Getting Started (or Starting Over): 3 Simple Tasks for Freelance Writers

Get a Jump on January with 3 Simple Freelance Writing Tasks

Are you thinking about jumping into freelance writing for the first time in the New Year? Or are you thinking about starting over or making major changes in your freelance business? In either case, you still have a bit of time to get prepared so you don’t kick off 2018 feeling overwhelmed.

I definitely fall in the latter group this year. To say nothing has gone right in the past year or two would be a serious understatement. And it kind of feels like “sink or swim” time in a lot of ways which is something I haven’t felt since early in my career. There’s no going backwards, the path I let others lead me down is unacceptable to me, and that means I have one option left – carve a new one on my own terms. It might not be what I really want. But it can be a hell of a lot better than it’s been recently.

That means a lot of big changes, personally and professionally. And that can lead to a hectic start to any year.

So I like to spend a bit of time in December (even when I’m technically away from work) to prepare. Then, when January comes, I know where I’m going, I know what I need to do, and I’ve already cleared the first few hurdles.

That’s what I’ve been doing most of this past week. And I thought some of the tasks I’ve been tackling might be helpful to you too. Let’s take a look at them, and then you can let me know how you are getting ready for 2018.

1. Clear out the old.

Every once in a while, I like to get rid of the old. That’s especially true when something doesn’t work out. I don’t believe in keeping reminders around to discourage me from doing something far better. But it’s also true around the end of every year.

Here are some of the old things I get rid of, archive, or otherwise put out of sight and mind:

  • Clear work spaces. That’s not only my desk, but also any drawers and active files I won’t be working with early in the New Year. It also includes clearing my computer’s desktop so I can start almost fresh (with only a few key folders there).
  • Archive client files. I start with one-off clients I don’t expect to work with again for whatever reason. Their files get moved from active files to an archive area on my system. This makes it easier to browse for what I’m currently working on as I move on to new projects. The less time I spend digging through files in January, the better. This is also a great time to think about new potential projects you could pitch old clients you haven’t thought about in a while.
  • Get rid of ineffective strategies. I look back at my marketing plan for the previous year and figure out what worked best and what didn’t work out so well. I ditch most of the latter so I can free time for better options.

Basically anything that’s just taking up space, reminding you of things that bring you or your plans down, or not working despite your best efforts – get rid of it.

2. Think bigger.

Your freelance writing career is your business. There’s no way around that. But freelancing is so much more. It’s also your lifestyle. It’s the independence versus managing a team in an agency. It’s the freedom to choose each project you take on and do work you love. And it affects more than your income.

So at the end of the year, I like to think bigger. These days I have an all-out life plan to try to help me get back on track where I’ve kind of felt as though everything derailed. That is a 10-year plan, with breakdowns at 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, 6 months, 3 months, and 1 month. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. It’s essentially answering the questions:

  • What do you want?
  • Why do you want it?
  • What can you do to get there?

I’ve suggested in a previous post that you ask yourself those questions every day, to make sure you spend a little time each day getting one step closer to those dreams or goals. And it’s something I rely on heavily these days. The different time frames just let me order action steps by urgency.

My freelance writing business plays a big part in this, and even if you don’t go into the depth I choose to, your freelance work plays a larger role in your own personal life too. So spend a little time thinking about how that is. Why do you freelance? How can your freelance writing better fit into, or support, the rest of your hopes, dreams, and plans? You have flexibility and choices traditional employees don’t. Don’t take them for granted. Think about how you can build the life you want while you can.

3. Organize your action plan.

For me, this means overhauling everything in Todoist, which I use to organize daily task lists, project lists, shopping lists – pretty much anything that needs to be remembered or organized.

I go through my project structures and see if anything’s inefficient and needs to be updated. I make sure tasks are assigned deadlines where appropriate, and assigned a time-based label to help me make the best use of my time later.

Ultimately, the idea is to make sure you know exactly what you need to do on your first work day of the New Year. Rather than easing into things and wondering where the month went by the time February comes, you can hit the ground running with a little prep.

These aren’t the only things I do to get ready for a new year in my freelance writing career. But they’re a good start if you want to feel a little more prepared than usual.

This year I’m changing much more on the personal front, trying to let go of some things I’m struggling with and putting my focus squarely back on myself. I’ve talked about my past health issues here before, and because they’re so heavily tied to stress and its impact on my hormones, my health hasn’t been great again lately. So a big focus for me in January is getting my health and hormones back on track – a new training program, more regular meditation time, more time reading to help me unwind and escape, more time on creative projects.

I’m hoping putting more of the attention I spent on others recently back on myself won’t only help me feel a little better about how things have gone, but will also positively impact my energy and focus and ambition when it comes to my work. If your personal life is interfering in your professional one too, now might be a good time for you to think about changes, letting go of what’s destructive, and taking better care of yourself. It’s easy to forget about that sometimes.

So tell me, what are you doing in December to get ready for the New Year in your freelance writing business?

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