Success is going to happen. As a freelance writer, if you keep plugging away, success will happen for you. Sometimes it will hit all of the sudden. A deluge of articles, projects and client meetings suddenly appear in your email box. In between giddy high fives to yourself, you quickly say yes to everything and get to work. Other times it builds slowly, like a tide coming in and you suddenly find yourself surrounded by work.
Soon you’re slogging away frantically trying to meet all your deadlines and while steak for dinner is nice, you don’t really get to enjoy it because you’ve got to wolf it down between edits. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t, it will soon. Too much success can kill your career.
While it’s nice to be popular, if you have too many projects you cannot pay due diligence to each one and you’re going to make mistakes. Silly mistakes you would have caught had you not been so busy. Or you’ll miss deadlines – the ultimate career killer.
“No” is the word.
As a successful freelance writer you need to strike the balance between the feast and famine seasons. It’s against a freelancer’s genetic make-up to turn down work. Yet, the word ‘no‘ must be reinserted into your vocabulary.
Do you have time to complete a 2,000 word article in two hours?
See? Easy! Be realistic with time. It doesn’t stop or rewind. Being the crack, go-to-writer for last minute stories is a great way to earn a reputation. What kind of reputation is up to you. If you know you would need two days to turn in a large piece, don’t commit to a tight deadline. This keeps you from making yourself crazy and ticking off an editor who counted on you to get the job done.
For pieces that have a little more lead time, no doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. Insert a comma after your “no.” Sometimes it’s possible to negotiate deadlines – but do so in the beginning. Waiting until two days after your piece is due is a big no-no.
By now some of my intrepid freelancers are wondering how in the world are they supposed know what they have time to do. Honestly, it just takes knowing your writing style. Unfortunately, it takes time to get to know yourself as a writer. A simple tool can help you develop a good feel for your writing time needs.
Cue the editorial calendar.
Yes, I know, this horse is pretty much dead. I beat it often. It has personally begged me to stop, however I cannot stress the importance of having and MAINTAINING an editorial calendar. Simply putting due dates on a wall calendar is not maintaining a calendar. Jotting everything down dutifully once month and then never looking at it again is not maintaining a calendar. Regularly logging in due dates, carving out writing, editing, revising and “marinating” time for each article or project and noting when pieces are finished is maintaining a proper editorial calendar.
Planning for success means not just listing what you’ll do with all the money flowing in – it means planning for all the work as well. Establish a system now, so when the wave hits, you’ll be ready.