A recent study showed that up to 86% of freelancers work from home every week.
If this is you, are you doing everything you can to have a professional and more organized working environment?
No matter how long you have been freelance writing, there’s always room for improvement in your workflow and organization.
I’ve been freelance writing since 2014 and over the years have had different home offices, different hours and different computers to work with.
Whether you’re freelance writing full time or part time, freelance writing can be a drastic change from the normal 9-5 jobs that we are used to.
When you start freelance writing, there is a lot to remember. It’s not just about finishing up those client projects by the given deadline.
You have to worry about invoicing softwares, keeping track of all the gig details and milestones, juggling multiple clients, working with various systems and softwares, and not to mention keeping your physical space organized as well.
Keeping things organized can be especially difficult if you are not an organized or detailed person by nature – like me!
However, many freelance writers who work from home will agree that in order to be successful, you need to be organized and on top of your tasks.
So how can you, as a freelance writer, keep organized so you not only get your projects finished on time, but continue to wow your clients?
Check out these organization tips below!
Keeping Your Physical Space Organized
Let’s talk about your physical space first since you can’t use these organization tips without a space to use them!
Even if you aren’t normally a clean freak, it can be difficult to be productive when your workspace is covered in papers, kids toys, food wrappers, and so on.
This is still a struggle for me since my twins often come into my room and drop items on my desk like books, jewelry or action figures!
If you don’t already, you should have a dedicated work space that is clean and free of clutter and potential distractions.
Distractions like bills sitting on your desk, knick knacks everywhere, your phone sitting on full blast, constant pop ups and notifications, and so on.
Now this might be easier for you to achieve or might be challenging depending on your living situation.
While it might sound like a great idea to sit beachside and write, that’s not always practical.
Your dedicated workspace should be just that, a space where you go to work. That’s it. Not sitting at the kitchen table, not sitting on your bed.
You might find that you get your best work done while sitting in your local coffee shop. You might have to set up a dedicated workspace in a closet and make a small office, or in the corner of your bedroom. Whatever works for you is best.
Once you have your dedicated workspace set up, you also need to be sure to minimize outside distractions.
Again, depending on your living situations, it might be easier to minimize distractions for some than it is for others.
If you’re a parent, you know how difficult this can be. I’ve known a lot of moms who are freelance writers who have to get out of the house to get any work done, or have to wait until the kids are in bed to get in some distraction free work time.
What I ended up doing is only working when my twins were napping giving me around four hours per day to work on my freelance writing.
Another way to help minimize distractions is to get some good quality noise canceling headphones.
Whether you’re working in the park or your favorite coffee shop, this can help to keep you focused and organized.
To Be Organized You Need the Right Mindset
Before we get into the technical part of the organization tips for this article, I wanted to say a quick word on mindset.
It’s a lot easier for many to be organized and stay on track when you get yourself in the right mindset.
Even though you might be working from home, you can still set yourself up for organizational success if you get your head on right. This might be turning on a certain playlist, grabbing your favorite beverage, or slipping into comfy sweatpants.
One thing I work on is having a stress-free morning routine. It’s a tad difficult with twins but what I end up doing is:
- Wake up do my bathrooms stuff and visualize how my day will be a success
- As I change into my clothes I look over my to-do list and quickly organize it to do the hardest or longest first
At this point I go downstairs and feed my twins breakfast, do my chores and have my morning coffee and begin my work day.
I would eventually like to incorporate some yoga or mediation or simple exercises into this morning routine, but it’s a work in progress!
Organization Tips for Freelance Writers
In addition to the physical part of being organized with your workspace, there are a lot of resources that you can use to stay organized and keep your projects on task.
Here are ten organization tips that have saved me from a messy office and cluttered mind!
1. Use a Whiteboard
While it’s great to have your deadlines and tasks tracked in digital form, sometimes you might need that extra reminder staring you in the face.
Whether hanging on the wall or sitting on your desk, whiteboards are a great way to keep a constant reminder of what you need to get done and when.
Bonus: grab some post-its and use those on your whiteboard for changes or new items.
2. Use a Google Calendar
Google calendar is great for keeping track of your due dates for your projects, meetings with clients, and even adding tasks to a to-do list.
You can set yourself daily reminders to check in on your progress, send emails, and just hold yourself accountable for staying on track of your projects.
If you do a lot of outbound outreach to find new clients and send out lots of pitches, you can also add gmail extensions like Streak to help keep you organized.
3. Invest in a Planner
While there are many great project management softwares (we’ll get to that in a minute), some people do really well with traditional paper or digital planners.
I guess I’m old school but I like writing things down. I think it’s the motor memory or something but I remember my tasks better when they are written.
That’s why I love my freelance writing planner. It tracks my to-do list, my client pieces and even has a pitch tracker.
Whether you’re planning out your day by the hour or looking at projects in the long term, this planer will work for you.
