When I started freelance writing, I found myself writing more than I had since I’d left graduate school. Even though technical writing was a big part of my government job, I still didn’t write as much as I do now. While it’s great to be writing, at first I struggled to find time to work on my creative projects.
Because I had trouble finding time for my creative writing, I worried that I’d have to sacrifice my goals of publishing my fiction work in order to make it in freelancing; however, I’ve learned that if I play my cards right, freelancing can actually help me meet my goals. The key is to manage the time you spend writing, build flexible work habits, and use your freelance work to build your writing skills.
Managing the Time You Spend Writing
As a full-time freelance writer, you write constantly. If you’re not writing, you’re not getting paid. You also have to find time to do things that support your writing but don’t necessarily go towards your bottom line, such as communicating with clients, preparing invoices, brushing up your knowledge base, or sending out quotes for new gigs. After you spend 8-10 hours doing your freelance work, spending time on your novel, short story, or poetry can seem like too much.
One way to conquer the workload while still maintaining some of your mental energy is to break your work into blocks. Plan to write in two to three hour blocks, broken up by your side work and other responsibilities, such as cleaning, cooking, exercise, paying bills, tending to your pets, or staring wistfully out of the window while you sip tea and wonder if you’ve made the right decision pursuing your passion. (You have.)
It’s also important that you commit to writing everyday, even if you only write for an hour or two on your “off” days. These are prime times to get work done on your creative projects. You don’t even have to sit down at your desk; download Google Drive on your phone or tablet so that you can write in the car or while you’re waiting for others. I prefer to write in the morning on Saturday and in the evening just before bed on Sunday. I find that these are the times less likely to be intruded upon by my responsibilities or other people who need me to be present.
Build Flexible Work Habits
We all know that we need good work habits to be successful, but when you’re in a creative field, those habits also need to be flexible. It won’t always be possible to sit down for a regular eight-hour workday. You may need to spread your hours out across the day to account for other demands, your deadlines, or to ensure that your work is consistent. You need to build the discipline to come back to your work even after the “workday” is over. This will also extend to working on your creative projects.
Another flexible habit is how and where you work. Most jobs have you working in a designated workplace, doing set tasks. When you’re a freelance writer, all that matters is that you produce clean, well-written text. This means that you can perform your work at home, in a coffee shop, or in the doctor’s office. Literally anywhere can be your workspace. If you can learn to make it a habit to pick up your tablet, phone, or computer and write, then you’ll be able to use extra time pockets in your day to keep up with your freelance work and get work done on your creative projects.
Use Your Freelance Work to Build Your Writing Skills
The old adage that practice makes perfect is true, so think of your freelance writing a way to flex your writing muscles. The style of writing may be different, but you’re still using the same basic skillset. The more you write, the better you’ll get, meaning that you should find yourself better able to get words on paper as you get more experience.
Make it your focus to hone your writing skills and not just meet your deadlines. Overtime, your work should be getting better and better, which will then translate to your creative projects. As you become accustomed to churning out high levels of polished work, you should find that the time you dedicate to your creative projects is much more productive.
Before I started freelancing, I would sometimes languish in front of my computer or notebook during the time I’d set aside to work on my creative projects. Now, even on my tiredest days I can churn out great sentences and weave together the plot. Even though I’ve got many more demands on my time now, I can actually see my creative projects coming to a close soon. I’ve reached this point because I’ve been improving my speed and skill level by writing so frequently.
You Can Freelance and Still Be a Creative Writer
Freelancing takes some adjustment, and at first you may find little time to pursue your creative writing. While it takes time and work on your part, it is possible and rewarding to balance the two. As you progress in your career, you should find yourself gaining the skills you need to grow as a writer, so don’t give up. Part of the battle is forcing yourself to keep working toward your goal.
If you’re a freelance writer, how have you balanced your freelance and creative work?