Yes, Freelance Writers Can Take a Real Vacation: Here’s How

Freedom. Flexibility. A yoga-pants-exclusive work wardrobe. Completely unrestricted coffee pot access.

To the average office-dweller, the freelance life can sound like one long vacation. But if you’ve actually worked it, you know all too well the inaccuracy of that perception.

When your home is your office and your laptop is both money-maker and Netflix machine, setting work/life boundaries is difficult. And that’s just within the context of a single day.

Scheduling a three-day weekend, or even a week-long break from reality? Now you’re talking borderline impossibility.

But taking a real vacation as a freelancer isn’t just possible; it’s critical. Human beings need to take breaks, despite the pride we take in logging long hours.

And as a solopreneur, you’re doubly in need of a respite. After all, you’re likely wearing all kinds of hats, responsible for every aspect of running your business.

So here’s how to recharge your batteries — which, unlike those devices you’re so tethered to, you do by disconnecting.

1. Do not take any new assignments during your scheduled vacation time. (No, seriously.)

I know, I know. I said this would be easy. And here we are, facing pretty scary stuff from the very beginning.

As a freelancer, turning down work is hard. Really hard. When you’re not working, you’re not making money; you don’t have the security of next week’s paycheck to fall back on. That much is pretty obvious.

But it can also feel like an opportunity cost, or sound like a death knell tolled for future prospects. If you say “no” today, who’s to say you won’t wind up on that editor’s blacklist tomorrow?

As it turns out, open communication is actually a boon to your business, not a detriment. Jackie Zimmermann, contributors editor for LendingTree, says she’d “much rather have a writer be honest with me about their bandwidth than accept stories they won’t be able to complete.”

Maintaining a clear line of communication helps editors plan ahead while still ensuring you get the break you need to be the best contributor possible — and your willingness to be honest is just another feather in your cap. “Freelancing is all about trust,” Zimmermann goes on, “so being realistic about your workload makes me feel better about assigning you stories.”

2. Work ahead and file everything before you leave

Not taking new assignments is one thing. But to orchestrate a truly successful vacation, you also need to be able to get away from the work you already have on the docket.

And that means being super diligent about working ahead and filing your pieces — yes, every single one of them — before it’s time to hit the road. No oh, it just needs a few final touches or last-minute Skype interviews in the airport. (I might be speaking from experience.)

Take a look at the assignments that are coming due around the time you’re leaving and aim to have them done at least two days ahead of time. It’s all too easy to underestimate the number of hours you’ll need to finish a project, particularly if that project includes interviews or other collaborative, participatory, not-entirely-under-your-control efforts, like editor feedback.

It’s also way too easy to convince yourself that you’ve only got a few minutes of work to do, which you can easily sneak in while sipping your beach bar margarita. Trust me: those few minutes have a way of spiraling into hours of screen time, which is exactly what you’re trying to get away from. Just say no.

3. Warn clients ahead of time that you’ll be incommunicado

Notice I didn’t say “if you’ll be incommunicado.”

Taking real-deal time away from your inbox is super hard, especially in today’s all-online-all-the-time culture. But it’s also imperative to your continued success and sanity. Burnout is a real thing, and if you never give yourself a break, you may soon find you don’t have a choice in the matter.

As discussed above, being open about your vacation plans with your editors is one of the best ways to head off miscommunications and missed opportunities. And it also means you can sign out for good without feeling guilt or anxiety — at least in theory. (Actually getting to that guilt-free headspace might take some practice. But you’ve got to start somewhere!)

Which brings us to the nuts-and-bolts portion of this project.

4. Set an email auto-responder

Even if you reach out to all your regular contacts ahead of time, there’s always the chance you’ll miss an important message you weren’t expecting. What will that person think if you don’t respond for a day — or even, perish the thought, a week?

Honestly, they probably won’t think anything. But when you set an email auto-response, you can bring clarity to the situation — and also hold yourself accountable — by stating the specific date at which you’ll be back in your digital office.

Exact instructions for setting up your auto-responder will vary depending on your email client, but it’s usually not too difficult. In Gmail, for example, you’ll find the option under the general settings tab toward the bottom. It’s called “vacation responder,” and looks like this:

As you can see, it’s easy to set a first and last day, and you can create a custom subject line and message. You can also turn the auto-responder off with a simple toggle… but you’re not going to do that until you’re home, right? Right?

5. Actually leave your laptop at home

Gulp. I know.

But for Type A personalities — a trait so many of us freelancers carry — if the option is there, we’ll find ourselves at work despite all our best intentions.

If you’ve done your due diligence by following the steps above, your bases are pretty well covered. Whatever comes up can wait. You have no reason not to leave your laptop at home… and every reason in the world to give yourself the unmitigated break you deserve.

6. Disconnect your work email from your smartphone

That’s right: we’re not gonna let you cheat with that mini-computer in your pocket!

If you’ve got your work account set up on your mobile device — which, of course you do — finalize your commitment to yourself by disconnecting it. Scary, yes, but temporary; it’s just for the length of your vacation! Though for a real challenge (and a less-insane headspace), you might consider leaving it disconnected for good.

Flexibility and autonomy are probably high on the list of reasons you pursued freelance work to begin with, so don’t cheat yourself out of benefiting from this lifestyle’s best perks.

Oh, and enjoy your vacation. Goodness knows you’ve earned it!

Photo via Anna Klepatckaya / Shutterstock 

The post Yes, Freelance Writers Can Take a Real Vacation: Here’s How appeared first on The Write Life.

