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!
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:
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.
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?