6 Time Management Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers

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November 9, 2016 (Updated: September 29, 2023)

When you start a freelance writing career, your first concern might be getting enough work to support yourself or making the right connections to get better paying jobs. However, if you keep producing quality work and gain a good reputation in your industry, you’ll eventually reach a point where you have too much work.

Whether you’re at the start of your career or you’ve reached a point where overloaded, learning how to manage your time is critical to succeed as a freelance writer. That’s why the CopyPress team has put together the following time management tips for beginner freelance writers to help you get on the right track.

1. Learn To Say No

This seems like common sense, but for freelance writers who are just starting to get multiple job offers, the temptation is always there to say “yes” to everything. But this is a mistake. Saying yes to any job that comes your way might make sense when job offers are few and far between, but at some point, you’ll have to learn that you can’t handle every project at once.

Trying to juggle too much at once can result in burnout, poor quality, and missed deadlines, which is one of the cardinal sins of freelance writing. On top of that, taking on too much can leave you feeling constantly stressed and overworked.

So, what should you do instead? Accept the projects that pay the fee you feel you deserve and only take on what you can handle.

2. Use RescueTime to Minimize Distractions

Screenshot from RescueTime with caption, "Take back control of your time and your timesheets."

Screenshot from RescueTime

The more work we have, the more likely we are to procrastinate. You may think you’ve put in 10 hours of work on your freelance projects, but in reality, three to four of those hours may have been spent checking social media and your favorite forums or websites.

RescueTime is a tool that tracks how you spend your time online, so you get a better sense of your biggest time wasters. Keep in mind that this tip isn’t meant to stop you from browsing the Internet entirely, but rather of realistically tracking how much time you spend on entertainment rather than work when you’re online. You should still take breaks often to do something you like, but just make sure you’re not spending too much time on these activities.

3. Create a System for Breaks

Whether you favor the Pomodoro technique or some other time management method, taking breaks once in a while is important for your stress levels. Also, though it may seem counterintuitive, breaks can boost your productivity and help you get your work done faster. Focusing on a computer screen or an article for too long can lead to “brain fog,” and at worst, burnout.

And it’s no secret that long-term burnout can impact your work and overall productivity. Instead, frequent breaks to get up and walk around or get a breath of fresh air will help keep you focused when you get back to work.

4. Designate Specific Times for Social Media

In the current world of freelance writing, social media is an important way to connect with new potential clients and promote your business and your work. However, it can also be an endless distraction for writers who constantly check their social media profiles whenever they hear the “ping” of a new notification rather than getting work done.

To stay on top of your social media but also stay focused, designate specific times to check your profiles. Twice during the workday should be more than enough. It’s also important to designate a time limit for how long you spend on social media. Set a timer to make sure you stick to this self-imposed limit.

5. Avoid Checking Emails Too Early in the Morning

Freelance writers usually wake up to tens or hundreds of emails a day. Most of us make the mistake scrolling our mobile inboxes while we’re still in bed in the morning, or before our first cup of coffee, or before we can really take the time to organize and respond to them. This can waste a lot of time and actually end up harming the quality of your response.

Don’t go near your emails until you are in a place, physically and mentally, where you can fully process, organize, and respond to them, and then start your day’s tasks. Whether that means you need to eat a full breakfast first, change clothes, read your morning newspaper, or whatever else you need to do, make sure you are relaxed and ready to work before you click on your inbox for the first time.

6. Use Momentum To Stay on Task

Screenshot of the homepage for the Momentum browser extension.

Screenshot from Momentum

Anyone who has searched for randomly connected topics furiously into the night knows that every new tab you open up in your browser can lead you down a rabbit hole of distraction. If this sounds like you, then the Momentum extension for Chrome and Microsoft Edge can be just what you need to help you stay on task. Every time you open up a new tab, you’ll get a screen with a beautiful travel photo and inspirational quote, but more importantly, the screen will have the current time, your main goal for the day underneath, and your complete day’s to-do list on the right-hand side.

Every day when you wake up, or the night before, type up your to-do list and enter the one major project you absolutely must finish in the screen center. From that point on, every time you open up a new tab, you’ll get a reminder of upcoming deadlines. The premise is simple, but most freelance writers who use it agree that it works wonderfully for minimizing distractions and keeping your to-do list in one simple, easily accessible dashboard.

By following these time management tips as a beginner freelance writer, you can establish lifelong habits that will continue to help you as your career grows. As you figure out your flow, use trial and error to build on these initial habits and see what works best for you. When you manage your time better, you’ll have more energy to focus on growing your business with content marketing.

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