section 4

An example of creating a schedule for frequent, short bursts of work. I developed the same method after months of trial and error. I write for two to three hours and then do something else. This method boosts concentration and efficiency. It also helps create a balance in life, so that there's time away from the computer.

Author's Note: Writing Online: Time Management for Freelance Projects

I'm writing this series to honor all the writers, editors and content creators who shared their methods, tips and wisdom with me during my online writing adventure. Three years ago, I published my first article on HubPages. Now I freelance full-time.

I chose Georgio Montersino's light-drenched photographs from his Maldives series because they capture the mood of my best freelancing days. I started this series on Making Money Online writing on my laptop and looking out at the edge of the world at one of my favorite northern California beaches. Three years ago when I started writing online I didn't know that within a year I'd be free. Whether you're new to freelancing or online self-employment or more seasoned than I am, I hope this series gives you something of benefit. Thank you for reading.

April 2012 Update:

I'm still at it. These days I'm building niche sites and writing website copy for clients. I have a novel and an eBook in progress. Time management is an ongoing practice. Most of the time, I can take two full days off from client work each week. It took many months before I could take two days off in a row. I'm diversifying to have multiple income streams and more flexibility. It feels good to take more time for fiction and cut back on the client work.

October 2012 Update:

My ad income from my blogs and my rev share income is growing. After post-Panda setbacks, my income from online copywriting is getting back on track. I've expanded my copywriting topic areas to increase my income opportunities. My work-life balance is improving. For too long, work dominated everything. Now I'm having more social time and not being sucked into the computer for hours. I've found shorter work sessions to be more productive. I usually write for about three hours and then do something else. I've also structured the promotion of my online projects and my ventures into seeking more clients more efficiently. Part of entrepreneurial time management is investing in building skills and finding more work. Diversifying is crucial.

Keep watching for opportunities. Seize the day.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Namaste

January 2013 Update

After a setback due to not having diversified enough to weather reductions in available copywriting assignments I pushed forward into more topic areas and added a couple more agencies. I've updated my writing resume on several topics so that I'm ready to query and apply as opportunities arise.

My favorite project on Blogger gets steady traffic and Google made all my blogs eligible for its affiliate advertising program, so part of my goal this year is to increase my revenue from all of my pages.

Whatever kind of writing you do online, always read contracts on TOS (Terms of Service) agreements carefully, and check regularly for changes. Platforms such as Hubpages can and do make changes that may not be favorable to you.

Live the dream.

Make Money Online 4 Poll

How is your balance between work and other areas of your life?

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    • liesl5858 profile image

      Linda Bryen 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for your tips on time management. I could do with some tips as I am still new on this site.

    • HikeGuy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Northern California Coast

      Staying organized and working at your best times helps you get more work done and make more money. I use a timer for time management. The Pomodoro technique helps me write more.

    • savingkathy profile image

      Kathy Sima 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for writing this. These tips sound like just what I need to help keep myself organized and on track.

    • HikeGuy profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Northern California Coast

      SanneL -- You're welcome. I'm glad to hear that. You're doing such good work here -- I hope this helps you prioritize more writing time.

    • HikeGuy profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Northern California Coast

      Betty Reid -- Thanks! It took me months to create a system that keeps all my freelance projects on track. I figured this might save others some time.

    • SanneL profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      Thank you for sharing your experience with the rest of us!

      I have a problem to keep track on my work time. However, with the help of your great suggestion, it will help me to develop a routine.

      Voted up and very useful!

    • Betty Reid profile image

      Betty Reid 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Awesome article - practical and well-written.


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