What I've Learned In Two Years As A Freelance Writer
Welcome to my blog's inaugural post!
It's fitting that this post comes two years after I first made the leap to writing full time! This new website was a project I was inspired to take on after taking stock of where I am right now and how far I've come since August 21st, 2017. (There was a solar eclipse that day, but my astrology content is a subject for another post!) For now, I've collected the five most salient lessons I've learned in the past two years, and I'm passing the savings on to you! Call our toll-free number now!!!
Read on to find out exactly what the heck I've been doing for the past two cycles around the sun!
1. Know What You Can Do
Before I say yes to a new gig, I have to know that I have the time and ability to do the work well. If I can't do the job, I might as well say no! There's a lot that goes into figuring this out, but here's the basics:
First off, I need to know about how much I can write in a day. This might seem simple, but different styles and projects can often require different time frames to complete. That meansI could spend an hour writing for a company whose voice comes easily to me, and two hours writing the exact same number of words for work that takes extra editing, more conceptualization time, etc.!
Once I know what kind of pacing it takes to do the work, I compare that with the load I'd be taking on per week. If that doesn't jive with what I'm already working with, then that could make things pretty hairy if I tried to do it all (see point #2). After that, I cross reference the timeline information with the pay I'll be getting from the job. If I'd be putting in 40 hours a week and only getting $100 dollars from it, then that's a gig I need to pass up, for my sanity as well as my self-worth (see point #4).
As you might have gathered, my planning comes down to cold hard numbers sometimes. Sometimes it's more intuitive, but in general it's about estimating how much time and energy I have, how much money I need, and how much sleep I'd like to be getting!
2. Know What You Can't Do
Setting boundaries is something I often struggle to do. Sometimes when I've done the math above and concluded a gig isn't a good fit, I still want to do it because I like doing things. But sometimes you just have to give yourself a time-out from taking on new projects and just eat what's on your plate for a while. Just as importantly, sometimes you need to schedule a self-care day to make sure you're not leaving some serious burn-out untreated. There's no shame in ensuring your work-life balance is healthy!
3. Know How You Work
My habits are pretty set when it comes to my work day. I usually give myself time to eat breakfast with a good book or an episode of a good show before I get to work for the day. It works wonders for my mood and stress levels to put a buffer between me when I first wake up and me when I type my first words of the day. It gives me the sense that work is one of the things I'm doing for the day, but not the only thing!
Once I've started working, I divide up my to-do list for the day into hour-long blocks of work, taking thirty minute breaks in between them for snacks, emails, memes, yoga, or whatever else keeps my mood up and stress levels down! This is a modified version of the Pomodoro method, which recommends 25 minutes of work and 5 minute breaks. Your perfect ratio might be something totally different from either of these!
Finally, I try to get all my work done before dinner, because a. I know my stamina is strongest before dinner and b. I try to save the evenings for socializing, exercise, personal projects, etc. Setting this limit on my work helps me make the often overwhelming workload that comes with freelancing into a more manageable affair.
There are of course times when I deviate from these guidelines, but in general they're a huge benefit to my mental health. Other systems might work for other people, but in general I can't recommend more that you figure out what set-up helps you work best and implement that as much as possible to give yourself the best possible foundation for your daily grind.
4. Know What You're Worth
This bullet point doesn't need more than a paragraph: if they're not paying you what you need to get by, you need to either leave the job or find a way to get another one so you can leave. You might have noticed that mental health keeps popping up in my advice, and nothing is worse for mental health than having to struggle in a position where you're not being compensated properly. Sometimes it can't be avoided, but the goal is eventually to find a roster of gigs that make you feel respected for the talent and time you put into your work!
5. Know What You Love To Do
While I'm grateful every day for the work I get to do, I try not to forget what I'm doing that work for. Believe it or not, writing copy for the web isn't something I do independently in my free time. My free time is for the things that give me joy, like friends, yoga, Prospect Park, and queer science fiction trilogies. I also have plenty of personal projects that I highly value setting aside time for. As long as I keep my life in perspective, I can keep my career work in harmony with the larger work of being a human. Making time to enjoy things I love makes me more excited about the work I do to support those things, not to mention making that work more worth it!
As you can see, freelancing is first and foremost about self-knowledge. When you take on a freelancing career, you say goodbye to a boss who plans out every task you do and give sole responsibility for your every aspect of your well being to YOU! If you can't take care of business, take care of yourself, and take care of 53587437 invoices at the end of every month, your life falls apart pretty quickly. If you can take care of those things, you've got a recipe for a life wholly your own.
Hope this helps!