April Moore on Work Habits (Part 2)

Go To Your Room
If I had known how much I could have accomplished as a kid when my parents sent me to my room, I’d have
a seven-book series by now. Today, I treasure alone time in my room where instead of plotting revenge on my
sister, I actually get quality time to write. Claim your own space, whether it’s a room, a corner, or a table. Your
area should also consist of only what you need to write. Don’t work at a desk where you pay bills, or do other
hobbies. You need to focus on writing. My area is the guest bedroom. I found a small desk at a flea market,
painted it and parked it by the window. The closet, situated behind the desk, houses my weapons of writing:
reference books, research, and all those extra office supplies I stocked up on. (You can never have too many
Post-Its). Make the space inviting—but only to you. You need to be left alone, so politely inform your spouse,
your kids, and your dog (who’s holding the leash in his mouth) to not bother you while you are in this special
space of yours. I’m one of those who needs a change of scenery every once in a while, so sometimes I’ll work
in the sun room, out on the deck, or on the living room couch. But inevitably, I find that I’m most productive
when I go to my room.

Break it Down
I tend to freak myself out thinking about the amount of work I have ahead of me. Nothing like a bit of fear to
kill your motivation. I must remind myself to take baby steps. Luckily, Folsom’s 93 can be broken down into
roughly 93 steps. So, I tackle one at a time, sometimes two. If your project feels like deciphering the Dead Sea
Scrolls, then break it down. Work on one scroll at time—or half a scroll. Don’t put more pressure on yourself
than you need to. Shoot for a certain number of pages a day to get done. Maybe it’s one chapter at time, or one
article a day, or the introduction of your book proposal. You will feel more accomplished and productive if you
take on only what you can handle that day. When I applied this method, I had those scrolls deciphered in no
time.

Reward Yourself
What does your little heart desire? (Think small for this, okay?) Maybe it’s a new book, a nice bottle of wine,
or going to the theater to see a movie. Now, choose the task or project you need to do and set a deadline. When
you meet that deadline, reward yourself. I know this may sound simplistic, but it works. Yes, you could give
yourself the reward anyway, but show some willpower, because trust me, that reward is way less satisfying if
you truly didn’t earn it. Write your deadline and reward on a board or post it on the refrigerator to keep you
motivated. Get the family involved to help support you on your journey because it’s even more rewarding when
others can share it with you.

With a bit of creativity, it’s possible to be a productive writer without fleeing to deserted beach house, or a
lonely cabin in the mountains.

 

Thank you, April, for this great advice for us all. And thank you, readers, in advance, for checking out April’s project when you get the chance. 

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Accountability, Week Three

This was a rough week for accountability. I had a minor surgery that took me out of the action for three days. I made my goals with a combination of three actions:

  • I worked extra early in the week to get ahead.
  • I scheduled my weekend to include some blocks of family-free time so I could play catchup.
  • I held back a paycheck from some March work to apply to this week.
Planning is vital if you want to succeed as a freelancer, and especially vital when life conspires to make it difficult.
This week’s statistics:
  • Total Earnings Goal: $2250
  • Total Earnings This Week: $2,255
  • Earning Compared to Benchmark: 100%
  • Total Earnings So Far: $6,890
  • Progress Toward Long-Term Goal: 35%
Thank you all for providing some of the encouragement I need to stay on track. And, as always, thanks for listening.

Writing Professionally: Entrepreneurship

All freelance writers are serial entrepreneurs, whether we like it or not. An entrepreneur is somebody who comes up with an idea, tries to sell that idea, works with people to make that idea happen and finally makes or loses money based on the quality of that idea.

The cycle of selling an article follows that exact process. As freelance writers, we come up with an idea for an article, we try to sell that idea to a magazine, we work with experts as we research the article, and we get paid based on whether or not the magazine accepts the final product.

There’s just one difference between an entrepreneur and a freelance writer. The typical entrepreneur will go through this cycle less than ten times in his entire career. A productive freelance writer will go through this cycle more than ten times every single month.

With the increased availability of self-publication and self-promotion on the internet, freelance writers become even more entrepreneurial as we release actual products such as blogs, newsletters and ebooks.

Bottom line: to make it as a writer, we shouldn’t just study the tools of writing. We must also understand entrepreneurship, small business management, sales and marketing.  Bottom line: if you’re writing well enough to sell even a few articles, you’re better off getting an MBA than an MFA.

I’m fortunate enough to have come to this career after nearly a decade in small business management and ownership. I’ve read the key texts on the important subjects, and I’ve experimented in the laboratory of a working brick-and-mortar business.

For those who are coming from a less business-oriented background, I’d like to take the liberty of suggesting a few books to start your education:

Remember: if you don’t make your writing a business, you have no business trying to write for a living. There’s nothing wrong with just writing for the pure joy of it. Just don’t try to support your family by treating your writing business like it’s a hobby.

Thanks for listening.

PS: On the subject of entrepreneurship, I’ve just launched a side project based on a simple, fun idea. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Writing Professionally: Paid Leave

One problem contractors often mention is the lack of paid sick leave or vacation time. When you work for yourself, your boss tends to be a harsh taskmaster. But we all get sick, want time off, have emergencies. There’s no getting around that. A freelancer needs time off without suffering financial hardship.

The trick is to treat your leave just as an employer treats an employee’s leave. Employees don’t get paid for not working – they get paid extra when they do work, and that extra is held back until they take time off.

As a freelancer, you accomplish this by working ahead. Do enough work to amass a savings account from which you can draw your weekly or daily nut while you’re not working. When you return to work, schedule in additional hours until you’ve refilled your bank of leave money.

This can be a problem for the less disciplined among us. With no boss or time clock to make sure we work, it’s easy to take time off when we don’t have any banked time to cover it. The only solution to this is personal discipline: don’t take the time unless you have it. If you have an unavoidable emergency or serious illness with no time, you will need to scramble for extra work until you’re caught up.

Planning, discipline and organization are important traits if you choose to take this approach to scheduling time off as a freelancer. If you don’t have them, you’ll need to practice them until you do – or get an “accountability partner” to bust your chops for you on a daily or weekly basis.

Thanks for listening.

Writing Professionally: Managing Income

I am a full-time professional writer. This means that I can fulfill my financial responsibilities doing nothing but writing. From time to time, I’ll post tips to offer what advice my meager experience can offer to others who want to do the same.

Today I want to talk about managing income. As an amateur, I took what assignments I could find, then counted the money at the end of the month. The result: I wrote as an adjunct to my day job.

Professional writers do it the other way around. We work out how much you want to make each month, then pursue assignments until you reach the goal. Because the writing-acceptance-payment cycle often takes weeks or months, this doesn’t mean you’ll get cash money equal to your goal every single month. Over the course of the year, you can expect the average to equal the goals you set.

This can be a frightening leap of faith – after all, you don’t know who’s going to accept your proposals. There are a few things you can do to hedge your bets:

  • Take extra work when you can get it. This will give you extra cash for when things just don’t add up.
  • Pursue assignments in areas with a high need for volume, such as web content and ad copy.
  • Publish multiple times in the same magazine or site, rather than once each in many. The relationship you forge can lead to streamlined assignments, even a column.
  • Submit early and often: like any other sales situation, this is a numbers game. The more assignments you propose, the more you will receive.

I hope this helps. Thanks for listening.