Conventional people don’t generally become freelance bloggers. It makes sense since most of us regularly deal with anxiety, rejection, distraction, and other problems. It takes a different kind of beast to make deadlines, satisfy clients, overcome introversion, and destroy the feast or famine cycle.
As freelance bloggers, we constantly have to be on the top of our game. We need to know what’s going on in our chosen niches, find experts to quote in our articles, research potential clients and publications we want to work with, brainstorm for new ideas, keep up with our deadlines, and always be marketing. Since we also need to find time for important people and things in our life, we naturally desire to be at our most productive at all times.
While the Internet and self-development shelves overflow with productivity advice, they aren’t all designed for freelance bloggers. They don’t necessarily keep our health issues in mind, or the kids we have to look after as we strive to maintain a sane and stable working environment at home. Then there are differences in our personalities of course.
So below are my seemingly irrational tips that can work wonders for freelance bloggers with flaky tendencies, coming from a flaky freelance blogger who has been doing this for over eight years:
Multitasking CAN work for you
There are times when no one should multitask. These should include driving, checking if you turned off the oven or talking to your client on Skype. But not all tasks are created equal, and with so many of us having *ADHD tendencies, mono-tasking all the time is just not realistic.
You can choose to complete one task while keeping tabs on several other activities. As long as you can discipline yourself not to go down a rabbit hole of mindless social media for five hours, simultaneously thinking of what to write in your first draft, checking HARO if your experts have replied, and updating your Twitter bio in the midst of a creative block are totally acceptable.
I’m a multitasker. I’m also hyperactive and (slightly) manic. Sometimes, I need the supposed distraction of multitasking to keep me on with the most crucial task at hand.
Let’s face it. There are many times when we can’t seem to get started. This is the right moment to try concentrating on something else. If that fails you, let your mind wander. Did you need to check your emails? Update WordPress plugins? Read that article on your prospective client’s website? Say you are overwhelmed on Facebook? Open as many tabs you want.
I’m more productive and less anxious when I rapidly go through many tasks, share what I think on social media, and slowly feel the inspiration returning for the original task. I strangely feel calmer and more accomplished. After all, I’m no longer frustrated or blocked, and my to-do list is way shorter.
Social media IS your friend
Don’t even think about becoming a social media hermit. While I don’t recommend getting lost and agitated in political arguments, you cannot afford to be invisible online. Social media is where you will do a lot of your marketing, get noticed by clients, and be reminded of niches you want to branch into.
While I was brainstorming about this post, I checked my LinkedIn, only to find out my profile was found by H&M. I love the brand, and I’ve long wanted to write about retail and fashion. I’m not the ideal candidate for the positions they are offering now, but it was a good reminder of what to study next.
You don’t have to be everywhere, but you need to be where your (prospective) clients are. For me, the big three are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Yes, I found work via all three. And sometimes, clients found me.
Other freelance bloggers have taken advantage of more visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.
If you are new to social media or new to marketing yourself through it, I suggest testing the popular ones out to see which fit your business needs and personality better. They are all free to use, and fellow freelance bloggers are happy to share their favorite tips on their websites and social media accounts if you need some pointers.
A quality Facebook group – a group where members aren’t allowed to spam and helping is encouraged – in the niche of your choosing is a great place to learn, teach, and network.
The key, however, is not to turn FB groups into your favorite method of procrastination in the name of research. None of us are immune to that. That, and cute animal videos.
Shake it up when needed: Routines are useful as long as they serve you
News flash: When you work with clients from all over the world in all kinds of time zones, you cannot maintain a 9-5 even if you want to. Your deadlines, emails, and client calls come at odd hours. Sometimes a working schedule that worked wonders for you one week will fail you the next.
The good news is you are free. You are your own boss. As long as you get the job done well, your client won’t care (or know) you wrote that excellent copy at 4 am or you were having ice-cream with your kids when he was stuck in his office.
Biggest obstacles to my establishing a routine are erratic sleeping hours, maintaining a social life, and not letting the writing muse get away. My friends have vastly different schedules, I have problems falling asleep, and even though I get much better sleep if I go to bed before midnight, I sometimes have to just write that piece.
So I made my peace with it. Instead of forcing myself to write or research during the same hours every day, I work when I’m at my most productive. And don’t get me wrong, I help my productivity as much as I can by also choosing where and how I work, as well as what I work on.
You became a freelancer because you appreciate flexibility. So take advantage.
Don’t Niche Down: Having several niches will cure writer’s block
Some job ads fascinate me: “We want a freelancer with SaaS expertise that has worked for at least three years in the healthcare industry.”
There is nothing wrong with being that specific in your expertise if you are paid well and are happy with your life. But some prolific freelancers are miserable due to many of their boring topics.
The good news is you can make good money and have fun at the same time. You can even get paid well to write about your opinion or a cathartic essay. Even though you might have to take the odd yawn-inducing job to make ends meet, it doesn’t have to be your life. If one niche doesn’t pay that well but you can get the job done in one-fifth of the time of finishing a job in another niche, the low-paying niche might serve you better financially. And if it is fun, go for it.
Separate work and play, only when you want to.
The typical advice tells you to work when you work, and rest when you take a break.
But what if you get an amazing idea for marketing your freelance blogging business while you are exercising? Are you supposed to push it out of your mind and then force yourself to remember an hour later? No. You can simply note it down or record it as a voice message on your cell.
And if you are supposed to work for one more hour but feel completely beat and lost, it is more than acceptable to say, “Sod it!” and take that break immediately.
Listen to your brain and body. They know you better than your client or schedule.
