Part four of nine-and-a-half. Of all the rules on this list, rule four is the one that’s most enabled me to write as my sole source of income, and to live the life I want. It’s one of the most basic tools of successful freelancers, and one that too many of us have the most trouble with.
As a freelancer, you don’t have a preset structure to keep you moving toward your goals. If you worked in an office, there’d be a whole team of managers and strategists tasked with setting that up for you. You’d receive assignments about your part of the puzzle, and a boss would hassle you if you didn’t hold up your end. Without that structure, you not only have to take care of your own schedule, you have to create the goals and strategies as well. It’s sometimes overwhelming — and let’s face it, organization and structure aren’t exactly the forte of most writerly types. Which is why systems are so important to your success. It doesn’t really matter what kinds of systems you have in place, or what goals they serve, but you absolutely must have some. Example of Systems Most of my work these days comes through a broker who communicates article ideas and completed work between me and my clients. He also keeps finding me new clients as part of how he earns his piece of the pie. I also seek other work systematically, and work on spec to move into other forms of writing. Most of my systems center on work habits, based on a work schedule that keeps me on track. I use a quota for each week:
- A certain number of dollars (1/50th of what I need for the year)
- A set number of contacts looking for new work
- A specific number of queries to magazines and websites
- A minimum number of pages written on a book project
- Clearly defined forward movement on long-term projects
On Sundays, I work out my schedule and set up when I’ll complete each part of my quota. That means I never hit Friday with too much work to finish, and I never sit down at my computer with no idea what to do next. Resources If you agree systems are important, but don’t know how to create your own, I recommend three resources to help you get started.
- Getting Things Done, by David Allen, a book that describes the best way to systematize tasks I’ve run across.
- The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber, the best work on creating and maintaining business systems ever published.
- Email me. I do coaching for writers and freelancers to help them get the success they deserve. I’m friendly, amusing and reasonably priced.