How to Manage Your Workflow and Posting Schedule (for Clients and Yourself!)

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As you build up your freelance writing business and take on numerous clients, it can be hard to keep it all straight.

And the last thing you want to do is miss a client deadline. Or turn in hurried, sub par work in order to hit one.

But it can take awhile to get a system down pat – one that works for client work AND your own blog. Because you should be blogging right? And neglecting your own site is the first thing that happens when writers get too busy or feel overwhelmed.

So today, I want to give you my six best tips for keeping it together. For ensuring that you meet your deadlines AND don’t let your own site go to the wayside. Ready?

1. Treat Yourself like a Client

I’m guessing that you’ve heard this advice before.

But have you taken it to heart? Do you really treat yourself like a client?

With deadlines and everything? That you take seriously?

Some of you do and kudos to you. This post might be helpful to you, but it’s going to be really helpful to those of you that feel like your current system isn’t working out so hot.

This is THE ONE THING that I think I nailed from the start. I treated myself like a client, imposed deadlines, took them as seriously as paying work and figured out how to get the job done even when I felt pressed for time or overwhelmed.

And I think this one thing is what’s enabled me to be successful in building a platform. I know there are other things (building strategic relationships, guest posting, podcast interviews, social media, etc.), but I really believe that my consistency has contributed to my success the most.

Pro Tip: If you’re not blogging consistently right now, commit to a schedule that’s lighter than you’d like (i.e. if you’d like to blog once per week, commit to twice per month). Then assign yourself deadlines and don’t let yourself out of them!

How to Manage Your Workflow and Posting Schedule (for Clients and Yourself!)2. Plan Your Content Calendar at Least a Month in Advance

I’m not going to lie, I just started doing this.

I’ve always kept a list of ideas handy for when I didn’t know what to write about, but I didn’t commit to blog posts in advance, because, well, I didn’t want to! I’m sure I told myself that it’d stifle my creative energy or something.

Ha! It was just laziness, trust me!

So now, I try to plan out blog content at least a month in advance and commit to titles and everything. (Yes, Lucia and Mickey, I’m due to do this again…)

This enables our team to be more successful and work ahead and/or when it’s convenient for us each respectively. I.e. I can write posts whenever. Mickey can batch images whenever. And Lucia can plan out our syndication schedule in advance.

Side note: Mickey is going to be publishing a post on Horkey HandBook in the next few weeks giving up some of her tips and tricks to her GORGEOUS image creation. Get excited!

This also enables me to get writing without too much thinking involved. I.e. I don’t need to brainstorm ideas. I just need to get to work!

Know that this can be flexible, even if you’re committing to titles and planning a content calendar in advance. For example, last week I had down to write a post on subcontracting and I wasn’t feeling the serious topic, so I wrote a recap of my workation trip to Texas instead.

Lastly, having a content calendar planned out in advance allows my subconscious to ponder on upcoming posts and work them out ahead of time. For example, I woke up today with an outline in my head for writing this post, because I knew that when I got up, this was the first work task that I would tackle. This works both for your own blog content AND for client work.

3. Try Writing Ahead

Having a content calendar allows you to write ahead.

I do this for both my own blog posts AND client work if I know what the topics will be or have the information available to write them on my schedule.

I’m not going to lie, writing ahead isn’t my strong suit. At least not when it comes to my own content. I do a pretty good job of getting client work done ahead of time though – I always like to leave myself a deadline buffer.

Going forward, it’s my goal to get at least two weeks ahead on the blog. That might have to wait until I’m NOT writing two courses at the same time. 😉 (Whose smart idea was that?)

4. Write First Thing in the Morning

I recently got back into doing this.

I’m totally a morning person and my brain seems to be “in the zone” the most at this time of day. Afternoon? Not so much. That’s good for phone calls or admin tasks.

I had gotten away from writing in the morning, since I was trying to start and end my day at a certain time and wanted to make sure I did my email management work at the right time. As I mentioned, I’ve got quite an aggressive writing schedule when it comes to the courses I’ve committed to writing, so I need to take advantage of when I’m most creative.

So I started writing first thing in the morning. And it’s been oh so helpful! If you’re a morning person, I say give it a shot!

Also, if you’ve been putting off writing for yourself, writing first thing in the morning will ensure it gets done. Don’t let yourself put it off all day – if you leave it to the evening, it might not happen.

5. Use Trello to Manage Your Content Calendar

You don’t need to use Trello, it’s just the tool that works best for me.

You could use Bascamp, Asana or a simple Google doc to do the same thing. Here’s what my Trello board looks like today:

Trello

I dump all deadlines (including my own) into an Upcoming Content Calendar list as shown in the photo. It’s currently the end of March, which means I don’t have much left for this month and I’ve only added a few things for April (i.e. it’s not updated).

