Whether you become a freelancer by choice or circumstance, there’s an allure to being your own boss. However, that independence comes with challenges. Freelancers must master the art of juggling.
It’s something our own Christine Cube (@cpcube) knows very well. In addition to being an audience relations manager with PR Newswire, Christine has been a freelancer since leaving the newsroom in 2005.
“I wasn’t done with the industry,” she says. “Freelancing was about staying sharp. I wanted to keep writing and continue to keep connections with companies and people and topics that meant a lot to me.”
Now, she copyedits for trade publications and ghost blogs for a couple of sites. At her busiest, Christine typically works on three to five freelance assignments per month.
Holly Hammersmith (@), on the other hand, works on three or four different projects during any given week. The difference is that after giving part-time freelancing a try, she decided to move into it full-time.
Holly always loved learning about different things. It’s the reason she pursued journalism. As a freelancer, she now has the opportunity to focus on as many areas as she wants.
Sometimes that means finance or legal writing, topics she used to cover as a reporter at a daily newspaper. Other times, it’s health, fitness or home and gardening, topics that resonate with her on a more personal level. Then, of course, there’s all the work that goes into the maintenance and marketing of her business.
Although Christine and Holly define their freelance commitment in different ways, both must be able to switch gears at a moment’s notice.
Whether you’re balancing a full-time job with your part-time freelancing or trying to grow your business while staying ahead of deadlines, here are five tips to remain organized.
1. Prep your workspace. OK, this one may seem obvious. However, how many times have you been so excited to try something that you jumped in without considering your surroundings?
Although your primary concern as a new freelancer is finding that first assignment, make sure you have the essentials to do the work.
Holly surrounds herself with post-it notes, notepads, and a whiteboard to track assignments. And while Christine tries to have her laptop primed for interviews, there are times when she must improvise. “I’ve written notes on old mail in the car,” she admits. “If I’m out and about, I make sure I have some kind of paper and pen in my bag at all times.”
2. Focus on one project or one writing style at a time. “It’s not very productive if I dabble on five different projects in one day,” says Holly, “because I’ll always be going back to doublecheck my work.”
Christine agrees: “I don’t like to mix writing styles or even voices on the same day. You write with a fresher brain when you’re not forced to write it all in the same day.”
As a freelancer, you have the freedom to write when you want. Keep your ongoing projects separate, whether that means covering hard news on one day and lifestyle news another, or taking a long run between projects to reset your brain.
3. Ditch the paper planner. “Freelancing is a moving target. I use my smartphone calendar for everything,” says Christine. “I jot every single note and to-do down in my calendar and I check it multiple times each day so I can pace myself.
“I’d be in trouble if I didn’t have my phone with me. It’s got everything — every single reminder, interview.”
Try squeezing all of that in a paper planner and remembering to lug it around with you everywhere you go.
4. Don’t forget about your clients. A huge part of freelancing is building and maintaining a relationship with your clients. You’re not the only freelancer they’re working with so you have to stay on their radar.
“It’s easy to fall into the habit of freelancing more for organizations you have a good relationship with,” says Christine. “But you have to be mindful of treating all of your clients the same, with a high level of quality.”
“I’ve been experimenting with a CRM system to track businesses and clients I’m working on,” says Holly, who is currently using Insightly. “I put tasks in there like finish draft, send a thank you card, invoice them. I thought about doing it a few times, but I decided to give it a try at the end of 2014 after taking a class from a successful freelancer. If it works for her, then I should try it.”
5. Stay up on new tools. There are so many new tools to help freelancers that didn’t exist even a few years ago. In addition to customer relationship management, there are countless websites, apps and software helping you manage projects, track the time you’re spending on different tasks, and even avoid distractions.
Personally, I swear by Trello to help me keep track of all of my to-do lists. I love it because it’s incredibly visual – like one endless whiteboard that lives on my browser and all of my electronic devices. Holly prefers OfficeTime for time-tracking because it’s known to work well with Macs. And if you’re looking for distraction-free writing, check out PC World’s Zen Productivity Guide.
Freelance writing is hard work that demands a lot of time management skills. PR Newswire for Journalists tries to make it easier by giving you a one-stop shop for your newsgathering needs. Create multiple newsfeeds for your different assignments and topics and turn email notifications on and off as you finish each project. Or submit a ProfNet query to find expert sources. You also can use PR Newswire for Journalists to download photos and video and even connect with new jobs.
Want to give our free media tools a try? Sign up at prnmedia.prnewswire.com. And if you have any tricks or tools you use to balance your workload, let us know in the comments below.
Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, Cleveland, and comic books.