Double Your Freelance Writing Income: 5 Ways to Make it Happen

If you’re a working freelance writer, I’ve got a question for you: Would you like to earn twice as much money from writing as you do right now?

(I should clarify that I mean without working twice as hard.)

Who wouldn’t, right?

I’ve been helping freelance writers double their income for many years now, and here’s what I’ve learned: Earning a lot more may be easier than you think.

There are a few basic changes to how you run your writing business that reliably boost writers’ income.

What small steps make a big difference? Here are my top five tips for quickly doubling what you earn from writing:

1. Stop and analyze

Many freelance writers are caught in a gerbil-wheel trap. You spend every minute frantically doing current client work and checking online job boards trying to land more gigs. You’re barely earning enough to pay bills, so there’s little free time.

There are zero minutes spent reflecting on the big picture. Where is your writing biz headed? Who would you really love to write for, and how can you position yourself to get there?

In the world of entrepreneurship, this is called working in your business instead of on your business. You’ll need to stop the busy-busy and take stock of your direction to make course corrections. If you’ve got even a single hour, you could reflect on what’s happening and potentially chart a new course.

Question: When was the last time you made a list of all your clients, how much you make from them on an hourly basis — and where they came from?

Do you see any patterns in your marketing of where better-rate clients came from? Worse ones? That may show you it’s time to stop checking online job boards, and time to do more proactive marketing, or to double down on LinkedIn networking. Or perhaps one industry niche is paying better than your others, and you should troll for more work in that area.

Stopping to do a client analysis can help you see where you’re wasting time, which clients should be dropped, and which asked for a raise.

2. Drop the biggest loser

Once you know who your worst client is, lay plans to get rid of them.

Writers often stay trapped at a low income level because they fear change. “I love writing for client X!” writers tell me, even though the gig works out to under $20 an hour. Bulletin: That client isn’t loving you back.

Somewhere in your client list, there’s probably a client that should be cut loose, to free up marketing time to find better prospects.

Use the time you save to find a better client. Once you do, drop the next-biggest loser. And so on. This simple process of swapping out lower-paid clients for better ones is the main technique I used to build my own business to six figures — right in the middle of the last big economic downturn.

3. Create (or strengthen) your inbound funnel

Are great clients finding you online? Whether it’s from a LinkedIn profile or your own writer website, a thriving writing business gets inbound clients who see your work and contact you. You should wake up in the morning and find emails, InMails, or Messenger notes from good prospects.

If that isn’t happening for you, it’s time to build or improve your online presence. I’m currently teaching a bootcamp for new freelance writers, and I’m blown away by how many have fewer than 100 LinkedIn connections. Give the Internet a chance to help you find clients on autopilot!

Consider making network-building and site improvement a weekly goal – it can pay off in less active marketing you have to do. And we all want that, right?

If you’ve got a writer website but it’s never gotten you a client, it’s time to optimize it. Have you given SEO any thought, and are you getting found for the keyword phrase you’re targeting? It can be worth investing a little time to make sure you come off professional, and it’s clear what type of clients you want.

Remember, most clients are searching for someone who knows their thing. They’re Googling for an Atlanta healthcare writer, or a freelance cryptocurrency writer. Something like that. Be sure to think like a client and communicate your expertise.

4. Identify ideal clients

If your marketing is all over the place, it’s time to focus. One of the best ways to do that is with an ideal-client exercise. Here’s how:

Close your eyes and imagine your ideal freelance writing life. Who are you writing for? Is it Vanity Fair? IBM? Think big and make a list of at least 10 dream clients.

Next, ask yourself this: What clips would impress those clients? Who would be a good stepping stone down the yellow brick road to that Emerald City?

For instance, if you want to write for Forbes, you might pitch a piece to your city’s business magazine or weekly business journal, to start. Aligning current prospects with ideal clients helps you quickly assemble a portfolio that’ll impress the right people.

Stop taking any and all gigs that come your way, and writing about everything under the sun. Instead, build a path that leads directly to your best writing jobs.

Sometimes, this exercise will even lead you to realize you should pitch dream clients right away! I’ve seen writers pitch and get hired immediately by dream clients, once they did the ideal-client exercise and realized they had the portfolio to go for it.

5. Raise your rates

There’s a bottom line that if you want to earn more, you have to charge more.

Start figuring out how you’ll do it. Hint: You’ll need to target clients that have real money and understand our value — bigger-circulation magazines, larger business and websites. Generally, these gigs aren’t sitting around an online job board.

Make sure you know what you’re earning on an hourly basis (even if you charge project rates, like you should)…and keep inching that figure up.

If you don’t have the stomach to ask existing clients for a raise, be sure to bring in new ones at higher rates. If you’re not raising rates, you’re not keeping up with the rising cost of living.

I speak as someone who’s paying $7,000 for braces on kid #2 right now, that cost $5,000 with kid #1, about 5 years ago. The price of everything else is going up, and raising rates shows you’re professional and value your worth.

Once you’ve done the client-analysis process and realigned your actions to suit your goals, make a date with yourself to repeat it every six months- one year. Your client base will change, as will your best actions to grow your income.

We don’t tend to hit new earning levels without a goal. Set yours high and even if you fall short, you’ll be earning way more than you did before.

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Photo via Monster Ztudio / Shutterstock 

The post Double Your Freelance Writing Income: 5 Ways to Make it Happen appeared first on The Write Life.