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Realities of freelance writing- Managing yourself

Updated on May 26, 2012

It’s ironic, not to say slightly obscene, that the hard slog of freelance writing is so often “romanticized”. Real freelancers know a very different story. Freelancing isn’t some sort of whimsical exercise in turning out polished phrases and demure copy like an actor. It’s actually all about complex and sometimes nerve wracking relationships, combined with the sometimes thankless task of organizing yourself.

Managing yourself

This often brutal exercise in self-herding is very much an acquired taste:

·Getting up and getting productive- This is best done when you’re still half asleep and can’t argue effectively with yourself about getting out of bed and shoving a few cups of coffee into the machinery. You’ll eventually realize that you’ve tricked yourself again, but will by then be more or less conscious enough to agree that you should be getting productive.

·Focusing- You will find that after enough coffee or whatever else has got you vertical and kept you that way that you’ll have to think about what you’re supposed to be doing. (Don’t take this personally- It’s just a coincidence.) The good news about your conscientious semi-consciousness is that you’ll go looking for the easy way to get things done.

·Starting work- Starting work can be done in two ways- The “Whatever’s closest” approach, which does get things done, and the “Conveyor belt” method, which if less glamorous is far more efficient. The conveyor belt approach is ideal for those who prefer to be in a happy haze until about 2PM, and like to work systematically and productively despite themselves. The really big deal here is that how you start work will dictate how productive you can be. Organize yourself to make sure you stick to schedules as closely as you can, and achieve a reliable level of output.

·Communications- Yes, you will have to talk to someone, either by phone or email. Do not attempt to talk to anyone until you’re sure you know what you’re talking about yourself. Don’t talk to anyone at all until you’re sufficiently on the planet to hold a meaningful conversation. This will save you much grief and make sure you don’t tear out all your hair unnecessarily.

·Sending your work out- The golden rule of sending out your work is that when you think it’s perfect is when you should recheck everything. An expert data entry operator has an error rate of 5%. For freelancers, 5% is a luxury. Assume there are problems, and find a checking method that suits your style. (With some jobs you can check progressively, section by section, which is best practice and far less time consuming. The top freelancers edit while they write, and just put up with the weird grammar checks from software, etc.)

So- Are you awake, alert, and full of dedication? Never mind, you’ll get the work done anyway. Just give yourself an occasional kick where it matters to make sure you're functional and you’ll be able to work well and within your own comfort zone.


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    • Akarime31 profile image


      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thank you for your hub. You are right about the discipline. It is very hard to be a freelance writer but it is also very rewarding.

    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Gypsy Rose Lee- I currently have about 7000 articles online in various forms, under various names on any number of sites. I'm a book author converted to a journalist and then ad copy, SEO and articles- and anything else that needs writing. Article writing is excellent for building stamina and managing workloads. It's a good realistic approach to writing on any scale in any area, and the accuracy, deadline management and self-checking are major assets for commercial writing. Glad you liked this article.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. I've heard lots of different versions about freelancing but yours is real good. I agree that the main thing is self-discipline. Landed myself an article writing job and as the projects come in I have to make sure they're done on time, are well written and grammatically correct. Then of course once I submit they go through some more checks and if everything has worked out then I'm onto the next project. As the lady I write for tells me - if you submit and don't hear anything from me - that's good. Keep on writing. Of course this is a bit different from freelancing but just as involved.I enjoy it but it does give me less time for my own creative writing. Thanks for the information on freelancing and passing this on.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      I laughed. This is great. I don't have the self-discipline or energy to be a freelance writer, but, boy oh boy, it sounds difficult.

    • Cathleena Beams profile image

      Cathleena Beams 

      6 years ago from Lascassas, Tennessee

      Managing ourselves is one of the hardest things to do, along with staying on track and focused. Thank you for this helpful reminder.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Great and entertaining advice. I hope you put these nuggets of writerly wisdom into a book. UP/Awesome/funny.

      Shared as well.

    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks, carter06- All from experience, as you'll have gathered.

    • carter06 profile image


      6 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Hello fellow Sydneyite...always reading hubs about writing and found you and just want to say how excellent your 'golden rule' is and it is oh so true...perfection demands perfection so I have found out in my writing career so far...

      great hub...I think we need all the help we can get...up & awesome. Cheers.


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