One piece of conventional advice that I support wholeheartedly is keeping a notebook and a pen with you at all times. If you are more of a phone person, just keep your cell charged and nearby. You should never let an inspired thought get away.
It’s okay to fear rejection…a little.
We are often told not to fear rejection so that we can go after clients and publications we want. While this is a good rule in general and we shouldn’t let fear paralyze us, there’s value in a little rejection scare.
Being afraid your prospective client might reject your proposal will motivate you to shine further. You’ll edit more meticulously. Write more creatively. You will strive to be both more professional and personable than your peers. Because you want the gig, you’ll spend a bit more effort on it. And this will make you indispensable.
Remember to fear rejection the right amount. When you have complete and utter confidence in yourself and what you are selling, you might not be able to differentiate yourself enough. And it is a problem.
Think about it. What makes you different than other freelancers? Just saying “here are my clips” may not be enough, no matter how impressive those clips are. What are you bringing to the table that others aren’t? Is it what you learned from your last full-time job? How responsive potential customers were to your copy? How many shares and comments your posts got? Or is it simply that you have never missed a deadline? It might be your personality as well. Whatever it is that makes you unique, let it shine through without being irrelevant or wasting your potential client’s time.
These are my favorite conventional ideas to unfollow. Try and adapt as many as you like to see which ones work for you.
What other conventional pieces of wisdom do you like walking all over to get more done in your freelance blogging career? Let me know in the comments!
Shyam Bhardwaj says
Hey Pinar, You know the best thing out of it – Bloggers love it what they do. Most of the times, they are a single person team. So coming up with their post ideas, curating headings and content, applying CTAs, scheduling it on social media, and marking SEO things up – they have to handle it at the same time. And they enjoy doing it 🙂 I’m not that multi-tasking person but I work with a couple of folks who are really good at blogging.
Pinar Tarhan says
I love blogging. 🙂 So the benefits definitely outweigh the cons…
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.
I have been really struggling to find clients and achieve my goals, and I think much of that struggle exists because I’ve been trying to develop routines and use productivity hacks I’ve seen online. What doing so has meant for me is not accomplishing much of anything at all.
I’m an INTP, night owl and chronic illness warrior, and working a standard, daily 9-5 schedule of hours is unrealistic for me. I can set alarms and make schedules and develop plans up the wazoo, but as soon as I hit snooze or miss one of my self-imposed, artificial deadlines, I feel like a failure and give up.
As odd as it sounds, I feel like you have given me permission to be me: someone who does not function at 8:00 a.m.; who needs to take breaks both mentally and physically daily; who needs to have the TV, iPad, phone, and computer going all at once; and who often works best in the late afternoon into the night.
Again – THANK YOU!
Pinar Tarhan says
Thanks so much for commenting, and it means so much to me that I’ve been able to help somewhat.
I tried doing the routine thing. I tried to get up early, go to bed earlier, set timers and all that…But they just don’t work for me. And the more they don’t work, the more you feel lost.
So I decided to maximize what does work. I even decided to accept the unproductive days, which might come back right after a massively productive day.
Here is to being successful and happy while being us! 🙂
Great advice, Pinar. Sometimes it is simply about changing routines to improve focus and achieve outcomes. If one thing is not happening, try something else. Even a five minute break every half hour can make a significant difference.
Pinar Tarhan says
Exactly! Moving more is great, for instance, even if you can’t seem to reach 10,000 steps every day for one reason or another.
Writing 100 words is better than 0, and this attitude ultimately gets you to 100,000 words.
Thanks for the words of wisdom Pinar.
Our world is not one size fits all.
I always envied the people who seemed to have their days planned down to the minute. Every time I tried to do that it never worked out.
Now I try to plan my day with a lot more time for unplanned things.
Pinar Tarhan says
Fewer words freak me out more than “routine.” It is even worse when everything is planned to the last minute, as you say. The thing is, every time I try that, something comes up, beyond my control, and I end up unable to stick to that plan.
So I started making plans work for me, rather than the other way around. Here’s to doing our own thing and getting the best results!
Cherese R Cobb says
Wonderful article, Pinar! 🙂 I second everything that Teresa wrote. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in the world. That there are other introverted night owls suffering from physical and mental illnesses out here writing…and making a living.
One piece of conventional wisdom that I step all over is: I’ve heard that writers should actually get dressed and do their hair before they work. But, I work in my PJs (and sometimes pantless) and I don’t think it affects my writing.
Pinar Tarhan says
Hi, Cheres, thanks for commenting! I’m responding to this post in my sleeping clothes aka working clothes. Doing my hair? I barely feel like doing that when I go out! 🙂
As long as I get a decent amount of sleep, my writing is just fine. So happy the post resonated!
Laura Roberts says
Hi Pinar! I really enjoyed your post. I am a newbie, having just launched my new blog in the creative arts genre.
I’ve been encouraged by your blog posts. My blog’s success will be dependant on guest bloggers as it is about collaboration in the creative arts world. I hope to also freelance blog for others. As someone just getting started, your input is very valuable.
Your ideas about multi-tasking remind me of a book I read recently, A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley. There is scientific evidence that the diffuse mode of thinking, which is what you described, really works! Ms. Oakley describes it in detail in her book.
Also, I’ve always been a night owl. At my last job, I was directing a children’s show. I sent out an email to parents at 1:30am. The only problem was that I had to be in rehearsal early the next morning!
Thanks for all the encouragement!
Pinar Tarhan says
Sure thing. I’m so happy you liked my post and identified with it. Thanks for mentioning the book. I will check it out.