Gamification: Make Freelance Writing More Fun

In the comments on a previous post about loving your work, Anne Wayman mentioned that she wanted to try to turn some of her marketing into a game. That's something I try to do with my daily work as much as possible too. So I thought it might be fun to look at gamification and how you can gamify your freelance writing work.

Gamification doesn't have to mean literally turning something into a game. But you use game principles in your process -- like racing a clock or incentivizing certain goals or actions. I find it makes work not only more fun, but it also helps me get more done in a day.

Here are five ways you might use gamification to increase your productivity and enjoy your freelance writing work more.

1. Set Up a Rewards System

This is probably the most basic way you can attach incentives to your freelance writing business. You simply set up a rewards system by creating a list of goals, a to-do list for the week, or some other kind of plan. If you complete things within your deadline, you get a reward.

For small things like getting through everything on a daily to-do list, you would give yourself a small reward -- maybe your favorite dessert. For larger regular things you might have slightly larger rewards -- like enjoying a night out with friends over the weekend if you complete your week's goals. And you can also set grander rewards for much more significant goals -- like a vacation if you reach a yearly income target.

The idea is to give you something to work for beyond simply finishing the work itself.

2. Implement a Points System

Along those same lines, you can set up a points system. Think of it like a credit card's rewards points program where you accumulate points until you can redeem them for a reward. Again, come up with a list of rewards. This time assign them a point value. Then assign point values to different tasks involved in your freelance writing work.

For example, you might get one point for clearing your email inbox each day, three points for each cold call or query letter, five points for clearing up a client project, 2 points for social media marketing each day, etc.

You accumulate your points on an ongoing basis and redeem them for rewards when you have enough. This could be a better option than tying rewards to regular to-do lists. If the rewards become too common (like that favorite dessert from our last example being "earned" every day of the week), you might lose the incentive.

3. Use a Timer

Another easy way to gamify your freelance writing work is to use a timer. Personally I use the Pomodoro technique. That's where you work for 25 minutes, and then get a five minute break. Each of those cycles is a Pomodoro. After every four Pomodoros you take a longer break of 15 minutes. I use and the Pomodoro Tracker Android app for this.

You can use a similar system with your own time limits and breaks, or you could just set a timer when you're facing writer's block or feeling unmotivated. It's about challenging yourself to do as much as you can in a short period of time, because no matter how "stuck" you feel, you can muster the energy to get through that short spurt of productivity. And if you're lucky, you'll get un-stuck fairly quickly and keep up the pace.

Challenge yourself by doing this for a full work day and see how much more you can get done. I was shocked by how much work I could complete in a mere 25 minutes.

4. Compete With a Colleague

A great way to gamify your freelance writing business is to enlist a colleague. There's nothing more like a game than good old fashioned competition. Just keep it friendly.

For example, you and a local colleague might challenge each other to complete certain similar tasks. Whomever gets the most done, or finishes the list the fastest, buys coffee the next time you meet up. If you're a blogger, you might set a weekly blogging goal with a colleague, and whomever reaches their blog post writing goal for the week gets a guest post from the "loser."

5. Chart Your Personal Progress

If you don't have someone who can serve as an accountability buddy or challenge partner, a visual representation of your progress might serve a similar purpose. A personal example might be to keep a large chart on your wall to track your weight. If you keep it somewhere where you'll see it often, it serves as a regular reminder of what you're working towards and how far you've come (or how much you still need to do).

When it comes to writing you could do something similar with any kind of simple numerical goal -- word counts, blog post goals for a month, etc. As an added bonus, you can still get the accountability factor if you keep your chart where others might see it (whether that's your family or visitors).

Do you use gamification to increase your productivity or enjoy your work more as a freelance writer? If so, how do you do it? Can you think of other ways to do this that aren't mentioned here? I'm always looking for new ways to work more productively and have more fun, so I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment and tell me about them.

Listen to This Post

This post was originally featured on February 26, 2013. It was updated with an additional idea added May 12, 2014. The audio version of this post was added on February 12, 2015.

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has over 20 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 17 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter to get freelance writing updates from Jenn in your inbox.

7 thoughts on “Gamification: Make Freelance Writing More Fun”

  1. That reward system is actually kind of a habit of mine. I’d usually have this certain snack during work, but I’d restrain myself from taking a bite until I’ve made like a few paragraphs or so. I think the best in this list however is #4. Competition is always a great way to jack up one’s performance and productivity. I like the idea of the loser making a guest post. Talk about getting extra blog content for free!

  2. Is it weird that simply checking something off my to-do list gives me so much satisfaction that I never thought of “incentivizing” it?

    Maybe I can turn it into a point system, too….

    • I don’t think that sounds weird. Then again, I’m the same way. So much so that I actually keep three to-do lists these days — one in a semi-private forum for colleagues to see, one on my phone, and I still do note card lists by hand most weeks. This way one is always just a glance away, and as I finish things, I get to check it off several times. I love that feeling. 🙂 Without being able to knock out a to-do list I’d probably get nothing done most days.

  3. Like Paula, I love checking stuff off my to do list. I also am getting better at rewarding myself for completed projects or for completing a particularly onerous task… points? competition? I think I’ll ask my mastermind group if they want to try adding some competition.

  4. I implemented a rewards system to help me to overcome my chronic procrastination! I started big, I’d been thinking about booking a holiday so was spending a lot of time googling my destination, checking restaurants on Tripadvisor etc., so my first challenge was to work all day and only surf the internet during my set breaks, and the reward was to actually BOOK the holiday! It worked a treat, and although booking holidays every isn’t exactly sustainable (unfortunately!), I find that incentivising really does help chase away procrastination.

    • That really is going big. Good for you! 🙂

      My biggest browsing distractions are usually related to browsing for new books and looking up home improvement and gardening info. I’m glad my browsing habits don’t involve such expensive rewards. Well, at least my hubby is. 😉 Speaking of which… I’m due for a new book order soon. Maybe I’ll make that my reward for finishing up a current big project. 🙂

      Do you have smaller incentive ideas to use between trips yet? That could be a fun discussion. I’ll start a thread in the writing forums, and anyone who wants to share their work reward ideas can do that there. Let’s all help each other find ways to stay motivated and feel rewarded for our hard work. 🙂

      Here’s the thread for anyone interested:


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