3 Ways Writing Pros Can Find Time for Their Own Writing

writing for yourself

Yesterday I answered a question about finding time to write. That sparked a question from forum member, Sharon Hurley Hall who asked “How do I find time for my own writing?”

If you’re successful in building a freelance writing business writing for others like Sharon is, you’ll run into the same question. I know I have.

Again, it’s a matter of setting priorities. When, however, you have contracted with clients for writing that amounts to full time or more, it can seem impossible to figure out when to write your novel or your poetry or your book, etc.

Obviously, you want to get the client’s writing done on schedule because that’s how you get paid. Besides, you promised and keeping your word is important.

Here are three tips that may help you carve out a little, or even a lot of room for your own writing:

Track your time

I think every writer should track their time, at least their working time, every now and again for a week. I use Toggl which has a free version and is super simple to set up and use.

The reason I think you should track your time is to see if you’re really working as efficiently as you think you are. If you find time leaks, you may be able to plug those holes with your own writing.

More likely though, is you’ll discover you are spending your time about the way you think you are.

Take a stab at designing your ideal day. I like using a spreadsheet for this. Block in the time you want to spend writing on your own projects first and see if you can schedule the client work around that. This is one way to start taking your own writing seriously because you’ll have a visual representation of your writing and the work you do for clients.

You can get a lot done in short blocks of time

Sure, we all love having a long, open ended period of time for our own writing. But it’s not always possible. It’s amazing how much you can get done even in 10 or 15 minutes a day. The first person to notice that writing a page a day got you 365 pages was absolutely right. Those short blocks of time add up if you’re consistent with them.

It can feel awkward to enter and leave a piece you love writing in such a short time, but with practice it will begin to feel natural.

You can arrange your schedule as you please

One of the joys of freelancing is you can arrange your schedule pretty much as you want. Sure there are family obligations, and what-have-you, but your work time is your own.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying the first hour of your work day is for your writing, and sticking to it. If a client asks for an 8 o’clock am call, you say you won’t be available until 9 – they don’t have to know why.

The same thing can be done with the last hour of the workday. Be wary. It’s much easier to slip personal writing time in the afternoon because the writing for clients will tend to expand.

Some people write for clients during the day, and for themselves in the evening or even late at night.

It really doesn’t matter when. What matters is finding the time, scheduling the time then using the time for your own writing no matter what!

When you need, long, luxurious writing time, and sometimes we do, take a weekend or go on a writing retreat, either official or one you create yourself.

Yes, when your work is writing for others it can be tough to fit in working on your own projects. Go for it. You and your writing will be better for it, and you do deserve to write for yourself.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Pascal Maramis

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Freelance Writers and Copyrights – What You Need To Know – Part 1

copyright for writers

Yesterday I answered a question, My Article Was Stolen – What Should I Do? – Ask Anne at AboutFreelanceWriting.com and it got me thinking again about copyright law.

Of course, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV; this is my understanding of copyright law as it applies to freelance writers in the United States. (More about overseas copyrights later.)

When you’re writing for yourself, you have an automatic copyright on the work even if you don’t file for copyright protection. That protection is based on the idea that as the creator of a work you deserve ownership and any financial benefit that may come out of that ownership.

When you write for someone else, who owns the copyright should be spelled out before you even begin the work. In many cases the publishers claim the copyright – sometimes you can negotiate this and it’s always safe to ask. Assuming the publisher owns the copyright, they stand to benefit financially – ideally you’ll have been paid enough to make giving up the copyright worthwhile. (It’s probably worth noting that images – photos, drawings, graphics, etc. are also usually copyrighted – meaning don’t use them without permission.)

Is it worth a copyright?

Many writers have an almost knee-jerk reaction of “NO!” when they discover a publisher wants to retain the copyright. My suggestion is you take a deep breath and consider what you’ve written or plan to write and decide if this is a battle worth fighting.

For example, if you’re doing a series or even a single 300 word blog post on last night’s television show or about an company that makes widgets, there’s probably not much point in trying to insist on retaining the copyright. It’s easy for you to write, and it’s not a topic you’re likely to want to use again, at least in that form.

On the other hand, you may very well want to negotiate the copyright for a book or other significant piece of writing.

In other words, pick your battles carefully.

Neither ideas nor titles can be copyrighted

It’s not possible to copyright an idea – just the expression of that idea. That’s why it’s totally okay for you to write about raising feral kittens and for me to write about the same topic – both of us can protect what we write on the same subject, but not the idea itself.

Titles can’t be copyrighted either. Yesterday I looked up a book title, Blink, at my library and found maybe a dozen books with similar titles. I had to sort through them to find the one I wanted.  In this case, the subtitle, The power of thinking without thinking  was my clue. It’s written by Malcolm Gladwell and I’m enjoying learning about how we often make decisions.

