Getting started as a freelance writer is an exciting, exhilarating experience. You’ve decided to make a huge lifestyle change and leave the grind behind, swapping the daily slog of working for somebody else for the freedom of being your own boss.
Dolly Parton was (sort of) right when she said 9-to-5 is all takin’ and no givin’, and the fact that you’ve made the decision to set your own hours, increase your income and finally start to make a living writing is a massive commitment.
For a step-by-step guide on how to make this transition safely, check out Richard’s detailed action plan for quitting your day job to become a fully fledged self-employed wordsmith.
But it’s not all going to be sunshine and roses.
If you’re just getting started as a freelance writer, the chances are your daily routine is not yet optimised for success.
I’ve written before about bad habits you need to avoid once you’re already in the game, but here I’m looking at how you can tweak your time to get the best out of every day and climb the ladder to freelance writing success as fast as possible.
To do that, there are certain things you need to make sure you do to take care of yourself.
1. Get Enough Sleep
By now, basically everyone in the world agrees that sleep is really, really, important. Scientists still don’t have much of a clue as to why we actually do it, but getting the right amount – as well as the right kind – of sleep is crucial for healing, resting and recharging our bodies.
Tips for the most restful possible sleep include avoiding alcohol and any kind of electronic screen for four hours before bedding down. That might sound tough for a freelancer, but establishing a solid sleep routine early on will help you get into restful patterns that will do wonders for your productivity and career.
How to hack it: Use a sleep tracking app such as Sleep Cycle to make the most of your snoozing time. A cup of coffee before a nap also works wonders – time it right and the caffeine will kick in right as you wake up!
2. Exercise Regularly
Whether you’re only now getting started as a freelance writer or are a seasoned pro, ideas are your stock in trade. Apart from its general health benefits, regular exercise has long been known as one of the fastest ways to generate them.
Stuck on a proposal? Go for a walk and come back to it later. Need to wow that new client with a dazzling first draft? Take a few laps around the pool and you’ll be hit with all kinds of new insights you can use to close the project and get recurring work.
Exercise releases lovely brain chemicals such as dopamine, and reduces stress at the same time. It’s one of the best ways for us to solve problems and let new solutions and possibilities float to the surface of our minds – as freelance writers running our own business, these are things we need to be constantly thinking about.
How to hack it: Like a lot of things in life, exercise can be an incredibly hard thing to motivate yourself to do on your own when you’re getting started as a freelance writer.
Workout Buddies helps you find other people in your area to hit the gym with. If you organise a group trip you’ll have some sparring partners to connect with and share your exercise goals. You could even meet some potential clients and get a six pack at the same time!
3. Eat the Right Foods
We all know the saying ‘you are what you eat’ and for self-employed freelancers that’s definitely true.
It might be more convenient to miss breakfast and not eat till after dark so you can power through and hit that big deadline, but the reality is you’ll operate at a much higher level and begin to feel clearer and more focused on your projects if you put some effort into being fuel-efficient.
That means eating regularly throughout the day, and swapping junk food and processed snacks for as much natural, healthy food you can get your hands on.
Fish, chicken, and lots of fresh fruit and veg is a good foundation to start from. Green smoothies, nuts and seeds and dark chocolate are great for avoiding those mid-morning or late afternoon energy dips.
How to hack it: Eating well isn’t always easy or cheap, but it is an area really worth investing in if you can. Try monitoring your eating habits with an app like Yazio, which lets you track your daily intake and helps you set new food goals.
4. Limit Distractions
Distractions are everywhere these days – especially for anybody with an Internet connection. If you’re a freelance writer in 2017, that’s definitely you, and that definitely means you’re going to have to put some serious work into blocking out a lot of time-sucking, productivity-erasing mind-melting websites that want you to spend your day doing anything except practicing your craft or building your career.
Endless social media and instant messaging notifications are already playing havoc with our attention span – not to mention the barrage of fake news, viral videos and online games human beings weren’t designed for and are already struggling to process.
How to hack it: Fortunately, the Internet and technology can be used for good as well as evil, and apps like Focus booster are a lifesaver for getting into ‘the zone’ of your work day and staying there as long as possible. With a little planning and some conscious effort, you can put on your digital blinkers, say no to Facebook and get down to business.
5. Set Bite-Size Goals
Getting started as a freelance writer means that you’ll want to see results – and quickly. That means that you’ll need to get good at two things: Setting goals and achieving them. This is a repeat process, as every time you reach your goal, you’ll need a new one to set and accomplish.
This might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s the fastest way to achieve success. The best thing about developing this routine is that the smaller your goals are, the easier they are to reach. You can’t pitch 500 clients at once, but if you pitch 50 a day you’ll hit your target in less than two weeks.
Set yourself a completion date for reaching a certain phase in your career (for example a new prospect list or income goal) then work towards it, breaking down what you need to do to get there in terms of monthly, weekly and daily tasks.
How to hack it: Asking yourself what you really want from life and then taking steps to go after it can feel incredibly daunting, particularly in terms of setting goals to actually get there. Strides is one of the best apps out there to help you track set targets, your progress and meet your accomplishments. Start using it today, and who knows where you’ll be by tomorrow!
Do you have your own healthy routines you use to maximise your chances of success, or that helped you when you were getting started as a freelance writer? Let us know in the comments, and let’s keep the discussion going!