4. Use a Project Management Software
There are so many different project management softwares available it can be difficult to pick the best one for you.
Each project management software has different things they can and can’t do and it really comes down to a personal preference.
I have talked about my project management system in the past and I still use this method even today to keep me organized!
While most of these are free to use, there is a boost in features for the paid versions.
Here are some popular project management softwares that freelancers commonly use:
- Kanban Tool
Many of these platforms integrate with other softwares to streamline your workflow.
5. Try the Pomodoro Technique
Some freelance writers do really well working in quick spurts to really get a lot done.
This is exactly what I had to do once my twins dropped their day nap. I could only work in 15 or 20 minute chunks.
The Pomodoro technique requires working in 25-minute increments with a 5-minute break.
This encourages people to not work against the time they have and to be the most efficient with the time available. The main idea behind this is to cut out distractions and create a sense of urgency to get tasks done.
For a freelance writer, this could be 25 minutes of research, creating an outline, going through emails, and so on.
6. Use Time Blocking
Time blocking is another organization and time management technique that any type of freelancer can use.
This also works alongside the Pomodoro technique.
Time blocking involves going through your daily schedule and setting aside predetermined times to complete certain tasks.
For example, If you find that you are more productive at writing in the afternoon, you block out that time for writing and plan your other freelance activities, such as emailing clients or sending invoices during your less productive times.
This is how I manage my day as a freelance writer. Based on my twins’ schedule, I either use the morning to do most of my work or I work at night.
For many years now, I’ve been able to do most of my productive work during the mid-morning and “be a mom” for the rest of the day, giving me a four or five hour work day.
If you don’t have much time during the week do freelance write, you can still be successful! Check out my video on having a five hour work week!
7. Create Systems and Templates to Keep Organized
When you’re doing the same types of tasks over and over again, it would benefit you to have a system and templates in place to streamline your processes.
For example, create an invoicing template to send to clients so you don’t have to create it again every time you send out an invoice.
Create a system with templates, such as canned email responses, for when you onboard clients. When you go through your workday, think about the things that you could create a template for to speed up your workflow, then create them.
8. Label Everything!
This might sound like a no-brainer, but label files and your work in a simple and logical way.
You don’t need to be cute when naming files. Include client names, dates, project names, and anything else that would help you to find a necessary file.
9. Back Your Work Up
Be sure to back up your files!
Using programs like Google Docs is great because it automatically saves your work to the cloud so you never have to worry about working on a project for days only to lose it if your computer crashes.
I learned this the hard way!
When I first started freelance writing, I didn’t like using Google Docs and preferred to write my client pieces in the backend of WordPress.
Big rookie mistake!
I lost hours of work many times and had to learn the hard way to use Google Docs and Microsoft Word to avoid this happening again.
It’s never a bad idea to have your files saved in multiple places.
Just be sure to adhere to any client confidentiality and include where you save files and how they are accessed in your client communications.
10. Time Track Yourself
Whether or not you are paid by the hour or by the word, you should track your time with a time tracking app.
The most popular is the Toggl app.
You can easily start and stop the timer to track exactly what you are working on and for what clients.
This not only can help keep things organized when invoicing clients, it can also help to keep you accountable for what you are actually spending time on and how much time you are spending on that task.
This ONE thing doubled Alexa’s productivity from Single Moms Income.
11. Achieve Inbox Zero (My Way)
Inbox Zero is an email management technique to help you be more organized with your business. This technique means having no email items in your inbox at any given time.
I don’t personally trash my emails so I keep them, but my version of Inbox Zero is to check and answer all the emails I get every day.
I currently have 18 outstanding emails to answer today. Of course, more emails will come in my inbox but I do my best every 24 hour period to answer or deal with my emails.
A good chuck are marketing emails that get trashed, a small percent are newsletters from people I follower and the rest are either client or student emails.
12. Do the Hard Thing First
By working on the most challenging task on your list first, it will allow you to be more productive and hopefully encourage you to streamline your work.
Instead of dragging my feet, I use the hard tasks as motivation to have a productive and organized day. Crossing off my “to-do” tasks a great feeling and keeps me on the straight and narrow throughout my day.
Tell me in the comments if you’re the same too!
13. Plan Your Week in Advance
If possible, try to plan your working week schedule in advance.
This isn’t always possible for me, but once I get into a groove I can foresee my tasks for the coming weeks. This works well with client work.
I can schedule one email client for the first half of the week, a second for the latter and then work on landing a new freelance writing job for the following week.
This seems to help me stay on track and organized with my client work since I can see what I need to do.
Simple Organization Tips to Help You Out
If you are new to freelance writing, it’s going to take some time to figure out how to keep your documents and workflow organized.
That’s okay! I was the same.
It’s never too early – or too late – in your freelance writing journey to treat it as a business, because that’s exactly what it is.
Over to you –
Do you have a favorite organization tip to share? I’d love to hear them!