Whatever kind of writing you do: whether you’re a freelance writer, blogger, or author, you need strategies to help you to complete projects competently and well.
After some 40 years of writing, I’ve been thinking about easy writing strategies I’ve found profitable over the years. Some are widely known and used, others aren’t.
Before we jump into my favorites, let’s talk about goals.
Primary writing strategy: set goals
You need goals. Once you’ve set them, review them at least daily, preferably twice a day. Here’s why: a writer’s life is filled with distracting rabbit holes.
Let’s say you set out to write a Facebook post for a client. Before you start on the post, you:
- Respond to comments and direct messages on the client’s Facebook page;
- Email your client for info so you can answer a reader’s question;
- Reply to the client’s response, which included 14 photos for you to use in upcoming Facebook posts;
- Add four items to the client’s content calendar…
Finally, 25 minutes later, you get started on the Facebook post. Then you realize that the images for the post are not only too dark, they need to be cropped, so you edit them in Photoshop.
The simple task “create a Facebook post for Client X” took an hour longer than you expected.
Your writing day continues like this. By the end of the day, you’re not only exhausted, but you’ve also forgotten your goals. If you don’t refer to this month’s goals while reviewing tomorrow’s schedule, you’ll end up down more rabbit holes. Your goals will be forgotten.
Let’s look at the strategies.
1. Research one topic a day to keep moving ahead
As the saying goes, knowledge is power.
If you don’t stay up to date in the worlds of business, entertainment, books, and news (depending on the types of writing you do), you’ll fall behind. Other writers will seize opportunities you might have spotted.
I’m sure you’re thinking: more research — beyond all the research I do for my projects?
Sorry, but yes.
Over the past few months, spending half an hour a day on research has helped me to:
- Get clients in industries of which I was unaware;
- Sparked an idea for a series of novels for a ghostwriting client;
- Helped me to develop a concept for a client’s niche website.
2. Create systems: checklists and templates prevent procrastination
If you don’t have templates for your most common tasks, you’re wasting time and risking RSI. Create a template for common types of email messages, documents, spreadsheets, and videos.
I’m a recent convert to checklists because they eliminate the confusion and stress caused by staring at cryptic items on your task list.
For example… When you’ve just completed a task and read items like the following on your list, they promise you ten minutes of searching your email and Slack messages before you can start writing:
Outline project D for client X;
Send quote to client Y, re-email…
What the…? You stare blankly at your task list. What’s project D? Did you speak to client X about it?
Who’s client Y? Is he a new client, or a contact from a client? A quote for what, precisely?
If you often find yourself in this situation, develop the checklist habit. I like to create checklists for the next day’s tasks before I turn off my computer for the day.
I find creating checklists by hand, in my journal, helps me to imagine the task, and all the steps needed to complete it, more easily.
A one-line task in my task list generates anywhere from five to 15 sub-tasks. Ticking off the checkboxes is not only satisfying, it gives me a much clearer idea of the work and time involved.
Knowing precisely how many items you created in a project’s checklist helps you to create more accurate quotations for similar projects in the future. You’re also less likely to under-quote, avoiding the misery of halving (or worse) your day rate.
3. Communicate: ask questions, and stay in touch
The professional writer’s version of the real estate mantra location, location, location… is communicate, communicate, communicate.
If you’re a new freelance writer, you may be shy about asking questions before you quote on a project, and during the project. But: ASK. Asking questions eliminates hassles and disappointed clients.
Once a project’s done, communicate again:
- If you’re just starting as a writer, ask for a testimonial;
- Offer some ideas for additional projects;
- Stay in touch with the client. If you don’t, you’ll be forgotten within a month. Three months later, when the client needs a writer, he’ll stare at his contact list wondering… What was that writer’s name…?
Try these strategies. Not only will they help you to get more done, they’ll increase your income.
Veteran author, copywriter, and blogger Angela Booth loves mentoring fellow writers. Visit Angela’s site for tips, advice, and strategy on many areas of your writing business.