So much about a successful freelance writing career depends on how much time you devote to it. Most of us start writing professionally when we’re doing other things, like working a regular job, raising a family etc. Carving out writing time when our schedule is already filled is a challenge.
The trick, of course, is to recognize your schedule has some flexibility, often more than you expect. These four steps will help you build writing into your already busy life.
1 — How much time each day — 5 days, 6 or 7 — are you willing and able to devote to writing?
Working with your calendar, or a list of must dos, keeping diary of how you actually spend your time for a week or so, will let you spot gaps, possibilities, and even solutions.
For example, at one point I had a full-time writing job doing technical writing. My commute was only about 15 minutes. I decided to get up at 5 a.m. and begin writing. It was awful at first and gradually it became a habit. Since I didn’t have to be at work until 8 I had three whole hours, less dressing, eating and drive time, to get some solid writing done. It was enough.
These days, I’m writing, coaching and acting as COO for a startup — since the startup isn’t funded, my pay there is minimal and sporadic. In theory I do my paying writing first in the morning, usually starting around 7 am. I’m one who has found meditation helpful so it’s a must and happens before I start writing, so I’m generally up at 5:30 or 6 a.m.
Many writers find they can work on their writing sometime after work. Others create time during their lunch break.
Figure out where you can squeeze some writing time in and schedule it.
2 — Make an appointment with yourself
Say you decide to try writing right after dinner for a couple of hours. Block it out for the next week on your calendar. If it works, stick with it; if it doesn’t know that you’re not a failure, just learning when you can write during this particular period of your life.
Try a different schedule… keep working to find some time you can generally write every week. Daily is wonderful, so is five days a week, or three. The truth is so is 10 or 15 minutes a day; books have been completed in 10 minutes a day.
It’s absolutely true that if you want it badly enough you’ll find time to do it, even if it’s a tiny bit of time.
Know too, that your life will change and so will the schedule you work out. Your kids will grow up, you’ll get married or unmarried, your job will change or you’ll find yourself as a writer when you hit the unemployment line. Schedules are made to work until they don’t. When they quit working change them to something that does.
3 — Do your most profitable project first
Start with your most profitable project. The reason is simple; you need to get the bills paid. Okay, maybe you’re not making any money at writing yet — then do the most potentially profitable writing first. If you’re new to the game block off at least a portion of your writing time to learning how to market your writing.
Let the world know you’re a writer and that you can be hired, probably through a website and on social media. As you get a paying client make them your writing priority, but don’t give up on your secret dream to write a novel, or win a poetry prize — keep working on those too. The creativity you practice there will also show up in your work with your clients.
4 — Rinse, repeat, adjust
Once you find a schedule that works pretty well keep it up until it quits working. Maybe you’ll spot the changes in advance or maybe they will be total surprises. Take a deep breath or a dozen and adjust.
Times of changes like these can be excellent times to look closely at your priorities and make changes if you find you need to.
Write well and often,