People always ask me what the hardest thing is about being a full-time freelance writer. When they ask, I usually think about it for a second or two and come up with something about keeping yourself on schedule, or finding new clients, or marketing yourself. Sometimes, I might mention that some topics can be pretty dry. But, the truth is that the hardest thing about being a full-time freelance writer is making yourself write when you just don’t really feel like it.
Unlike a part-time freelancer, or a non-professional writer, a full-time writer doesn’t really have the ability to "make it up" later. That is what full-time is. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to work a few extra hours here or there, but no matter how early you start in the morning and no matter how late you work at night, Thursday the 23rd always comes at the same time. If that is your deadline, then that is the deadline. There is no making it up.
Right about now, other full-time freelancers are nodding their heads while part-timers or those contemplating the jump to freelancing are maybe a little bit dubious. They are thinking that surely you can just do it tomorrow; and there is the rub.
Full-time freelancing means filling up your project pipeline with enough work to keep you working full-time. Full-time doesn’t have to mean 40 hours per week. 32 hours per week can be full time too if you make enough per hour to live the way you want to on that many hours. But, no matter how many total hours per week you work, 90% of the projects you have will come with deadlines attached. So on Monday morning, whether you plan to work 10 hours this week or 80 hours, that 18-page whitepaper is still due on Thursday.
If that was it, there would be no issue, and you would be right; just take today off and come back tomorrow. Chances are, however, that there is a blog post due today, another blog post due tomorrow, a newsletter to be sent for first approval on Wednesday, the white paper on Thursday, and “sometime this week” you have 8 other 500 word articles committed to. Oh, and by the way, to make the amount of revenue you have projected in your business plan, you need to publish 5 or 6 things to one of your any time, any place gigs.
And now, taking today off seems absurd, especially if it’s Monday, because freelancer or not, everyone knows that something will happen between now and Friday that throws off your plan for how to spend your time this week and when that occurs, you’ll have to make that up. Which means, you have to write on Monday.
Summoning the willpower to focus and do something you aren’t itching to do is a personal thing. What works for one person won’t work for another. However, I find that certain things that are often recommended will NOT work for almost anyone. The problem with the usual motivation tactics is that they require one to focus on something out in the future.
Everyone has seen the idea about pasting up pictures of things that represent your goals. That’s great for long-term motivation, but it doesn’t work for getting yourself going for the day. Your brain is smart enough to know that we’re only talking about one day here, that doesn’t put the speedboat in jeopardy. The same thing goes for your kid’s college, that honeymoon or 30th anniversary trip, or whatever. It just won’t hold up in your mind no matter how hard you try to make it.
So, what can you do?
Write your lamest things.
That sounds counter-intuitive. If you are having motivation problems shouldn’t you write something that you might enjoy writing?
I have found that when I’m in this mood, my work is wholly adequate, but not stellar. For low-paying, all they care about it getting something coherent that hits the right word count, gigs, that is plenty good enough. But, for those projects where I want to be proud my name is on it, or that I hope turn into more lucrative work down the line, adequate won’t cut it. That means I’ll either be upset with myself about what goes out, or I’ll re-write it again later. Either way, that isn’t the right move.
But, when you are already trudging through and you pair up your work with your mental state, it actually flows better. Those dry, uninteresting articles were going to be dry and uninteresting no matter how pumped up you were to write. So, while they can kill a good writing mood, they can’t really hurt a bogged down writing mind. Ironically, when you go this route, your brain gets in a groove and before you know it, you’ve punched out some solid work and maybe, just maybe, you’re writing mood has gotten better and you can move on to other projects.
If not, at least you didn’t waste precious writing hours, and you also didn’t waste good writing day energy on low energy projects.
Have a good week.