Ever wonder what productivity tips help some writers crank out a ton of content?
You know…maybe it seems like it takes you forever to write a blog post, an article, or a letter of introduction.
And while you’re struggling, there seems to be other writers who keep churning out great content…and making more money. Yes?
So what’s the secret? Is there some mysterious book of productivity tips you haven’t heard about? Or some sinister plot to keep those secrets hidden from freelancers trying to move up and earn more?
If the thought has crossed your mind, you’re not alone.
So what if you could peek inside the mind of a highly-productive writer and learn their productivity tips for success?
You might see your own journey as a freelancer a little differently. Maybe even shed some old habits, change the story you’re telling yourself, and get more work done.
Looking for productivity tips? Here’s how one freelance writer cranks out two novels a year, publishes a weekly newsletter, and inspires hope for freelance writers everywhere…
Meet freelance writer C. Hope Clark
C. Hope Clark is the founder of FundsforWriters.com (a newsletter for freelance writers) with more than 30,000 subscribers. Writer’s Digest has named Funds for Writers among the 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 19 years.
Clark also writes two award-winning mystery series, published by Bell Bridge Books, with 10 novels published, one due out in summer 2020, and three more under contract. Her articles have appeared in Writer’s Market, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Turf Magazine, American Careers, and numerous other trade magazines.
Check out her productivity tips to learn how to get more writing done.
Set specific writing goals
I’m talking smart goals, not just write-something-each-day goals. We get closer to the destination, faster, when we know the route to take.
- Choose goals that motivate you. Whether long, medium, or short-range goals, give yourself something to instinctively wake up to each day.
- Accept that you must complete a specific task by the day’s end, week’s end. . . month’s, quarter’s or year’s end.
Productivity tip: Seeing accomplishment sprouts satisfaction. And nothing drives a writer better than seeing their effort worth the sweat.
Want to see how I work and set goals?
- I have daily, quarterly, and annual goals with the novels.
- A daily word count of 1,000 words.
- A quarterly deadline of a first draft.
- And an annual end game of two novels.
Nothing more. If I miss a day of 1,000 words, I feel the need to catch up. But the quarterly goal of a completed manuscript relieves some of that pressure. That schedule also gives me six months to edit, research, and take a breath.
Funds for Writers goals
- Weekly deadlines to publish FundsforWriters newsletter.
- Submit the draft to for proofreading by Monday
- Receive edited draft by Thursday
- Distribute the finished version on Friday evening.
- Twice a year I consider marketing goals, to include advertising deals for those who promote via my newsletter.
Freelance writing goals
I write two novels a year and publish a weekly newsletter. But I also write for magazines and trade pubs. If you want to get more freelance assignments, model this plan:
- Spot a potential market, pitch it. Right then, on the spot.
- Note it on a spreadsheet or in a notebook, and give yourself a follow-up date.
- When you get an assignment, record the deadline in the same place.
- Get to work on the piece and submit far ahead of the deadline
Productivity tip: Work ahead. That way you’re never caught in a pinch if other goals falter, or if you receive a deluge of assignments from other pitching.
The habits + dreams equation for writers
What’s your big dream as a freelance writer?
- Publish a novel
- Be a six-figure freelancer
- Get published in popular magazines and niche sites
- Quit your day job and make a full-time living writing
- Have more time, freedom, and money
- All of the above
Before any of that can happen, you’ve got to develop habits. Make sense?
I’ve missed the weekly newsletter only two Fridays in 20 years. If someone asked me where I find the research for that newsletter, I’d have to stop and think.
The process is that embedded, my fingers typing practically without thought. With the novels, going to bed without my 1,000 words leaves me unsettled, because I’ve done it for so long.
- How’s that possible? Habits.
Habits are the ultimate goal and help you achieve your dreams.”
-C. Hope Clark
How to combine freelance dreams and habits
Writers tend to want to live amongst their dreams. The successful, however, turn dreams into goals, then into habits. Otherwise, dreams can trip you up.
- Think about it this way: If your dream is becoming a six-figure freelancer, but you’re not doing much about it, you’ll never get there.
When our dreams lack form, we often sacrifice them for the immediacies of life. Dreams quickly feel frivolous in the face of need. Or they appear too far away, possibly too big to address in the moment. Sound familiar?
Productivity tip: Make smaller, accountable goals for your dream. And keep track of your actions and progress on a calendar. That’s how you turn freelance dreams into reality. Wishful thinking is smoke in the wind. Setting goals, you capture that smoke.
Take baby steps to keep moving forward
Just like each paragraph, section, scene, or chapter has to propel the story forward, so should your goals.
- Why the 1,000 words a day? Because my bigger goal is two novels a year.
- Why two novels a year? To quench the need of a hungry readership. . . to hold a publisher’s respect. . . to maintain a brand . . . to remain relevant in the publishing world.
Hollow goals can become habit forming, too. You don’t set goals for the sake of setting goals.
What goals could you set to help you move your freelance career forward?
Here are some examples:
- Set a goal of less time social media
- Set a goal of writing 30 minutes a day
- Create a goal of sending 5 new pitches or letters of introduction per day
- Make a plan to book at least one discovery call per week
- Pitching your dream publication…today
Productivity tip: A goal has to move you, your career, and your dreams forward.
Measure your effort
Measuring can be no more than periodically glancing at a spreadsheet. Or it can be a few hours of analyzing things like:
- Income from freelance writing
- Pitches sent
- Articles sold
- Analytics of your website or social media efforts
- Connections made with editors and marketing directors
Here’s how I measure my freelance efforts
I keep a spreadsheet with formulas for my novels, telling me percentages, average chapter count, and the word count due for any particular day of the month. However, I happen to enjoy spreadsheets.
- Desk calendars
- Google calendars
The tool doesn’t really matter. For example: My adult son keeps a blog where he projects his annual goals. He performs a quarterly accountability for such things as running, reading books, writing a book, even new restaurants he’s tried. It’s a very simple method that can apply to freelancers, too.
Productivity tip: Make sure you can tell how far you’ve traveled, how far you need to go, and how you might adjust goals in the future. Remember, you’re attempting to move forward in your career.
Build habits to boost productivity as a freelancer
During the latest virus scare, many writers found writing surprisingly difficult. Even with extra time on their hands, they struggled with productivity. They had no strong direction. I never missed a beat.
- Why? I not only had goals in place, but I’d developed habits stronger than the changes around me.
Habits lessen the burden of measurement. Habits are easy and the path of least resistance. When your goals become habit, you write productively without giving it a second thought.
Which then frees you up to spot opportunity you never saw coming before.
What productivity tips help you get more writing done? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
C. Hope Clark is an award-winning novelist and founder of FundsforWriters.com. Her next novel will be released in the summer of 2020.