You finally took your freelancing full-time, and the day you left the rat race was one for the books. You tossed your red stapler into a cardboard box and walked out with your head held high, finger in the air.
Fast-forward six months and you’re still lying in bed.
You thought you could just write. That the clients would just show up. And that business would be easy. But you have no one to write for and nothing to write.
In your defense, the red stapler was crucial. But to be a successful freelancer, you have to treat your writing business like any other business, and you have to work like any other employee.
So, here are three tools from your old office job that will help you get focused and work harder for yourself.
1. The over-sized desk calendar
While you don’t have an overbearing boss or a nine-to-five work schedule anymore, you still need to keep a set schedule to stay motivated.
Invest in a calendar or planner that’s best for you. I use Google Calendar because it also works as a to-do list. It sync all of my tasks and appointments to my phone and I can access it easily from any computer.
You can also color code tasks; for example, blue for blogging, red for feature articles and grey for marketing, so you can sort your tasks based on specific categories.
If you prefer handwritten to-do lists, take a look at these great old-school paper planners made specifically for freelancers.
But the key to having a planner is sticking to it. Set aside time at the beginning of each week to plan out your schedule, and then follow it as if that boss is still hovering over you.
Assign tasks to each day with a specific start time, but be realistic about how much you can accomplish so you don’t have to roll over tasks to the next day.
Choose times that work best for you. If you’re a night owl, schedule your tasks to start in the late afternoon, not in the morning when you’re less likely to get up and go.
2. The break room
One of the perks of having coworkers is gossip. Sharing work struggles with other walking, talking human beings is therapeutic and provides perspective.
Most freelancers keep their journeys a secret, but finding a tribe or even just a close friend to talk to can keep you accountable to your work. When you don’t tell anyone about your writing, then failure becomes more acceptable as you only have yourself to disappoint.
When I started my writing business, I joined the Freelance Writer’s Den. I connected with another writer in my area and now we swap nightmare-client stories over coffee. Venting keeps me sane and re-energizes me on a bad day.
The Den has also been a valuable resource when I have questions about the industry or need an outside perspective on how to handle an overdue payment.
You can also set an official launch date for your business, but you don’t need balloons and a “Now Open” sign to do it. Simply send an email to your friends and family members, or make an announcement on Facebook and Twitter.
As soon as I did this, everyone kept tabs on how my business was going, who I was writing for or what my future plans for growth might be. This motivated me to keep working so I never have to say, “Things aren’t going so well”.
3. The accounting department
Many writers choose freelancing to avoid the dreaded four-letter word… math. But regardless of how well your writing is going, math has to be a part of the business equation.
To stay motivated in your business, you need a plan, budget and income; in other words, you need to be an accounting department.
Set an income goal for each year. In my first year of part-time freelancing, I set a goal of $20,000. I created a business plan that outlined my strategy for reaching that goal, the services I would offer and the clients I would target. You can easily do this in a Word document or Google Doc. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it’s for your eyes only.
I also created a basic accounting workbook in Excel to keep track of my invoices, income, expenses and clients. With a goal in mind, I planned exactly how many clients I needed and what my rates should be so I never got behind… or apathetic.
Be dedicated to reaching that goal, just as you would be if you worked a nine-to-five and a big holiday bonus was on the line. Who knows? Maybe you can reward yourself with one.
Remember, even though you’ve left the rat race, you still need these three tools to run a successful business.
What is your favorite tool for keeping you accountable to your writing?