Motivation and Organization: The Freelance Writers’ Nemeses?

Don’t get me wrong, you’re not being singled out here: issues of motivation and organization apply to freelancers in any industry because it all comes back to the fact that if you don’t sort it, no-one else is going to! However, being a freelance writer brings some very particular motivational and organizational needs …

Motivation Migraines

Interruptions: Creative ‘flow’ can be our biggest motivation for what we do and we all know how hard it is to get it back once you’ve been interrupted; it’s a drain on both motivation and time.  So, it’s important to keep interruptions to a minimum when you are working.

Let your message service answer phone calls and check your messages only during your admin time, not your creative time.  

If you’re working from home, ensure a balance between home and work boundaries, so that you’re not interrupted for domestic issues when you’re right in the middle of your writing.  Easier said than done, especially if you have children, but it’s just a matter or everyone understanding when a good time is likely to be and when it really isn’t.



Writers’ Block:  At best, this will happen when you are working on your own projects; at worst, it will be when you are working on a project for a new client whom you want to impress and the deadline’s not too far away – knowing this is enough to sap that motivation as well as add another layer to that block.  Time to nudge this nemesis head on:


  • Breathe. Yes, simple as that. Step away from your computer, lie down on the floor and do some deep breathing or gentle stretching exercises to relax your body and clear your mind.  Allow yourself about 10 minutes of this and then take a short walk around the house or up the garden to get your juices flowing again before you return to your work.  You should find at least one gem of an idea starting to form …


  • Slightly different to the last point: get away from your computer and go DO something else.  If you’re at home, do a mundane chore such as loading the washer, so that your hands are busy but your mind is free to wander.  Try not to think about your writing problem directly and you might find that the solution pops into your head whilst you’re not thinking about it, allowing you to return to your work in full motivation mode.  As Agatha Christie once said: “the best time for planning a book is whilst you’re doing the dishes” …


  • Get some fresh air, drink some water: be aware of the health implications of slogging away in front of your machine and step outside to get some fresh air, then come back and take a drink of water.  As above, the change of scenery can be inspirational and motivate your writing as well as your well-being.


Client crisis or project problem?  Try to be aware of what exactly what’s behind your minimal motivation.  If you’re experiencing some of those same old stress symptoms that you thought giving up that day job to become a freelancer would put an end to, then it may be that you have an underlying issue with the project in hand:


  • Is it a new client you’re trying to impress?  Stay confident in yourself, re-read some of your old material and testimonials to remind yourself what you’re capable of.


  • Is the pay too poor compared to the demands of the client?  Then your motivating factor can be to get this project completed to your best standard so that you can demonstrate to the client why, in fact, you are worth more than you are being paid and hence why you’ve raised your rates.  Don’t over-think the fact that you might lose a client, be aware of how you’re feeling and the fact that you need to take action and above all, value yourself.


  • Is the project or topic out of your comfort zone?  If your deadline’s still in the distance, allow yourself a couple of hours to read around the topic; if you have questions, try to find the answers  Topping up your knowledge in this way will help you not only to feel more motivated towards the task, but more confident in your writing too.


Organizational Obstacles


Deadlines:   Deadlines have to be adhered to if you want to gain a good reputation as a freelance writer, whatever niche you have chosen to write in. 


  • Organize your writing schedule with your deadlines in mind: it’s a must.


  • Don’t take on work you know you can’t fit in: remember that deadlines, as well as your rates, can be negotiated. Although regular clients should be prioritized, there may be times when you need to negotiate a deadline, so you shouldn’t be afraid to try, if the client really wants the quality work you produce, they’ll be prepared to wait a little – just keep it reasonable and realistic so that everybody’s happy and you’re not up into the night producing rushed copy.


  • If you’re a web writer, consider those deadlines within an international time-zone context.  If an international client asks for a specific deadline, double check whether this is their time or yours as failure to check could mean you are a day behind with delivery without realising it.  Keep a list of international time zones in your work diary or on your desktop and make sure you consult it when you are offered ‘virtual’ projects for delivery to another time zone.


Administration:  Yes, you’re running a freelance writing business which means that as well as writing you are actually running a business, complete with all of the paperwork and administration this involves. You can try online appointment scheduling or you can make administration less of an obstacle by:


  • having set times within your work schedule for dealing with admin.  Be realistic about the time you need for dealing with certain tasks and stick to that time: do not let admin time cut into your writing time. Period.


  • Only deal with your emails at certain times of the day and give yourself a time limit (or number of mails limit) for doing this.  Be ruthless in removing spam and trash from your in-box, create files and folders for information only mails which you might want to refer to but don’t need to respond to.  Aim to keep your in-box as your action box and flag those emails requiring action accordingly. The only exception to this rule is if you are awaiting specific instructions from a client and the lack of this information is holding your work up, in that case go ahead and check those mails, but don’t hang around, if the mail’s not there, neither should you be!


  • Keep your accounts up to date. When tax time comes around, hire an accountant if you need to, so that you can delegate to an expert rather than spend hours of your own time sweating over those numbers: your time is your money in more ways than one here, after all.


It might seem a bit mad to have aligned issues of organization alongside motivation, but it’s worth remembering that organization maximises productivity and successful productivity improves motivation and confidence, so keeping on top of one area will help you in the other, all of which counts towards your overall success!



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