You’ll also see I have lists for each day of the week. This helps me to plan out my weeks in advance. Trello has this great visual organizational method and its drag-and-drop functionality can’t be beat. Did you know it’s also free?

Regardless, on Sundays (or let’s be honest Monday mornings) I’ll drag-and-drop pieces of content that need to be written that week into the various days. I try to schedule less pieces on the days that I have meetings and calls (Tuesdays and Fridays) and more on the days that I don’t take them (M/W/H).

Having “writing days” is new as of the beginning of this year, but it’s worked wonders! I love walking into these days knowing that I can get a bunch of stuff done and I won’t have interruptions that will make me lose focus.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Outline

My last tip is around outlining.

I like to outline blog posts, but most importantly bigger projects like courses. Sometimes I’ll outline blog posts in advance, but most of the time I’ll just do it as I’m writing them.

For example, I had been working on this post in my subconscious, as I said. So when I sat down to write, I just brain dumped the various points I wanted to make. I reorganzied them and added the H2 tags once I decided what the main points would be in the body of this post.

As I mentioned, you want to make sure you outline bigger projects. If you don’t, it’s too easy to write out of order, repeat the same thing or miss something important altogether. Some people don’t like to outline, but I honestly think that it comes down to laziness even though it’s disguised as “creative process.”

Side note: If you don’t outline and it works out for you, I’m NOT calling you lazy. I know some people’s process looks different and is solid for them. My point was more to people that don’t want to outline, but then experience writer’s block all of the time or never get started, because they’re unsure where to begin.

Since I’ve outlined the two courses I’m writing in advance, it’s easy for me to just focus on the section that I’m working on and not get overwhelmed by how much writing I have to do total. I can also add it to my Trello board and assign the work to myself, just as I would if I were writing for a client.

In Conclusion

Managing your own content calendar and that of various clients can be challenging as you’re building your writing clientele.

But it’s not impossible and doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as you make it out to be. Treating yourself like a client, planning your content calendar in advance, writing ahead, writing first thing in the morning, using a tool to manage your content calendar and outlining will all help.

If your goal is to build an audience with your own website and blog and you’ve been struggling with it so far, I strongly encourage you follow the tips in this post. Don’t try to incorporate them all at the same time, but instead try to implement just one at a time.

Which of these strategies do you plan to put to use and why?

36 thoughts on “How to Manage Your Workflow and Posting Schedule (for Clients and Yourself!)”

  1. Content Calendars ( also called Editorial Calendars) are the Key to Creating Calm. Plus, it is better use of your time to do similar tasks together … like research.
    Thanks for the great post, Gina!
    ~ C

  2. I don’t do a lot of these things, and I’m not sure why. Laziness? I don’t outline blog posts and I don’t use an editorial calendar. I’ve tried twice to use an editorial calendar, but I always abandon it. Maybe it’s time to try again? As for outlining, I think I would outline anything larger than a blog post. I spend a lot of time mulling over blog post ideas in my head, so I think I tend to create the outline mentally and then write from there. I do use a paper-based calendar, and it looks similar to Trello, just on paper. I use erasable pens, which makes it easy to move things. 🙂 I like working on paper because there are no distractions. Another thing I try to do is have separate days for client work and my own projects. I find it hard to switch tasks, so I’ll work exclusively on client work a few days a week and then on my own stuff a few days a week.

    • Awesome, Emily – thanks for sharing! It took me literally forever to finally start using an editorial calendar for myself. But it really does help, especially as we’re posting more frequently on the blog.

  3. I feel like this post was written for me! So many actionable items here. I think the ‘treat yourself like a client’ tip is huge — and one that I need to really start implementing. As usual, great post!

      • Point taken. 🙂
        Organization is definitely not something that comes naturally. But it’s a work in progress.

        I absolutely agree with the outlining idea. When I don’t do it, the process of writing a post takes much longer.

  4. I need to try a content calendar for my own blogs, thanks for the tip!

    I hated doing outlines in school, but have learned they increase my writing productivity immensely. I just write my main subtopics, and if I’m going to have a link I make sure to find it before I start writing. I usually just link it to my sub-heading while I’m outlining.

    Then, I have all of my points and research done and can actually write when it’s time to write.

    I guess there was a reason my English teachers taught all of that as “pre-writing” skills!

  5. Workflow management is almost more important than client management. In fact, it IS the most important part of being successful. The advice in this article is not only wonderful but is also a great reminder to all freelancers

  6. I’m in the process of building a calendar for posts and would like to be 2-3 months out. Do you rotate/mix up categories when you plan your calendar or just roll out topics that flow? I am using Evernote now but am considering Trello.

