A Freelance Writer’s Ten Biggest Time Wasters
If you do freelance work, you know that time is money. That's why it's important to identify and eliminate time-wasters from your schedule. From my own experience, and from talking to other freelancers, I've come up with ten big time thieves. You can probably think of many others.
Checking your email a few times during each writing session is appropriate. After all, you want to be available and responsive if your clients need you. Checking your email several times an hour, however, is excessive and takes your attention away from paid assignments. Another way that email can become a time-waster is if you spend an inordinate amount of time reading and replying to personal messages.
2. Social Networking
No, I don't think Facebook is the devil. In fact, I have a business page which has generated several marketing leads. And although I haven't caught onto Twitter yet, I know that it, too, can be a valuable tool for promoting your services and connecting with clients and other writers. As with email, though, the key is moderation. Too much time spent aimlessly trolling Facebook means too little time spent actually generating income.
3. Friends and Family
Friends and family may have a hard time understanding how you can be home but still not available to gossip for hours or go out for lunch whenever the mood strikes. Work on setting boundaries. Or, if you're a chicken like me, simply screen your calls.
4. Too Much Research
Of course you need to conduct appropriate research to complete your projects. When you're looking things up online, though, it can be tempting to follow link after link after link until the content you're looking at has nothing to do with the content you're writing about. Set a limit on your research time and stick to it.
5. Looking for Lost Papers
Some people have their offices so perfectly organized that they never lose anything. I've always hated those people. The rest of us muddle through stacks of books, client files, and papers. We know, in general, where things are, but producing one particular item from one particular stack can be a time-consuming proposition. Grit your teeth, set aside half an hour each day, and set about putting your office in order. You'll save time in the long run.
6. Working Without a Plan
Before you sit down to write, it's a good idea to come up with a to-do list, or at the very least a general plan of action. Otherwise, you may find yourself careening haphazardly from project to project, putting forth a lot of energy but actually accomplishing very little.
7. Lack of Preparation
When you're ready to sit down for a writing session, make sure you have everything you'll need within easy reach. This includes client contact info, pens, notepads, reference materials, a telephone with a charged battery, paper and ink for your printer, and perhaps a beverage or snack. The less often you have to stop work, get up, and get something from another room, the more time you'll have to devote to writing.
Have you ever had those days when anything and everything–including shampooing the cat–seemed more important than writing? It's easy to avoid your freelance projects by getting sucked into various household chores, but this can put you behind schedule and make for some miserable days while you frantically play catch-up. If you're in the middle of a writing session and think of a household task that needs doing, jot it down on a list and keep writing. Believe me, those dirty dishes will still be there when you turn off the computer.
9. Writer's Block
Writer's block is the feeling of being unable to start or continue a project. It's the psychological equivalent of constipation, and it can be damned frustrating to stare at a screen for hours waiting for the words to come. My best advice is not to wait for the muse to visit you; instead, reach out and grab it. Make yourself write something, even if it's pure unadulterated BS. BS can always be edited into something that smells sweeter, but a blank screen is creative death and huge time waster.
10. Not Taking Breaks
Yes, you read that right. Time management studies have shown that people who skip breaks are actually less productive than people who take fifteen or twenty minute breaks every few hours. Getting up and walking around for a few minutes, eating a high-protein snack or drinking a refreshing glass of juice, or even thumbing through your favorite gossip magazine can recharge your batteries and get you in top mental shape to continue your writing session.