I’ve said before that part of the appeal of having freelance writing as a career is the flexibility that it offers over a conventional 9-to-5 kind of job. It’s not like I have total flexibility over my schedule, but if I plan appropriately, I can pretty much take a vacation whenever I want to. And this is exactly the root of the problem. Without a “boss” breathing down my neck, it becomes far too easy to “go with the flow”, lacking any sort of real direction, schedule, or organization.
Freelance writers need to stay organized, just as people in sales need to organize their leads. In fact, because I am self-employed, I arguably have to stay even more organized than if I was doing the same line of work in a more conventional work setting.
Say, for example, that I work full-time for a print magazine and I am assigned a certain number of projects for the month. I’ll need to organize the information surrounding these writing projects, how I’m going to frame the article, and so forth. As a freelance writer, organization becomes even more important, because now I have to deal with keeping in contact with the client, sending out the invoice at the right time, and following up on payment if need be. I also need to follow-up with the client after the project is completed to see if they have any more projects for me: repeat business is my bread and butter.
Without staying organized, freelance writers can easily lose track of their clients and the associated deadlines. This wasn’t really an issue for me in the beginning when I had just a single client, but as you gain more customers, the need for proper organization and information management becomes perpetually more pressing. Speaking for myself, I do several things to try to keep all of my customers organized and many of these are redundant. They’re redundant for a reason! Constant reminders ensure that I stay on track and I meet every deadline. Over the course of my career thus far, I have yet to miss a single deadline. This is a point of pride.
My four-pronged strategy consists of:
- A standard day-timer (organizer) that I use to note what I do each day, as well as any specific goals I have for the week
- An ongoing to-do list written on a pad of paper next to my computer
- A “To Do” gadget in my iGoogle personalized homepage
- The Tasks list and Calendar function in my Windows Mobile smartphone