    • I go with what flows mostly, but am trying to do a better job of ensuring I have content applicable to all of my audience (i.e. writers, VAs, freelancers in general..) and pre-planning posts to jive with product launches, etc. I tried Evernote for awhile, but it never really clicked for me. I don’t think the tool is as important as the process, you know?

  7. This post was on point! Getting into the mindset of myself as a client seems like it would be difficult but I think once I start attempting it then it’ll only get easier.

    These are great tips Gina and help put managing a growing workload into a less complicated light. Productivity for the win!

  8. I appreciate these ideas Gina. I haven’t started my blog yet but sure am learning so much from you. I really like the idea of “becoming the client”. One question I also have ,if you would be willing to share your wisdom on the subject, do people with blogs need a business license and how taxes, etc. are done. I don’t see this issue ever addressed out there but would love to understand how this all works. Thank you Gina…. 😀

    • Hey Laura – I can’t speak for everywhere, but in MN you don’t need a business license. I’m pretty sure you can operate a blog anywhere without worrying about any of that stuff if you don’t monetize it. Then it depends I suppose on how you monetize it – but I think for the most part it falls under self-employment. I.e. we set up an S-Corp, but I operated under my own name/SSN for the first year. Hope that helps!

  9. Love your blog and this post! I am a stay at home mom AND freelance writer and editor. Even after many years of this, I still take it week by week. I have a weekly calendar on the fridge (dry erase) and also just a list of current projects as a “note” on my desktop (laptop). I love checking things off. Also, I find that editing is easier, so I try to alternative between writing assignments and editing assignments. My evening usually goes — write one blog article, edit one short story, write another blog article, edit a chapter of a manuscript. I have regular clients, so those are easy to plot every week. Then if I feel up to it, I’ll accept other projects if I can negotiate the deadline (I always divide a big writing project, for example, into smaller milestones and discuss this with the client). Breaking it down helps a lot. I may try Trello based on your review — it looks great!

    • Totally makes sense Carrie – sounds like your system is working pretty well! Yes, give Trello a go – the only downside is you invest a little time figuring it out and don’t like it. 🙂

  10. I’m pretty sure this post and that screenshot of your blog calendar have just boosted my business to the next level of professionalism. I absolutely believe it will take this type of forward-thinking and proactive scheduling for me to not completely lose my marbles. 🙂 I humbly thank you.

  11. Dear Gina:
    You are right on target. My personal life is tied up in knots right now and itchy eyes and pollen don’t make it any easier. However, the Spring time weather where I live is great and reminds me that hope and new beginnings are in the air, regardless of the politics of the day. And your posts are especially inspiring, even though I haven’t had time to read them every day or as often as you post. I just started my website and am still formulating what I want it to do for me and for others. This rats’ race of life oftentimes, leaves my brain feeling scramble. Getting up early mornings, helps me unscramble things, somewhat. Your calendar ideas will help even more. Thank you, in general for encouraging and helping me to get better organized. So I persevere.

  12. There is a calendar plugin for WordPress, too. That’s what I’ve been using.

    And, I **can’t wait** for Mickey’s post on graphics! This is the next thing on my list of things to learn.

    • Thanks for adding that Kelly – haven’t gotten in the habit of using it myself, but it probably makes a lot of sense. Yes, Mickey’s post is going to be extremely helpful, I’m excited to read it too!

  13. I knew you were writing this, but DAMN! It turned out waaayy better than anything I was picturing! It’s one of your best! Seriously, like, out of ANYTHING you’ve written! It’s meaty and full of honest ideas! Phenomenal job!

    I’ve never printed out a post. I did this one because I want to keep it on my desk permanently to keep me on track.

    I was inspired by your Trello explanation to build up a board with days of the week, too. I set up all five lists (i.e., Monday, Tuesday, etc.), and I added another named, “Brain Dump of Tasks.” That way I can move each task over to the day I wanna do it. I’m gonna try it out. We’ll see… 😉

  14. I agree with using outlining to organize my thoughts and post topics. I really like your tip to note which heading to use.

    I’m visual and tactile, and am experimenting with writing notes for post or article ideas on index cards. Included are related sources and contacts for interviews, etc. and filing them in recipe boxes!
    So, your tip of having a cache of topics and posts for future made me feel like I’m on the right track!

    I think deep down, there’s an instinctual knowledge of what to do, we just have to push aside the obstacles to make sure they get done, and continue to listen to those internal prompts.

  15. Such good ideas here! As a mom who is just getting my blog off the ground and hoping to get some freelancing gigs, the “treat yourself like a client” really resonates with me. It’s easy to put everyone & everything else first, but creating the calendar, setting deadlines & finding a good way to manage everything will help me prioritize tasks and get my blog AND other writing in the priority lane. Thanks!

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