productivity for writersOne of the tricks to profitable freelance writing is writing efficiently. Five Buck Forum member John Soares is a master of helping writers become more productive with his site I think every successful freelance writer has some tricks up their sleeve to help them actually get the writing done.

My two favorite methods are creating accountability and bookending.

Creating accountability for your writing

It’s one thing to make a to do list and use it to more or less guide you through the day or week. It’s quite another to commit that list to another person or several. At least I find that to be true.

I actually have a couple of accountability support systems in place.

free content for writersThe first is at the 5 Buck Forum. We have an accountability forum/thread there and each week I, along with others, post what we plan to do to further our writing career. Day-by-day we check off what we’ve done. Often I get messages of support in the form of post congratulating or commiserating with me.

I also have two accountability partners – one is a safety engineer and the other an interior designer. What brings us together is both friendship and the fact that all three of us are entrepreneurs with our own businesses. We function almost like Master Mind group. In addition to supporting each other with strategies and through challenges, each week we commit to our actions and review the actions we took the last week.

Knowing these folks are constructively looking over my shoulder is often exactly the push I need to go ahead and complete a project or start a new one.

Bookending your freelance writing

This is the trick I use when I need to get something done but for one reason or another I don’t want to do it. On the business side, in my case, it often has something to do with tracking money. I’ll often call one of my accountability partners and say something like “I’m going to spend the next half hour balancing my checkbook.” When the half hour is over, even if I’ve done nothing with my checkbook, I call and tell them the truth – whatever it is.

I use the same process with writing chores I don’t’ want to do or am having difficulty with for one reason or another. When I recognize my resistance or that I’m in trouble I’ll pick up the phone and commit to my bookending partner I’ll spend the next hour or whatever length of time on the problem project. At the end of the period I call back and report either that I’ve done it or I haven’t, closing the bookend.

I’ve found, like many others, talking to answering machines works almost as well as talking to a live person.

There’s something about the committing to another person or several that makes it more likely I’ll actually do what I planned. While I’m sure I should be willing to be as accountable to myself as I am to another person, I’ve found out adding that extra person or two helps me actually get the work done.

Your turn. How do you help yourself get work you resist done?

Anne Wayman



Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Sean MacEntee

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cashYou are what you earn.

There’s the rub, too — what if you don’t earn what you want to be earning? How do you get from that place you are now to that dream spot with the income that allows you to actually sleep?

You charge more.

It sounds simple because it is. You charge more, you earn more. And yet you don’t. Why? Because those clients you’re working with now will leave, because you’re not quite sure what the right price for your skills is, because you just don’t think you deserve more….. fill in the blank.

Here’s what it requires to get over your own mental roadblock and begin earning more:

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redflagsNot all the people or companies that hire writers are great to work for – in fact, some make downright miserable clients. You can’t always tell in advance, but often there are warning signs or red flags. When you spot a potential problem client your life will be easier if you skip them entirely  and move on to the next opportunity.

Here are six examples of clients you probably want to avoid:

Writing clients who ask you to available at unreasonable times. While there are some writing gigs that do need to be performed or completed at odd times, like news, the client who expects you to be available all day every day for instant messaging or phone calls is asking too much. And when they want you to be available over the weekend as well, it’s more than to much. How and when you get the work done is up to you as long as you meet the agreed upon deadlines. The clients who insists on constant availability are control freaks who will eat up way more of your time then they are willing to pay for. Make it clear you’ll be available by appointment only and that you’ll charge extra for long phone calls or other distractions.

Clients that want you to please a committee. I always ask who will actually approve the writing I present. If they don’t know, and sometimes they don’t, I’ll talk a bit about how important it is that everyone is on the same page then suggest they get in touch with me when they have that worked out. Of course, the person you’re writing for probably has a boss, but unless the one you’re talking with has the authority to approve the writing you’re doing you’re setting yourself up for the kind of revisions that have you going in circles. Another approach is to limit the number of revisions to two or three – in fact, I usually do both.

Writing clients who aren’t clear on what they want. There’s just no point in starting a writing project for a client who doesn’t know what they want. You can, in most instances guide them toward making themselves clear by asking questions. We talk about the free content for writersquestions you need to ask in 5 Ways to Train Your Clients. If you get good answers, great, go ahead and work with them. But if after your questions they still can’t make up their minds what they want you and the writing to do, it’s best to ask them to call you back when they do get clear.

Writing employers who want free samples. If the samples you’ve got posted on your website aren’t good enough for them, chances are they may be running a scam. I won’t do free samples and neither should you. Yeah, there are exceptions. Writing for a consumer or trade magazine on spec (submitting a completed article) can be a good way to break in. I’ve also been known to offer to write or edit a couple of pages for free, but that’s usually to be sure I know what I’m getting into and how long it will take me to bring their drafts up to snuff. Writing a sample blog post or web article for free so they “can see if your style fits” is a huge red flag.

Insist this writing gig is a great opportunity and your payoff will come later. Lots of people have lots of ideas about a new business, but it’s silly how many of them expect you and me to write for free or very little on the hope the business will pay off. And yes, I can tell you of a couple of exceptions, but I won’t, because it takes years in the writing business to recognize a real opportunity like this, and often I’ll be wrong. Get paid for your writing – if they win big they can give you a bonus.

Your gut tells you it’s a poor match. If you’re talking to a potential client or working through a series of email exchanges and you begin to wonder if the person you’re talking to is nuts or somehow not legit, listen to that ‘still small voice’ and move on. We’re got instincts and intuition to help us stay out of trouble – it’s our job to pay attention.

Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by rvw

What would you add to this list? Got a horror story you’d like to share with us? Comments or inside the forum are good places to do it.

If you found this post interesting and helpful, share it with your network. Thanks.

Write well, and often,

Anne Wayman

WowThe client I worked with a number of times sent me this note: “The white paper was excellent. We couldn’t be happier.” This from a client for whom I’d not been sure I was understanding. What changed? My approach to that next project. It’s why they hired me to do a huge amount of work that resulted in a 50-percent boost in my earnings last year. Also, it meant I wasn’t losing the gig to another writer in that specialty.

For us writers, there’s a lot of competition out there. If you’re not specializing — and sometimes even if you are — its tough to stand apart from the rest. Tough, but not impossible.

Here are a few ways in which you can wow your clients and creat a better impression:

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