Filing for a copyright may make suing easier

Although, in the US, you have a copyright as soon as you begin to write, using the copyright symbol (© ) and or actually filing for a copyright may make it easier for you to sue if someone steals your work. Of course, there’s the whole cost of lawsuits issue, but if you want you can file online at https://www.copyright.gov/eco/. There’s a fee involved.

If you look at the bottom of this page on the right you’ll see a copyright symbol.

Then there’s the whole issue of what your clients may know or think they know about copyright. Next week I’ll talk about that and maybe work in some information about international copyrights. (Hint, there is no such thing, but there are some guidelines.)

By the way, the cc symbol on the graphic indicates this graphic is licensed through a Creative Commons license. Although this doesn’t have much if any legal standing at the moment I suspect it’s the direction we should be heading.

What’s your experience with copyrights? Let us know in comments or inside the forum if you’re a member.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

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3 Ways Freelance Writers Can Get Unstuck & Take Action

how to get unstuckIn our forum someone who is working to be a better freelance writer asked how they could get unstuck and really take action on their writing careers. It was clear this person had plenty of great ideas for landing more gigs and better paying writing jobs, but they felt stuck.

I know the feeling! In fact, I’m sure every writer, even the most successful feels stuck from time-to-time. If you don’t believe me, read some writer’s biographies. You’ll soon discover you are not alone.

Here are three ways I find I can unstick myself:

Chunk down the project

Often, when I’m feeling stuck it’s because the writing project feels too big. This is certainly true for, say, ghostwriting a whole book. If I didn’t first break it into chapters and even subheads within a chapters I’d quickly go into overwhelm

This same approach works on smaller projects too. Marketing myself can also seem overwhelming. But if I break the marketing down into smaller bits, like send 1 magazine query a week, or call 5 prospects a day, or figure out what words I want on my website – then figure out the design, etc. The smaller chunks you can list, the easier they get to do. I can write a magazine query in a week without much problem. I can decide what I want on my About Me page pretty easily. I can write a draft of a blog post of 500 words or so more easily than I can a final version.

free content for writers

 

You get the idea.

Bookend

Bookending is one of my favorite productivity tools, particularly when I’m feeling stuck. It’s simple. Just call a supportive friend, tell them how many minutes or hours you plan to work on the project, then, when you’ve done that amount, call back and report your success. If it happens you didn’t do it after all, call and report that!

There’s something about being accountable that works – which is why we have a whole accountability thread in our forum. Every week I post what I hope to get done and every day I mark off what I’ve achieved. I know folks are reading it because they often make supportive comments – just as I do with the other people who are using that thread. It works… I want to show off for my friends.

Promise yourself a reward

Rewarding yourself when you accomplish something is a great idea anyway. I also use this when there’s some writing project I don’t really want to do. Often I’ll say something like “when I get 1,000 words written I’ll reward myself with a trip to the library for a new mystery.” Since I love a cup of coffee mid-afternoon, I’ll sometimes use that as my reward – as in “when I finish this article draft, then I’ll make my coffee.

I use naps, a cup of coffee, a short walk, reading something non-business like, even reading and posting in our forum, etc. as rewards.

How do you get unstuck? We’d like to know. Share in comments or join the forum now and share there.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

I’ve got no writing experience, how can I start?

writers experienceHi AWS,

I’ve worked in human resources for over a decade, but I don’t have experience writing in that field. All the writing gigs I’ve seen ask for samples in the HR field and I don’t have any. What can I do?

Lilly

Hi Lilly,

You’ve been in HR for 10 years and you don’t have any experience writing in that field? I don’t believe it!

Surely you’ve written a report or two as part of your job. In fact I’ll bet you’ve written all sorts of things, from job descriptions to rather lengthy reports about one thing or another HR related for your employers.

Okay, maybe you’ve never written a magazine article, but what about articles for newsletters? Or maybe even a complete newsletter?

free content for writersJust because you’ve never had an article published in a magazine or book or blog doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of experience writing in your field.

Start by making a list of such documents. My hunch is you’ll you stop before you finish because you’ve been doing way more writing in the field than you realized. And it’s possible that you might be able to use one or two of those as samples; if your not sure, ask – you may be pleasantly surprised.

You can actually use that list as the start of your writing credits for your website. (And if you don’t have a website yet make that a priority with these 8 steps.)

You can write a few sample articles for your website.

You can use your experience to write an article or two for magazines on spec – you submit the whole article.

You can cite your work experience in a query to magazine editors.

You can cite that experience in your response to ads; if you also link to your website samples you’re all set.

It may help to remember that none of us was born with writing credits! We’ve all had to get our first one and then our second, etc.

If you really want to start freelance writing the thing to do is to start writing and submitting, and responding to ads offering reasonable rates for writing. There really is no secret – as Nike says, just do it!

You may also want to read No Experience Needed To Be A Freelance Writer.

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Send it to Freelancewritingsquared @ gmai l. com with Q&A in the subject line and we’ll do our best to answer it here.

Now it’s your turn. Tell us, in comments, how you got started or describe the problems you’re having getting started.

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