Organization is a vital life skill, in my opinion. It’s the only thing that will keep you paying your taxes on time, showing up to doctor’s appointments, and remembering friend’s birthdays.
But when you freelance, it becomes more than a vital life skill. It becomes you’re whole life.
As a freelance writer, my life is dictated by my deadlines. Upcoming work (usually within a three-week window) decides whether I can sleep in on a given day, take a day off to see a movie, or buckle down to crank out some seriously awesome posts.
Because it’s so important, I have three levels of organization that keep me humming. Or at least, that have kept me humming for six months. Here’s how I roll:
The master of my schedule is a wall calendar. When I receive an assignment, I update my FreshBooks invoice and pen it on the wall with a due date with my own slang. When I finish something, I mark it through with red pen. When I have a call or a meeting, I write it in green pen.
Therefore, my week might look sparse with “1xFAFA” on Thursday and “2xFEATUREBOBO” on Friday, but that’s actually quite a busy week because features take a lot of time.
Therefore, on Sunday night I can look at the week and understand that I need to prioritize some library time early on to meet all my deadlines.
I use this calendar. JHubbs had the awesome idea to cut it into three quarters, which incidentally is AMAZING for quarterly taxes, too. So I can look at a given three months and see where I spend my time and how much work I’ve done.
When I depart my beloved home-office for a day and work at the library, I take a notebook and pen with me. That’s where I pen a traditional to-do list for the sheer satisfaction of crossing things off. That helps me feel like I’m on track and not missing anything. All roads lead back to the mega-calendar, which I update at the end of every workday.
Brainstorming New Ideas for Posts
I’m still working on keeping these ideas organized, but for now I do as follows:
- Life [Comma] Etc post ideas go in my iPhone’s task list whenever they pop up in my head.
- Comic Sands post ideas get texted to me from JHubbs after we think of something funny.
- Client ideas get brainstormed once a month using pen and paper, and then I list them in an email draft for the next time I pitch a few ideas.
At first, brainstorming post ideas was the scariest part of freelance writing. But my old pal Hemingway was there for me in A Moveable Feast when he wrote the following:
I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.
And it’s held true for me. When you feel wrung out, it’s time to take a break. Go for a walk, read a book, or do a puzzle. The font always fills up, and that’s what makes you a writer.